By Alan G. Kraut, Executive Director of the Association for Psychological Science
In the minds of many people, there is a separation between biomedical research and behavioral research. But that separation is artificial. Behavior is at the core of many health problems. Six out of 10 of the leading causes of premature death, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, are linked in part to genetic influences but also to controllable behaviors like physical inactivity, poor diet and smoking.
Our 25,000 members are scientists and educators at the nation’s universities and colleges, conducting federally funded basic and applied, theoretical, and clinical research. They look at such things as the connections between emotion, stress, and biology and the impact of stress on health; they look at ways to manage debilitating chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis as well as depression and other mental disorders; they look at how genes and the environment influence behavioral traits such as aggression and anxiety; and they address the behavioral aspects of smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.
Just as there exists a layered understanding, from basic to applied, of how molecules affect brain cancer, there is a similar spectrum for behavioral research.
Broadly defined, behavioral research explores and explains the psychological, physiological, and environmental mechanisms involved in functions such as memory, learning, emotion, language, perception, personality, motivation, social attachments, and attitudes. Within this, basic behavioral research aims to understand the fundamental nature of such processes as memory, learning, emotion, language, perception, personality, motivation, social attachments, and attitudes. This provides the foundation for applied and translational behavioral research that connects this knowledge to real-world concerns such as disease, health, and life stages.
APS continues to advocate for robust funding for basic as well as applied and translational research. Our immediate concern is the threat that sequestration cuts pose to that funding. This stands to slow research on everything from cancer treatment to cardiovascular disease. APS is a member of Research!America because we share a goal of fighting deep funding cuts for medical and health research, knowing that those cuts will also affect the research into the fundamental behavioral components of many preventable health problems.