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Turning psychology into policy: a case of square pegs and round holes?

Walker, Carl and Speed, Ewen and Taggart, Danny (2018) 'Turning psychology into policy: a case of square pegs and round holes?' Palgrave Communications, 4 (1). ISSN 2055-1045

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Abstract

This paper problematizes the ways in which the policy process is conceived in published psychological research. It argues that these conceptions of the policy process fail to ade- quately reflect the real-world dynamism and complexity of the processes and practices of social policy-making and implementation. In this context, psychological evidence needs to be seen as one type of evidence (amongst many others). In turn this requires researchers to take account of broader political processes that favour certain types of knowledge and disparage others. Rather than be regarded as objective and scientific, policy in this characterisation is regarded as a motivated form of politics. This multi-layered, multi-level hybrid structure is not immediately amenable to the well-intentioned interventions of psychologists. While the tendency of many psychologists is to overestimate the impact that we can have upon policy formation and implementation, there are examples where psychological theory and research has fed directly into UK policy developments in recent years. This paper draws on the recent Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative and the work of personality researcher Adam Perkins on the UK’s social security system to ask whether psychology has a sufficiently elaborated sense of its own evidence base to legitimately seek to influence key national areas of public policy. The article cautions against dramatic changes to policy pre- dicated upon any one reading of the variegated and, at times, contradictory psychological evidence base. It concludes that, in order to meaningfully contribute to the policy develop- ment process in a way which increases equality and social justice, psychologists need to be more strategic in thinking about how their research is likely to be represented and mis- represented in any particular context. Finally some possible directions for psychologists to take for a more meaningful relationship with policy are suggested.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: policy, psychology, evidence based policy, policy based evidence
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Health and Social Care, School of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2018 09:54
Last Modified: 13 May 2019 10:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/22944

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