Research Psychologists

Last updated December 31, 2014

In 1961-62, psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted some disturbing experiments. He asked subjects (participants) to give electric shocks to their partners whenever the partners answered questions incorrectly. As the voltage increased, the partners begged to stop -- but experimenters told the subjects to continue. Sixty-five percent of subjects continued, even when their partners screamed in agony.

The partners were actors who only pretended to receive shocks; they faked their agonized screams -- but the subjects didn’t know that. The experiments were criticized as being unethical. Yet many subjects thanked Milgram for revealing the frailty of human kindness.

Research psychologists study how humans feel, think, learn, and act. They also study physical problems with the brain and work to develop treatments for problems such as memory loss.

Did You Know?

Most research psychologists work for universities, government offices, and private corporations. Research psychologists who are university professors spend part of their time teaching.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Propose theories and experiments
  • Make sure experiments meet ethical guidelines
  • Carry out experiments
  • Give psychological tests
  • Conduct interviews
  • Design questionnaires
  • Write up and publish experiment results
  • Use computers and statistics
  • Apply for grants
  • Attend conferences

It Helps To Be...

Someone who can do detailed work both independently and as part of a team. You'll benefit from a combination of determination and patience, because it will probably be a long time before you see the results of your research.

Make High School Count

  • Keep a diary to explore your own thoughts and feelings.
  • Become a keen observer of human and animal behavior.
  • Take psychology to learn about human emotions, behavior, and communication.
  • Make the most of your math classes.
  • Consider getting a head start on a key tool by taking a statistics class.
  • Learn as much as you can about the human body and brain in biology, chemistry, and health science.

Did You Know?

Many research psychologists do laboratory experiments using animals such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons.