From creating new standards of care to emerging subspecialties, psychology is an ever-evolving field. Research is dictated by several factors, including funding sources, researchers’ interests and institutional goals, but the number of ongoing breakthroughs is still stunning. Here are some recent findings in the psychological field.

Mind-Body Blends

Most people would agree there is a connection between physical and emotional health. New research and new forms of therapy are emerging in response. For example, according to the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, a new subspecialty in psychology called energy psychology has been created.

Defined as an “innovative method stemming from cutting-edge developments in the fields of acupuncture, medicine, psychology, chiropractic, and kinesiology,” the field combines mind-body therapies and self-help techniques.

Other psychologists are choosing to focus their private practices specifically on health issues and are looking for new ways to support both physical and emotional wellness.

Measuring Mental Health

The first order of business in treating any physical or mental health issue is first determining what exactly is wrong. Because of that, standardized scales are increasingly important. Mark Zimmerman, MD, director of outpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital, and his colleagues developed the Clinically Useful Anxiety Outcome Scale (CUXOS) to measure depression, anxiety and anger.

Zimmerman says, “We believe that the use of standardized scales should be the standard of care and routinely used to measure outcome when treating psychiatric disorders. Only in this way can we ensure that we are having an impact on our patients.”

Behavioral Economics

Why do people buy what they do? As long as companies have been willing to fund research, psychologists have been interested in behavioral economics, a field of study that examines how people shop.

The newest evidence from the National Academy of Sciences confirms what a lot of us already know: When we’re shopping and confused, we either go with the status quo and pick what we know or we choose to do nothing and postpone making a decision.

This is the field of psychology that looks into why we tend to prefer salad dressing in one bottled shape over another, why certain colors of cereal boxes stand out to us and which commercials appeal to us most.

Predicting Problems

What causes mental health problems? Another area of newly-focused research is in identifying situations or environments in which participants are likely to have future problems. A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, for example, indicates that “offspring of two parents with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder appear more likely to develop the same illness or another psychiatric condition than those with only one parent with psychiatric illness.”

Another example of similar research shows that children who have had a parent who died suddenly have three times the risk of depression than those with two living parents, along with an increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such information can help other health care providers, such as pediatricians, prepare for future issues.

Researchers Irwin Sandler, Ph.D., and Thomas F. Boat, M.D., discuss how these trends can affect pediatrics in a recent paper: “First, a pediatrician should be aware that parental death, as well as other family adversities, is a risk factor for childhood mental disorders,” they write. “The second implication for pediatric practice is that once the pediatrician becomes aware of increased risk of children, the pediatrician may have a responsibility to help link children and/or their parents with appropriate services.”

A Constantly Evolving Field

Psychological research is being conducted all over the globe by thousands of psychologists and scientists. New studies are constantly being published and changing the face of psychology.


Science Daily News Retrieved 2 April 2010.

Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology Retrieved 2 April 2010.

Fleming, S.M., Thomas, C.L., & Dolan, R.J. Overcoming status quo bias in the human brain. PNAS. Published online before print March 15, 2010. doi:10.1073/pnas.0910380107

Lifespan (2010, March 9). New scale to measure anxiety outcomes developed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 18, 2010.

JAMA and Archives Journals (2010, March 2). Offspring of two psychiatric patients have increased risk of developing mental disorders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 18, 2010.

JAMA and Archives Journals (2008, May 5). Sudden Death Of A Parent May Pose Mental Health Risks For Children, Surviving Caregivers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 18, 2010.

About the Author
Angie Boss RN, ASN, BA, MDiv is an award-winning health writer and author or co-author of several books, including Before Your Time: Living Well with Premature Menopause (Simon and Schuster, 2010). She received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Sociology and Journalism from Virginia Wesleyan College and a Masters of Pastoral Counseling from Union Theological Seminary.
Recent groundbreaking research in psychology