Time in applied psychology: The study of "what happens" rather than "what is"

R.A. Roe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1178 Downloads (Pure)


Against the background of a growing awareness of time among researchers, this articles sets out to assess the current position of time in applied psychological theory and research. A critical analysis of recent publications in The Journal of Applied Psychology and Applied Psychology, An International Review reveals that with some noticeable exceptions, the role of time in human behavior is still largely neglected. It is posited that this state of affairs can be explained by a conceptual bias among researchers, which makes them think in terms of "what is" rather than "what happens." A proposal is made for an alternative way of conceptualizing, designated as temporalism, which starts from the concept of phenomenon, which is defined dynamically and operationalized with the help of time. A plea is made for a research strategy that comprises the identification of the dynamic features of phenomena, an analysis of their temporal relations, and an assessment of long term stability and changes of temporal parameters. It is argued that such an approach leads to theoretical innovations and to a substantial expansion of possibilities for intervention. This is illustrated by a discussion of three prototypical patterns of development referred to as improvement, bifurcation, and relapse, which underlie a broad range of practical problems known from social and organizational settings. Finally, attention is directed to the role that time plays when psychological knowledge is applied to such practical problems. It is concluded that time should not only be addressed in the study of behavior of other people but also in the complex interactions between psychologists and clients involved in the application of psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-52
JournalEuropean Psychologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


Dive into the research topics of 'Time in applied psychology: The study of "what happens" rather than "what is"'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this