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Basic Research And Practical Problems: The Promise Of A "Functional" Personality And Social Psychology

Mark Snyder

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In this article, based on the 1992 presidential address to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the author illustrates how research in personality and social psychology can address problems that confront society. To do so, he draws on a program of research on volunteerism. Every year; millions of people volunteer to devote much time and energy to helping others by volunteering, for example, to provide companionship to the elderly, tutoring to the illiterate, or health care to the sick. Guided by a functional approach to motivation, the author and his colleagues are engaged in a coordinated program of basic and applied investigations, conducted in the field and the laboratory, to examine personal and social motivations that give rise to the sustained, ongoing helping relationships of volunteerism. Then, applying lessons learned from building such bridges between basic research and practical problems, the author examines the practical and theoretical promises of a functionally orient approach to personality, motivation, and social behavior