Center for Applied Psychological Research

Mission Statement

The primary mission of the Center for Applied Psychological Research (CAPR) at The University of Memphis is to support psychological research. As part of a major urban research university, a primary focus of this mission is the application of psychological knowledge to finding solutions to individual and social problems - local, regional and national. Therefore, CAPR research focuses extensively on problems concerning health, mental health, education, schools, crime, the environment, and children and their fami- lies. Tn addition, to increase our capacity for generating new approaches to applied prob- lems, CAPR also supports basic scientific research in psychology, including cognitive psychology, biopsychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, and research design and statistics.

Goals and Objectives

Since its inception, the three primary goals of the CAPR have always been (a) to achieve national prominence for its accomplishments, (b) to increase the number of trained psychologists able to conduct, disseminate and apply such research, and (c) to secure extramural funding to facilitate research and training. Tn addition, as part of a Psychology Department in a major urban research university, CAPR supports the general teaching, research and service missions of the department and university.


Founded in 1984, the Center for Applied Psychological Research is one of the original Tennessee Centers of Excellence. Over the 11 years that have elapsed since CAPR began, CAPR has far exceeded all benchmarks set for its performance. CAPR faculty have attracted millions of dollars in extramural funding to the State of Tennessee, published hundreds of scholarly works, graduated hundreds of masters and doctoral students and many times that number of undergraduates, been elected or appointed to many national professional offices and won numerous local and national honors and awards. By any standard, CAPR is one of the most successful centers ever funded under the State of Tennessee's Centers of Excellence program.

Research and FundedActivity

CAPR provides research support to 32 full-timefaculty. Each of those has many different projects ongoing at any given time, so it is impossible to summarize them briefly. These research projects span a broad range of topics. Some are basic research on such diverse topics as the nature of the brain, human social and cognitive processes, mathematical models of human behavior, and how children develop. Other research is more applied, such as research on psychotherapy process and outcome, on the effects and treatment of brain damage, on treatment for insomnia and on the relationship between smoking and weight gain. In fact, CAPR faculty recognize a special responsibility to apply their scholarly knowledge to the problems faced by the citizens of Tennessee. The following example demonstrates just one way that CAPR research helps meet that need.

The City of Memphis has suffered from a very high rate of residential fire injuries and deaths for a number of years. This problem is particularly severe in public housing units of the Memphis Housing Authority (MHA). In 1992 the Memphis Division of Fire Services solicited the assistance of the Applied Experimental Psychology Group at The University of Memphis to help address this fire problem. CAPR faculty conducted a detailed analysis of the causes of fires in MHA developments over a ten-year period. Based on these findings, a resident fire safety training program and videotape were created and an experimental design developed to test the efficacy of fire safety training for new MHA renters. The half-hour training program was implemented in 1993, and to date over 2,000 residents have gone through the program. In addition to before-after tests of fire knowledge, which show that the trainees are acquiring a significant amount of fire-safety knowledge, the major outcome variable of fire incidence is very encouraging. To date there has been only one reported fire among the trained group of renters, and not a single fire-related death. Those residents who received the training have had only one fire in over 12,000 renter-months; those without the training had a fire rate of 1 in 850 renter-months - over 14 times higher than those who were trained!

We could cite many, many other examples of applied CAPR research that help to improve the quality of life of the citizens of Tennessee. A very small sample includes:

An evaluation of the Family Life Curriculum in the Memphis City School system that contributed to ongoing policy discussions.

  • An evaluation of the effectiveness of marital and family psychotherapies that won the 1994 award as "Outstanding Research Publication" from the American Association of Marital and Family Therapy.
  • A longitudinal study about why junior and high school students start smoking.
  • A project with the Environmental Court to improve the effectiveness of environmental code enforcement in Memphis and Shelby County.
  • A project on the effects of television viewing on childhood obesity.
When this applied research is coupled with our strong emphasis in basic psychological research, the result is a well-rounded, nationally known, locally effective agenda.

Service Profile

In addition, CAPR faculty share their knowledge and expertise with the city and state in numerous other ways. For example, during the last several years, the CAPR faculty included (a) a member of the Task Force on Autism of the State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation; (b) a research consultant to Leadership Mem- phis; (c) president of the Advisory Board of Project R.A.P. (Responsible Adolescent Parenting), a local project to prevent teen pregnancies; (d) a member of a state committee to develop standards of practice guidelines and legislative actions on the issue of sexual misconduct by mental health professionals; (e) a member of the Shelby County Environ- mental Improvement Commission; (f) consultants to the Environmental Court (General Sessions, Division 14, Judge Potter) to improve the flow of cases through the court; (g) consultants to several state agencies to improve highway safety; (h) consultants to a survey to identify the best location of the Internal Revenue Service Center in Memphis; and (i) the co-host of a weekly television news piece to improve health called "Ask the Prevention Center." CAPR faculty provide most of these services at no charge to the recipients.


The Center for Applied Psychological Research has been an excellent investment for the citizens of Tennessee in terms of research and teaching productivity; attracting external grant dollars; and having an impact on the real problems of our community and state. As CAPR enters its second decade of funding, plans are being considered to improve on the performance of the first decade. Self-evaluation is a regular part of our agenda; every few years outside experts are brought in to give us critical feedback on how the center can improve. This year one such review was conducted by bringing in the CAPR Board of Visitors. As a result, the center is assessing its organization and funding policies for its faculty. One goal is to streamline our organizational structure to make it smaller, more efficient and a better training experience for undergraduate and graduate students. An- other goal is to ensure that CAPR dollars are being spent where they will produce the most return on the investment - in the specialty areas and by faculty who have produced high quality basic or applied research, and on activities that contribute directly and demonstrably to our mission. The Center for Applied Psychological Research is confident that, by the end of our second decade of funding, it can report even greater accomplish- ments and even better use of the funding received from the citizens of Tennessee.