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Chapter: Psychology: Prologue: What Is Psychology?

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Psychology’s Diverse Methods and Perspectives

All of these illustrations reflect the enormous diversity in the content of psychology.

PSYCHOLOGY’S DIVERSE METHODS AND PERSPECTIVES

All of these illustrations reflect the enormous diversity in the content of psychology. But how should we study these various topics? Across much of the 20th century, psychology was dominated by a small number of well-defined theoretical perspectives; we will look more closely at these perspectives in later, defining each approach and explor-ing its strengths and limitations. For now, though, we simply note that no single approach dominates modern psychology. Instead, a defining element of this field is its diverse perspectives. In other words, there is not only variety in what psychologists study, there is also great diversity in how psychologists investigate the various phenomena of interest to them.

The need for a diverse set of perspectives makes sense when we consider that psychology approaches topics as different from each other as the social influences on confession and the cognitive control of eating. But the need for diverse approaches is evident even when we consider how psychologists approach a single phenomenon. Even for a single topic, psychologists draw on a range of different methods and different types of analysis, and then seek some means of unifying what they have learned from all of their efforts. To illustrate this point, let’s look at some of the ways psychologists approach just one topic: how people remember the important, sometimes life-changing , emotional events they experience.

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