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Critically exploring psychology
Critically exploring psychology

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2 Critical thinking in psychology

The central task for psychology is to try to explain human behaviour and experience; that is, to explain all the things that people do, think, feel and say. However, psychology is not restricted to human behaviour; it includes non-human animals in its field of study too. But human and non-human behaviour and experience are amazingly diverse and frequently complex. Consequently, researchers in psychology have developed a wide range of different methods to help them understand this vast topic. Indeed, of all the human and social sciences, psychology probably uses a bigger variety of research methods than any other discipline.

Within the field of psychology, it is important to engage in some critical evaluation of the methodology and methods that can be used. At the very least, psychologists need to identify some strengths and limitations of their research.

In other words,

  • how do I know what I know?
  • what approach can be used to get there?
  • what’s the best approach to get there?

Strong research comes out of sustained critical reflexive evaluation of what you are doing. A piece of research in which the researcher does not show awareness of competing epistemological/ methodological perspectives (something you will look at in more detail in Section 3), and where they are insufficiently critical of their research, is likely not be considered as a strong piece of research. It is particularly important for researchers to engage in critical discussion about their epistemological and methodological commitments. Before this though, you will consider in more detail what critical thinking is.