Psychology in the 21st century
Psychology in the 21st century

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Psychology in the 21st century

2.3 A brief look at different kinds of data

For a long time there has been a very important argument about what are the ‘legitimate data’ of psychology – what can and should be used as evidence. We have already seen that, from the very beginnings of psychology as a formal discipline, psychologists have used experimental methods, observations and introspection. In one form or another these methods continue to be central to psychology. The experimental method, adapted from traditional science, has most consistently been considered the dominant psychological method, providing data which can be ‘seen from the outside’ (outsider viewpoint) without recourse to introspection or people's own accounts of their mental states (insider viewpoint). However, as the research questions asked by psychologists have changed over time, research methods have broadened to include a range of different methods that produce different kinds of data. Outsider viewpoints gained from experiments and observations and insider viewpoints from introspection, interviews and analyses of what people say (and how they say it) all flourish as part of psychology in the twenty-first century. What are the legitimate data of a multi-perspective psychology? What can different kinds of data usefully bring to psychology?

A simple scheme can be used that divides the varieties of data into four categories.

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