3.6 Different paradigms and different methods
These different methods alert us to the fact that psychology is not just one enterprise, but a series of interlocking enterprises in which psychologists have different views about the best ways to try to understand or explain people and their behaviour and experience. These are arguments about epistemology; that is, what questions to ask, what sort of evidence to look for, what sort of criteria to use to evaluate explanations, and what sort of methods to use.
All knowledge and all efforts to gain knowledge operate in a context, a set of connected and compatible assumptions about what exists and the way to gain knowledge of it. And we have already seen that research is done within a paradigm, which is a philosophical framework made up of assumptions about the subject matter and the ways in which it should be studied, including the methods and the kinds of data that are considered to be legitimate. The doing of psychology within a given paradigm will, in this book, be referred to as a. psychological perspective. The co-existence of different perspectives means that there are debates between psychologists operating in different paradigms, as Peter Barnes explains:
By now you will have gathered that there is no one approach to the study of psychology – each approach has its advocates and each has attracted its critics. At any one time some approaches are in the ascendant while others are in the doldrums. Different views exist on what subjects are worthy of investigation – and even on whether it is possible to investigate them – and these, too, have fashions.
(Barnes, 1985, p.28)