Psychological Study of Diversity: Purpose & Goals

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are interested in the field of psychology, you might be wondering what this discipline has to say about human diversity. This lesson discusses purposes and goals when it comes to studying diversity from a psychological perspective.

Studying Psychology, Studying Diversity

As a new student of psychology, or the study of how the mind works, Rose is very curious to learn more about the place of psychology in world affairs. Specifically, Rose wonders how the field of psychology considers issues of diversity, or human difference.

Rose understands that diversity usually refers to social identity categories, including but not limited to: race, socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, religion, education, and sexual orientation.

She knows that psychology can help her form a better understanding of diversity by teaching her about how similarities and differences shape our ways of thinking, learning, feeling, and relating to others. Rose starts to wonder about the purposes and goals of studying diversity from a psychological perspective.

Similarities and Differences in Psychology

First, Rose understands that one goal of the psychological study of diversity has to do with understanding the ways that humans are like and unlike one another.

Similarities and differences between and among people affect many branches of psychology, including:

  • cognition, or how people learn and think;
  • emotions, or how people feel and respond to these feelings;
  • relationships, or how people connect to and think about one another.

Within psychology, there are different cultural perspectives on mental illness and how it should be treated, on whether or not it makes sense to see a therapist, and on what it means to be a successful student or learner.

At the same time, studying psychology can help us see similarities within the human condition in spite of tremendous diversity. For instance, people from all cultural backgrounds love and want the best for their children, even if their personal or cultural definitions of what is best vary tremendously.

Rose can see that learning about the ways humans are similar and different, and celebrating the differences alongside the similarities, is an important outgrowth of the psychological study of diversity.

Humans Shaping Diversity

It is important to remember that diversity comes from humans, and an environment is as diverse as the people in it. When it comes to studying the psychology of diversity, this helps us understand that one of the purposes is to make for more diverse representation of perspectives, cultures, and struggles in psychological literature and scholarship.

Rose believes that if more diverse identities were represented among clinical psychologists, a broader swath of the population would be willing to seek out therapeutic support and treatment.

Rose can also see how humans shape the diversity of educational psychology and cognitive theory since cognitive specialists learn from working with diverse groups of students and families, along with their teachers.

Diversity Shaping Humans

At the same time that humans shape diversity, though, Rose also understands that diversity shapes humans. She knows that when she has been in psychology classes with people who have, for instance, very different religious beliefs from her own, listening to their perspectives helps her broaden her own psychological framework.

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