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Weiten &McCann's 7 Themes

Unifying Themes
Psychology: Themes and Variations highlights seven fundamental themes throughout the text. The seven themes come in two sets. The first set consists of statements highlighting crucial aspects of psychology as a way of thinking and as a field of study. The second set consists of broad generalizations about psychology’s subject matter: behaviour and the cognitive and physiological processes that underlie it.
 
Themes Related to Psychology as a Field of Study
Theme 1: Psychology is empirical. 
Theme 2: Psychology is theoretically diverse. 
Theme 3: Psychology evolves in a sociohistorical context. 

Themes Related to Psychology’s Subject Matter
Theme 4: Behaviour is determined by multiple causes
Theme 5: Behaviour is shaped by cultural heritage. 
Theme 6: Heredity and environment jointly influence behaviour. 
Theme 7: People’s experience of the world is highly subjective. 

 

Theme 1: Psychology is empirical. 
This theme is used to enhance the student’s appreciation of psychology’s scientific nature and to demonstrate the advantages of empiricism over uncritical common sense and speculation. Everyone tries to understand behaviour. Most of us have our own personal answers to questions such as why some people are hard workers, why some are overweight, and why others stay in demeaning relationships. If all of us are amateur psychologists, what makes scientific psychology different? The critical difference is that psychology is empirical.

Theme 2: Psychology is theoretically diverse. 
Students are often confused by psychology’s theoretical pluralism and view it as a weakness. We don’t downplay or apologize for the field’s theoretical diversity because we honestly believe that it is one of psychology’s greatest strengths. Throughout the book, we provide concrete examples of how clashing theories have stimulated productive research, how converging on a question from several perspectives can yield increased understanding, and how competing theories are sometimes reconciled in the end.

Theme 3: Psychology evolves in a sociohistorical context. 
This theme emphasizes that psychology is embedded in the ebb and flow of everyday life. The text shows how the spirit of the times has often shaped psychology’s evolution and how progress in psychology leaves its mark on our society.

Theme 4: Behaviour is determined by multiple causes. 
Throughout the book, we emphasize, and repeatedly illustrate, that behavioural processes are complex and that multifactorial causation is the rule. This theme is used to discourage simplistic, single-cause thinking and to encourage more critical reasoning.

Theme 5: Behaviour is shaped by cultural heritage. 
This theme is intended to enhance students’ appreciation of how cultural factors moderate psychological processes and how the viewpoint of one’s own culture can distort one’s interpretation of the behaviour of people from other cultures. The discussions that elaborate on this theme do not simply celebrate diversity. They strike a careful balance—that accurately reflects the research in this area—highlighting both cultural variations and similarities in behaviour.

Theme 6: Heredity and environment jointly influence behaviour. 
Repeatedly discussing this theme permits us to air out the nature versus nurture issue in all its complexity. Over a series of chapters, students gradually learn how biology shapes behaviour, how experience shapes behaviour, and how scientists estimate the relative importance of each. Along the way, students will gain an in-depth appreciation of what it means when we say that heredity and environment interact.

Theme 7: People’s experience of the world is highly subjective. 
All of us tend to forget the extent to which people view the world through their own personal lenses. This theme is used to explain the principles that underlie the subjectivity of human experience, to clarify its implications, and to repeatedly remind the readers that their view of the world is not the only legitimate view.