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Cynthia E. Winston-Proctor and Michael R. Winston

Within racialized societies, the meaning of race is an important topic of psychological study. As Helms and colleagues have pointed out, however, race has no consensual theoretical or scientific meaning in psychology, although the term race is frequently used in psychological theory, research, and practice as if it has obvious meaning. A recent cultural historical analysis of race scholarship concluded that race as a label has developed over time, leading to the treatment of race as a “thing.” Such ideological use of race as a thing has been discredited. Nevertheless, socially destructive ideological concepts of race have been embedded in racialized societies to varying degrees through social, economic, and political institutions and their practices. In the history of the field of psychology, race has had various theoretical conceptualizations (i.e., definitions). Most of these theoretical conceptualizations can be linked to larger scientific and societal movements within racialized societies. Relatedly, psychologists have adopted various epistemological and methodological approaches to studying race, although positivist empiricism has dominated. The complexities of the theoretical conceptualization and methodological approaches in the field of psychology for studying race have led to multiple analyses of how to address “psychology’s problems with race.” Multiple features of a racialized society provide the broader context for the study race within the field of psychology.