Holism and Reductionism

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  • Holism and Reductionism
    • Holism
      • an argument or theory which states it only makes sense to study an invisible system rather than it's constituent parts
      • some aspects of social behaviour cannot be understood at the level of the individual group e.g conformity to social roles. Explanations provide a more complete understanding
      • holistic explanations become more vague as they become more complex. Higher level explanations combine many different factors so it can be difficult to establish which is most influential e.g which one to use as a basis for therapy for depression. For solutions to real world problems lower level explanation may be more suitable
    • Reductionism
      • the belief that human behaviour is best explained by breaking it down into smaller constituent parts
      • In order to create variables which are oporationalized it is necessary to break down target behaviours into constituent parts. This means experiments can be conducted reliably.
      • Oversimplifies complex phenomena, leading to a lack of valdity. e.g. explanations of the gene, neurotransmitter or neuron do not include the analysis of social context.
    • biological reductionism
      • a form of reductionism which attempts to explain social and psychological phenomena at a lower biological level
    • Environmental reductionism
      • The attempt to explain all behaviour by stimulus-response links that have been learned through experience


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