Idiographic and Nomothetic Approach

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  • Idiographic and Nomothetic Approach
    • Central questions of idiographic and nomothetic approach
      • Should psychology focus on people in general or the individual?
      • Should psychology produce generalities against which people should be measures and compared?
      • Should psychology concern itself with what makes people unique? Specific rather then general.
    • Nomothetic Approach
      • Aim is to produce general laws of human behaviour. Provide a 'benchmark' which people can be compared, classified and measured.
        • This is on the basis of which likely future behaviour can be predicted and/or controlled.
      • Closely aligned with scientific method within psychology. Such as experiments.
      • Examples
        • Reductionist and determinist. Hypotheses are formulated and tested under controlled conditions. Analysed for statistical significance.
        • Behaviourist, cognitive and biological meet nomothetic criteria. eg Skinner used brain scans to conduct klaws. Hypotheses were rigorously tested.
    • Idiographic Approach
      • Attempts to describe the nature of an individual.
      • People are studied as unique entities, each with their own subjective experiences, motivations and values.
      • No attempt made to compare to larger groups or standard norm.
      • Associated with methods that produce qualitative data, eg case studies, unstructured interviews and self report measures.
      • Examples
        • Humanist psychology. Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, only documenting the conscious experience of the individual or 'self'.
        • Psychodynamic approach. Freud used case study when detailing the lives of his patients. Also links to nomothetic as identifys universal laws.


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