Idiographic & Nomothetic Approaches

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  • Idiographic & Nomothetic Approaches
    • Idiographic
      • It investigates individuals as unique, taking into account experience.
      • The methodology used yields qualitative data
      • There's no attempts made to compare individuals to others
      • Examples of the Idiographic approach in psychology
        • The humanistic approach
          • The aim is to understand people's subjectivity
        • The psychodynamic approach
          • Case studies & case study/unstructured interviews
          • Its not idiographic as he used results to make general laws
      • Evaluation
        • Furthers our understanding by providing rich insight into conditions that couldn't be created experimentally for ethical and practical reasons
          • For example, Clive Wearing
            • Challenges the MSM by showing the LTM is not a single store
        • The research methods are less scientific
          • E.g. Structured interviews yield qualitative data which needs interpreting
            • This involves researcher bias
        • Individual Cases
          • By looking at them in depth it can reveal new information that can prompt research in a new area or lead to revision of established theories
    • Nomothetic
      • The nomothetic approach investigates large groups to find general laws of behavior that apply to everyone
      • Quantitative methods are used to identify laws on behaviour
      • Individuals are measured and behavior is predicted
      • Examples of the nomothetic approach in psychology
        • Behaviourism
          • Skinner's experiments established general laws
        • Cognitive Approach
          • Proposes laws of memory and function
        • Biological Approach
          • Analyses thousands of other samples to establish laws about a range of studies
      • Evaluation
        • Uses a scientific methodology
          • Gives credibility to psychology
        • We can compare individuals and plan for people who present atypical patterns of behavior (mental health issues)
        • It's a one size fits all approach so it won't be a good fit for everyone
          • But from an economic view point it is more viable than interventions based on an idiographic approach
        • Overlooks the richness of human experience by reducing people to a set of score in experiments
        • Usually associated with reductionism and determinism
    • They are both important
    • How can they be combined?
      • The nomothetic approach allows us to study people suffering from similar symptoms
        • Identifies a common cause
      • The idiographic approach allows us to meet the needs of individuals with unique problems


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