ISSUES AND DEBATES - Reductionism

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  • Reductionism
    • Scientific explanations tend to be reductionist
      • eg, symptoms of flu mean that you have been infected by the virus
        • reductive explanation
        • reduced a diverse set of symptoms to a simpler cause
        • BUT  we are generally happy with this explanation
          • causal link
          • accept that symptoms can be satisfactorily explained
          • rhinovirus is an appropriate level of explanation for the flu
          • in this case, the reductive nature of the explanation is an advantage: it fully explains problem, offers useful avenues for treatment etc
    • Psychology levels of explanation
      • social cognition to biochemistry
      • social cognition:
      • social groups, family etc:
      • interpersonal interaction:
      • cognition and emotion:
      • learned associations
      • genetics
      • cellular biology
      • biochemistry
    • The bio model
      • activation of the lateral hypothalamus when eating
      • BUT no happy with model - other factors involved
    • Eval (A03)
      • reductionism is a problem for psychological theories when the explanation offered is incompatible with the phenomena that need to be explained
      • for some, natural science is overly reductionist (eg. flu linked to stress)
        • however, some say there is nothing wrong with reductionism - ultimately we will be able to explain all behaviour using one level of explanation
    • Reductionism is not...
      • not the same as determinism (two are related though)
      • not just about biological explanations - behaviourism is also criticised as reductionist because it breaks behaviour down into S-R units etc
      • not the same as over-simplification or leaving out another viewpoint

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