Approaches and Perspectives AS Summary

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Individual Differences Approach
1. To understand the complexity of human behaviour and experiences it is necessary to study the
differences between people rather than those things that we all have in common. Therefore it largely
focuses on things such as personality differences and abnormality (e.g. addiction and mental disorders)
Strengths of the individual approach
It can provide useful applications in improving the experiences of people with mental health problems:
Rosenhan study led to a revision of the way that people with mental health problems are
diagnosed and treated
Griffiths suggest that a type of cognitive behaviour therapy may be successful with
addicted gamblers
Thigpen and Cleckley study suggested that more investigation into MPD was needed
Development and use of psychometric tests to measure the differences between individuals in
qualities such as personality and intelligence. These provide reliable and quantitative data which can be
easily analysed and therefore similarities and differences between individuals can be discovered:
Psychometric tests were used in the study of MPD by Thigpen and Cleckley and also used
in the BBC experiment by Reicher and Haslam
However, not all tests are reliable and objective, for example in Thigpen and Cleckley, the
projective tests used don't have a lot of evidence to suggest they are reliable and they
also rely on the subjective interpretation of the researcher.
Case Studies are often used. Case studies are in depth and often longitudinal studies focus on one
individual or one case. A detailed case history can be useful in describing the experience of unusual or
unique cases:
Thigpen and Cleckley studies Eve White, carrying out a longitudinal, in-depth case study of
her to investigate whether or not she was a true case of MPD. This can also help us to
improve our understanding of the experience and help to suggest treatments that may
help her or anyone with similar symptoms in the future.
It recognises that individual differences are an important element of people's behaviour which is often
overlooked by other approaches:
Griffiths shows that individual differences in the cognition of regular gamblers, such as
irrational thinking, help us to explain why some people are regular gamblers and others
Weaknesses of the individual differences approach
There is a reliance on the dispositional explanations at the expense of situational explanations. In other
words, this approach explains individual differences as resulting from a person's own characteristics or
disposition and has a tendency to ignore external factors such as their situation:
Many Eve's difficulties could also be explained by the expectations of being a wife in the
US in the 1950s (context)
The Rosenhan study highlights the weakness of this dispositional approach (an explanation
which attributes behaviours to context) by showing how the behaviour of the
pseudopatients was misinterpreted as being a consequence of with supposed illness
when it was in fact a result of the hospital environment.
There are many ethical issues raised with labelling people as being difference. This tendency to label
people as different, abnormal and so on can have a negative effect on individuals:

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Rosenhan was particularly critical about both the reliability of labelling and the negative
effects which it has on the individual. Furthermore, such labels can lead to a self-fulfilling
prophecy in which expectations about a person can come true. Once diagnosed with
schizophrenia, this label can mean that people may judgements about the person, or even
discriminate against them, for example, when selecting for employment where such
diagnoses have to be declared.…read more

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One debate is whether an individual's behaviour is as a result of their personality or their social context
3. Importance of the social context in shaping behaviour
Strengths of the social approach
It attempts to use real life situations when studying behaviour. Human interactions are best studied
where participants have the opportunity to interact:
In the Piliavin study a field experiment method was used. This is high in ecological validity
and may avoid demand characteristics as the participants are unaware they're involved.…read more

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Strengths of the cognitive approach
Laboratory experiments are the most common methodology used in cognitive research. This allows
rigorous controls to be used to isolate the independent variable and establish cause and effect. This
level of control is often at the expense of ecological validity.…read more

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Physiological Approach
1. Behaviour and experience can be explained by the physiological changes within the workings of the
body or brain.…read more

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Developmental Approach
There are clearly identifiable, systematic changes that occur in an individual's behaviour from
conception to death.
Cognitive, emotional and behavioural development is therefore an on-going process.
Changes occur as a result of the interaction between nature and nurture.
Strengths of the developmental approach
Research enables psychologists to identify how people, particularly children, change over time and
what factors influence these changes using both longitudinal and snapshot studies.…read more

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Behaviourist Perspective
All behaviour is learnt from our environment after birth
Nurture Approach
Behaviour is learnt through classical conditioning.
The other form of learning is operant conditioning
Strengths of the behaviourist perspective
Highlights to role of nurture in learning, and shows the important influence that environment has on our
Bandura et al's study shows us how we learn by observing those around us in our
environment, our role models.…read more

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Concentrates on the structure of the mind which has parts we are aware of and also parts we are
unaware of (conscious/unconscious)
The unconscious mind can show through in dream or slips of the tongue
Originates from the work of Freud but has been developed by others since…read more


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