OCR Psychology G544: Approaches and Research Methods in Psychology - Individual Differences Model Answer

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Individual Differences
(a) Outline the individual differences approach in Psychology. [4 Marks]
People are unique and so rather than studying the similarities between people it's the
differences between them that should be studied. Behaviour, which deviates from the norm, is
considered abnormal. Rules about what is `normal' won't apply to everyone. Behaviour cannot
easily be generalised between people because everyone differs as individuals. Consequently,
the casestudy method is often utilised, which allows indepth investigation of abnormal
behaviour. Typical areas of study include: personality, problem behaviours (Gambling) and
abnormality (e.g. MPD). This approach assumes that individuals are unique, and therefore one
explanation for a particular problem cannot be offered.
(b) Describe two pieces of research that use the individual differences approach.
[8 Marks]
Rosenhan carried out the famous `On being sane in insane places' studies. Rosenhan
hypothesised that psychiatrists couldn't reasonably diagnose mental illnesses. 8 participants
presented themselves at different American psychiatric hospitals and reported a single
symptom, a voice saying the word `thud'. After admission they were instructed to behave
normally. All were admitted for between 752 days and were eventually released with a
diagnosis of schizophrenia in remission. This study shows that mental illness is very difficult to
diagnose and led to reforms in the mental health system.
Thigpen and Cleckley carried out a case study on `Eve', a woman with multiple personality
disorder (MPD). They discovered three unique, separate personalities: Eve White a shy, quiet
respectable wife and mother Eve Black, a promiscuous party girl and Jane the most stable of
the three personalities. MPD is usually linked to childhood trauma and this is why this study
can be considered psychodynamic. Thigpen and Cleckley concluded that the solutions to
`Eve's' problems were to let Jane become the dominant personality and they aimed to achieve
this through extensive therapy.
(c) Discuss the strengths and limitations of the individual differences approach using
examples. [12 Marks]
A strength of the ID approach is that they often use psychometric tests that measure the
individuals' personalities and intelligence have been developed by this approach. They provide
Quantitative/reliable data. This allows comparisons to be made between the different abilities of
the different individuals to be analysed and compared. For example, in Thigpen and Cleckley
they used psychometric tests to measure the IQ and memory of Eve White/Black so the
abilities of the 2 personalities could be compared.
Another strength is that the ID approach is useful as it allows treatments for psychological
disorders to be tailored to the individuals' specific needs. This is because this approach
recognises that not everyone with a particular disorder will have the same symptoms caused by
the same factors (as all individuals are different). For example, Griffiths found that Gambler's
use cognitive biases and have irrational thoughts when they gamble. By using audio and
playback therapy, gamblers can listen to their individual thoughts and use this to treat their
gambling addictions.
A weakness of the ID approach is that they tend to rely on case studies of individuals or small
groups. Whilst this does allow the uniqueness of an individual to be studied in great depth, it's
the expense of generalisability. For example, Thigpen and Cleckley found out in great detail
about Eve's experiences with MPD, and suggested that this may have been caused by some
early childhood trauma, but these conclusions can't be generalised to everyone who suffers

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Another weakness of the ID approach is that there are ethical issues with labelling people as
`different', as this approach assumes that behaviour that deviates from the norm is considered
`abnormal'. The stigma attached with labelling can often produce selffulfilling prophecies. For
example, Rosenhan provided evidence that by labelling people as `schizophrenic', it led to all
their behaviours being judged in light of that label.…read more


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