OCR Psychology G544: Approaches and Research Methods in Psychology - Psychodynamic Perspective Model Answer

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Psychodynamic Perspective
(a) Outline the Psychodynamic perspective in psychology. [4 marks]
The psychodynamic perspective explains human behaviour as being dynamic (meaning it's
driven or motivated by certain forces). This perspective assumes early experiences (such as
childhood trauma) shape later personality. Unconscious conflicts and repressed memories
cause dysfunctional behaviour such as phobias or mental illness (such as MPD). Human
behaviour is a balance between instincts (nature) and how these instincts are nurtured through
experience.
(b) Describe two pieces of research that use the psychodynamic perspective.
[8 Marks]
Freud carries out a case study on a little boy aged between 35 years old known as `Little
Hans'. His father took him to Freud due to his phobia of horses. Over the years Freud
corresponded with his father and offered advice. Freud concluded that `Little Hans' was a normal
boy going through the psychosexual stages of development. During this time he progressed
through the anal stage (he was preoccupied with faeces and going to the toilet) right through to
the phallic stage (a big interest in his `widdler') and had an unresolved Oedipus complex. Freud
concluded that Little Hans had displaced his fear and resentment of his father, who he saw as a
rival for his mother's affections, onto horses. By the end of the case study Little Hans had
resolved his Oedipus complex and his phobia of horses.
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 psychodynamic perspective using
examples. [12 Marks]
One strength of the psychodynamic perspective is that it can actually offer an explanation for
practically all human behaviours (whereas with the other approaches they're often limited to
explaining only certain behaviours). Any behaviour could be potentially explained as being driven
by unconscious motivations, whereas social learning theory couldn't explain certain cognitive
behaviours such as memory or intelligence. For example, Thigpen and Cleckley suggested
Eve's MPD was caused by a repressed childhood trauma. This could potentially cause any
mental illnesses.
Another strength of the psychodynamic perspective is that useful treatments and tests have
been developed from this approach: hypnosis, free association and projective personality tests.
Psychoanalysis uses `talking therapies' and has been shown to successfully allow people to
face and work through their problems. This approach focussed on getting to the root of
psychological problems, rather than simply covering them up with drug treatments. For
example, T&C used hypnosis in order to access Eve's personalities, with the hope of integrating
them in order to treat the MPD.
One weakness of the psychodynamic perspective is that the approach tends to use case
studies that are nonscientific methods and therefore lack generalisability. By studying
individuals' unconscious minds in depth, the explanations for behaviour can apply to that
individual, rather than everyone with a similar disorder. Also, the behaviour of the patients is
interpreted subjectively by their researcher, which makes them potentially lack reliability and

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For example, Freud explained that Hans' phobia of horses was his way of
unconsciously transferring a fear of his father due to him being in the Oedipus complex.
Another weakness of the psychodynamic perspective is that Freud's theories regarding the
unconscious aren't falsifiable (i.e. they can't be proven right or wrong). For psychological
theories to be classified as scientific, they must be falsifiable (that is they must be potentially
able to be proven wrong). This can't be done with the unconscious i.e.…read more

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