A Level Psychology- Approaches in Psychology key studies


Wundt (1874)- Origins of Psychology

Wundt (1874) seperated psychology from philosophy and used a structuralist approach to explain conciousness & people's thoughts and behaviours.

Wundt viewed psychology as a scientific study of concious experience where he wants to identify the components of conciousness and how they combine to create concious experience.

He used introspection to examine someone'es own concious experience objectively. An external stimulus was presented to produce a scientifically observable experience of the mind.

There had to be trained observers reporting the reactions & repeatable stimuli to elimate interpretation.

  • reductionist explanation to explain the complex nature of human conciousness.
  • criticized for the objectiveness of introspection
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Pavlov's Dogs (1904)- Classical conditioning

Pavlov (1904) demonstrated that dogs could be conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell and after repetition, the salivation would be associated with the sound of the bell.

The food was the unconditioned stimulus and salivation was an unconditioned reponse. The bell was a neutral stimulus and after several pairings, the bell became a conditioned stimulus and salivating became a conditioned response.

The dogs had learnt to associate the bell with food and the bell triggered the dogs to begin to salivate at the sound of the bell.

pavlov classical conditioning diagram

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Skinner's Box (1953)- Operant conditioning

Skinner (1953) is a learning method where the consequences of a response determine the probability of it being repeated, this is called operant conditioning. When a behaviour is reinforced, it's more likely to be repeated whilst punishment will occur less frequently.

Skinner's box, where he used rats to display positive and negative reinforcement. Skinner placed a rat in a box and the rat learnt that by knocking a lever, it would recieve a food pellet and the behaciour is repeated.

Skinner's example of negative reinforcement is where he would subject the rats to an electric shock and would have to press the lever to stop the current. He even conditioned them to press the lever when a light turned on to stop the current being switched on.

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Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiment (1961)- SLT

Bandura (1961) conducted a controlled experiment to investigate if social behaviours can be acquired by observation and imitation. He conducted the experiment on 36 boys and girls (aged 3-6) in Stanford University Nursery School. It was a matched pairs design based on pre-tests on aggressive behaviours in nursey rated 1-5.

Group 1: children witnessed an adult hitting a Bobo doll in an aggressive manner.

Group 2: exposed to a non-agressive manner who plaed in a quiet, subdued manner.

Group 3: not exposed to any model.

Findings: children who had observed an adult behaving violently were more likely to act aggressively towards the doll. Behaciour is learnt not only through reward and punishment, bu through observational learning.

  • precise control variables (gender of model, the time the children observed the model, the behaviour of the model)- standardized procedure makes it replicable.
  • laboratory experiment has low ecological validity (limited social situation/ no interaction between child & model)
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Bugelski & Alampay (1962)- The cognitive approach

Bugelski & Alampay (1962) conducted a study using the 'rat-man' figure to show the expectation through schemas (packages of ideas/ info. generated through expeience). 

Participants either saw a series of animal pictues or neutral pictures before seeing the ambiguous picture.

Participants who saw the sequence of faces were more likely to percieve the figure as a man rather than a rat due to the formation of schemes that help process each figure.

Participants were significantly more likely to percieve the ambiguous picture as a rat if they had had prior exposure to animal pictures.

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Maslow (1943)- Hierachy of Needs (Humanism)

Maslow (1943) devised a need theory for motivation to show how human needs are categorised and prioritised. Once all the basic needs of the hierachy are fufilled, a person may become self-actualised.

Self-actualisation: highly self-aware, fully accepting of themselves & have the ability to deal with uncertainty with creativity.

  • awareness of human needs & has allowed for businesses to keep their employees motivated.
  • cannot be scientifcally tested through scans/ experiments; self-actualisation cannot be scientifically determined as its different for each individual.
  • the model is western-culture centralised; it lacks the validity across different cultures.

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Rogers (1959)- Carl Rogers Theory

Rogers (1959) expanded on Maslow's theory by explaining that for a person to reach self-actualisation, they need an environment that provides them with genuiness (openess), acceptance (unconditional positive regard) and empathy (understanding).

He suggested that self-concept is comprised of 3 major parts: self image, self esteem and your ideal self.

This means that self-actualisation occurs when a person's ideal self is congruent with their self image.

Congruence Circles Illustrating Self Actualization

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Kuhn (1960)- Ideal self (Humanism)

Kuhn (1960) investigated self-image by asked people 'Who am I?' in 20 different ways using the 20 statement test. Participant's answers fell into four main categories:

1.Physical development "I am tall"

2. Social roles "I am a student"

3.  Personal traits "I am outgoing"

4. Existential statements "I am a human"

  • The frequent use of the phrase "paradigm shift" has made scientists more aware of and in many cases more receptive to paradigm changes, so that Kuhn’s analysis of the evolution of scientific views has by itself influenced that evolution.
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Aronoff (1967)- Job demands & the hierarchy of nee

Aronoff (1967) tested whether the higher levels of Maslow's hierachy of needs are only satisfied once the lower levels have been satisfied.

He compared fishermen and cane cutters in the British West Indies. Cane cutters were paid according to how much cane was cut by the group whilst fishermen were paid by their catch (more challenging & lower job security). 

Findings: cane cutters were at lower levels of the hierachy whereas fishermen satisfied the lower levels of the hierachy.

  • high ecological validity as it studied people in their natural environment.
  • only studied people from one culture so results cannot be generalised.

Conclusion: only men who has satisfied the lower levels of the hierachy would become fishermen to developa higher self-esteem. This shows people cannot reach the higher levels until they've satisfied the lower levels.

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