A2 Psychology Approaches

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  • Created by: Cymogan
  • Created on: 10-01-18 11:57

Origins of Psychology: Wundt and Introspection

  • Wundt established the first psychology laboratory in Germany in 1879. Its aim was to describe the nature of human consciousness.
  • Wundt pioneered Introspection as the first systematic attempt to study the mind. Conscious awareness was broken down into basic categories: thoughts, images and sensations.
  • The same standardised instructions were given to all participants during introspection. Procedures could be replicated identically every single time.
  • (+) Some of Wundt's methods would still be classed as scientific by today's standards.
    • For example, all introspections occurred within a controlled lab environment and all his procedures were standardised.
    • For this reason, Wundt's research can be considered a forerunner to the scientific approaches in psychology that would appear later.
  • (-) However, other aspects of his research would be considered unscientific by today's standards.
    • For example, Wundt relied on participants self-reporting their own 'private' mental processes.
    • This type of data is subjective, and participants may not have wanted to reveal some of the thoughts they were having.
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Origins of Psychology: Psychology as a Science

  • Watson and the early behaviourists rejected Introspection.
    • They argued it was subjective and that a 'scientific' psychology should only study phenomena that can be observed and measured.
  • The Behaviourist Approach led to the emergence of the scientific method.
    • The behaviourist focus on learning and the use of carefully controlled lab studies allowed psychology to become much more scientific.
  • Many modern psychologists still rely on the experimental method.
    • The Cognitive Approach investigates 'private' mental processes via lab tests.
    • The Biological Approach studies activity in the brain using scanning techniques e.g. EEG and fMRI in controlled conditions. 
  • (+) Much of the research done in modern psychology is based upon the scientific method.
    • For example, the Cognitive Approach and Biological Approach both rely on scientific lab studies to investigate theories in a controlled and unbiased way.
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The Behaviourist Approach

  • The focus of the Behaviourist Approach is on observable and measurable behaviour only. It is not concerned with the processes of the mind.
  • The approach is built upon the use of lab experiments because they help maintain control and objectivity within their research.
  • Behaviourists advocate the use of animals in research because they believe the processes that govern learning are the same in all species, so non-human animals can replace humans as experimental subjects.
  • Classical Conditioning: Pavlov's research.
    • CC is learning through association.
    • He showed how a neutral stimulus (bell) could come to elicit a new learned (conditioned) response to food (unconditioned stimulus).
      • Before conditioning: the dog salivates (unconditioned response) to food (unconditioned stimulus)
      • During conditioning: a bell (neutral stimulus) is sounded at the same time that food is presented.
      • After conditioning: the bell will become a conditioned stimulus and produces the conditioned response of salivation.
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The Behaviourist Approach

  • Operant Conditioning: Skinner
    • OC is learning through reinforcement and punishment.
    • Skinner suggested that learning is an active process whereby humans and animals operate in their environment. 
    • In OC behaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences. 
    • There are three types of consequences for behaviour.Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement increase the likelihood that a behaviour will be repeated. 
      • Positive reinforcement: receiving a reward when a behaviour is performed.
      • Negative reinforcement: when an animal or human produces behaviour that avoids something unpleasant. 
      • Punishment: an unpleasant consequence of behaviour.
    • Punishment decreases the likelihood the behaviour will be repeated.
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The Behaviourist Approach Key Study: Skinner's Box

  • Procedure
    • Skinner placed rats in cages that contained a lever.
    • Every time the rat activated the lever it was rewarded with a food pellet (positive reinforcement).
  • Findings and Conclusions
    • When rewarded with a food pellet, the animal would continue to perform the same behaviour in order to receive the reward.
    • This suggests positive reinforcement increases the likelihood that behaviour will be repeated.
  • Evaluation
    • (+) The experiment was performed in a controlled laboratory setting.
    • (-) Can rats be generalised to rats?
      • The Humanistic Approach would suggest that they can't because humans are unique individuals.
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The Behaviourist Approach: Pavlov's Dogs

  • Procedure
    • Before learning, food (unconditioned stimulus) would produce the innate response of salivation (unconditioned response).
    • During learning, Pavlov would sound a bell (neutral stimulus) every time he presented the dogs with food. This was repeated several times.
  • Findings and conclusions
    • After learning, the dog would salivate (conditioned response) every time the bell was sounded on its own (conditioned stimulus).
    • Through CC, the dog has learned to associate the sound of the bell with food and the conditioned response of salivation was triggered as a result.
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The Behaviourist Approach: Evaluation

  • (+) One strength of Behaviourism is that it gave psychology scientific credibility.
    • Behaviourists emphasise the importance of scientific processes such as objectivity and replication giving the subject greater credibility and status.
  • (+) The principles of conditioning have been applied to a broad range of real-life behaviours and problems.(-) Animal experiments within the approach have ethical issues as the animals used are exposed to stressful situations
    • E.g. Token economy systems, based of Operant Conditioning, have been used successfully in prisons and psychiatric wards.
  • The Behaviourist Approach is based on a mechanistic view of behaviour.
    • Animals and humans are seen as passive and machine-like responders to the environment, with little conscious insight into their behaviour.
    • Other approaches, such as Social Learning Theory and the Cognitive Approach, have placed much more emphasis on the mental events that occur during learning.
    • The processes that mediate between stimulus response suggest that people play a much more active role in their own learning.
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Social Learning Theory

  • They assume that learning occurs through experience and takes place in a social context through observation and imitation of a role model's behaviour.
  • Consequences of behaviour can be observed and if it is seen to be rewarded it is much more likely to be copied than behaviour that is punished (vicarious reinforcement).
  • Mediational processes play a crucial role in learning.
    • Attention- whether a behaviour is noticed.
    • Retention- whether a behaviour is remembered.
    • Motor reproduction- the ability of the observer to perform the behaviour.
    • Motivation- the will to perform the behaviour.
  • Identification with role models is important.Behaviour is modelled by the role model and imitated by the observer.
    • Children are more likely to imitate the behaviour of people with whom they identify. 
    • Role models are usually similar to the observer, tend to be attractive and have a higher status.
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SLT Key Study: Bandura's Bobo Doll

  • Procedure
    • In a lab, young children aged 3-5 years watched a film of an adult behaving aggressively towards a bobo doll (hitting it and shouting at it).
    • A second experimental group of children watched an adult interacting with the doll in a non-aggressive manner.
    • Behaviour was later recorded while playing with toys, including a bobo doll.
  • Findings and conclusions
    • The children who watched the aggressive adult acted much more aggressively towards the bobo doll than the children who watched the non-aggressive adult.
    • This suggests that children will imitate the behaviour of role models even when their behaviour is aggressive/ anti-social.
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SLT: Evaluation

  • (+) SLT emphasises the importance of cognitive factors in learning.
    • Neither Classical Conditioning nor Operant Conditioning can fully explain human learning on their own because cognitive factors are omitted.
  • (-) SLT relies very heavily on evidence from lab studies.
    • For example, Bandura's Bobo Doll experiment was performed in a lab which raises the issue of demand characteristics.
  • (-) SLT underestimates the influence of biological factors.
    • A consistent finding in the bobo doll experiment was that boys showed more aggression than girls regardless of the condition the child was in.
      • This may be explained by hormonal factors, such as differences in the levels of testosterone, which is present in greater quantities in boys and has been linked to aggression.
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The Cognitive Approach

  • The Cognitive Approach reintroduced the scientific study of internal mental processes to psychology.Mental processes are 'private' and cannot be observed, so cognitive psychologists study them indirectly by making inferences about what is going on inside people's heads on the basis of their behaviour. 
    • In contrast to the Behaviourist Approach, the Cognitive Approach argues that internal mental processes can be studied scientifically. The approach has investigated areas of human behaviour that were neglected by Behaviourism e.g. perception and memory.
  • Cognitive psychologists use theoretical models when describing and explaining mental processes.
    • One theoretical model is the information processing approach, which suggests that information flows through a sequence of stages.
  • Cognitive psychologists use computer models when describing and explaining mental processes.
    • The 'computer analogy' suggests that there are similarities in the way computers and human minds process information.
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The Cognitive Approach: Evaluation

  • Cognitive psychologists believe in 'schemas'.Cognitive neuroscience is the scientific study of the influence of brain structures on mental processes.
    • Schemas are packages of information developed through experience. They act as a 'mental framework' for the interpretation of incoming information received by the cognitive system.
    • Babies are born with simple motor schema for innate behaviours such as sucking or grasping. As we get older, our schemas become much more detailed and sophisticated.
  • (+) The Cognitive Approach uses scientific and objective methods
  • (-) The approach is based on machine reductionism.
    • Although there are similarities between the operations of the human mind and a computer (inputs and outputs, central processor, storage systems), the computer analogy has been criticised.
    • Human emotion and motivation have been shown to influence accuracy of recall e.g. in eyewitness accounts. These factors are not considered within the computer analogy.
      • Therefore, the Cognitive Approach oversimplifies human cognitive processing and ignores important aspects that influence performance.
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The Cognitive Approach: Evaluation and Comparisons

  • (-) The Cognitive Approach is based on research that lacks validity.
    • Cognitive psychologists are only able to infer mental processes from the behaviour they observe in labs, so the approach can be too theoretical.
    • Often research is carried out using artificial stimuli, such as recalling word lists in memory studies, that may not represent everyday experience
  • (C) The Cognitive Approach is less determinist than other approaches.
    • It recognises that our cognitive system can only operate within the limits of what we know, but that we are free to think before responding to a stimulus.
      • This is in contrast to the Behaviourist Approach which suggests that we are passive 'slaves' to the environment and lack free choice in our behaviour. 
      • The Cognitive Approach places itself between free-will determinism of the Humanistic Approach and hard determinism of the Behaviourist Approach.
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The Biological Approach

  • The Biological Approach suggests that everything psychological is due to biological structures and processes within the body, such as genes, neurochemistry and the nervous system.
  • It suggests that behaviour has a genetic and neurochemical basis.
    • Behaviour geneticists study whether behavioural characteristics, such as IQ and personality, are inherited in the same way as physical characteristics, such as height or eye colour.
    • Neurochemistry can also explain behaviour, for example, low levels of serotonin are associated with OCD.
  • The approach regards the mind and body as being one and the same.
    • All thoughts, feelings and behaviour ultimately have a physical basis.
    • This is in contrast to the Cognitive Approach which sees the mind as separate from the brain.
  • Twin studies are an important way of investigating the genetic basis of behaviour.
    • These are used to determine the extent to which some characteristics have a genetic basis by comparing concordance rates between twins. 
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The Biological Approach

  • Genotype- a person's genotype is their actual genetic make-up.
  • Phenotype- the way that genes are expressed through physical, behavioural and psychological characteristics.
    • Their existence suggest that much of human behaviour depends on the interaction of nature and nurture.
  • Darwin's Theory of Evolution is used by the Biological Approach to explain many aspects of behaviour.
    • Darwin proposed the theory of Natural Selection that suggested any genetically determined behaviour that enhances survival will be passed on to future generations.
    • Such genes are described as adaptive and give the possessor certain advantages.
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The Biological Approach: Evaluation

  • (+) The Biological Approach uses scientific methods of investigation.
    • These include scanning techniques, such as fMRIs and EEGs, family and twin studies and drug trials.
  • (+) The Biological Approach has real-life applications
    • Increased understanding of biochemical processes in the brain has led to the development of psychoactive drugs that treat serious mental disorders, such as Depression.
  • (-) Conclusions for the actions of neurotransmitters are difficult to establish.
    • Biological explanations of mental illness are based on the action of neurotransmitters in the brain.
      • This evidence comes from studies that show a particular drug reduces symptoms of a mental disorder by changing levels of neurotransmitters, and thus it is assumed that the neurotransmitter is the cause of the disorder. However, this evidence is merely correlational.
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The Psychodynamic Approach

  • According to Freud the mind is made up of three parts.
    • The conscious- what we are aware of.
    • The preconscious- thoughts and ideas that we may become aware of through dreams.
    • The unconscious- a vast storehouse of biological drives and instincts that has a significant influence on our behaviour. 
  • The Psychodynamic Approach puts forward the idea of the Tripartite Structure of Personality.
    • The id- the primitive part of the personality which operates on the pleasure principle and demands instant gratification of its needs.
    • The ego- works on the reality principle and is the mediator between the other parts of personality.
    • The superego- our internalised sense of right and wrong. Based on the morality principle, it punishes the ego for wrongdoing through guilt.
  • There are five psychosexual stages that determine adult personality.
    • Each stage is marked by a different conflict that the child must resolve to move on to the next. 
    • Any conflict that is unresolved leads to fixation where the child becomes 'stuck' and carries behaviours associated with that stage through adult life.
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The Psychodynamic Approach

  • The stages are irreversible and are characterised by a conflict at each stage.
    • Oral Stage (0-1 years)- the focus of pleasure is on the mouth; the mother's breast is the object of desire. Too much or too little gratification here may lead to an 'oral fixation' in later life, characterised by behaviours such as biting one's nails and smoking.
    • Anal Stage (1-3 years)- the focus of pleasure is the anus, the child gains pleasure from withholding and eliminating faeces. Unresolved conflicts here may lead to an 'anally retentive' (mean, obsessive, sarcastic) or 'anally expulsive' (messy, disorganised, wasteful) personality type.
    • Phallic Stage (3-5 years)- the focus of pleasure is the genital area (the child experiences the Oedipus Complex). Unresolved conflict may lead to a 'Phallic' personality type (vain, exhibitionist, homosexual).
    • Latency Stage (5 years- Puberty)- no further psychosexual development takes place during this stage. Freud thought that most sexual impulses are repressed, and the libido is dormant in this stage.
    • Genital Stage (Puberty)- sexual desires become conscious alongside the onset of puberty.
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The Psychodynamic Approach

  • The Oedipus Complex is a major conflict occurring for boys at the Phallic Stage.
    • A young boy gains sexual feelings towards his mother and becomes jealous of his father. He irrationally believes that if his father were to find out he would castrate him (castration anxiety).
    • The boy then attempts to imitate his father (identification) and this is how the child resolves his Oedipus Complex.
  • The Electra Complex is a major conflict occurring for girls during the Phallic Stage.
    • Girls at the same age experience penis envy- they desire their father and are jealous of their mother. Girls later give up their desire for their father over time and replace this with a desire for a baby.
  • Defence mechanisms are used by the ego to keep the id 'in check' and reduce anxiety.
    • Defence mechanisms are unconscious strategies that the ego uses to manage the conflict between the id and the superego (the conflict between what you want to do and what you should morally do).
  • Defence mechanisms include:
    • Repression- forcing a distressing memory out of the consciousness.
    • Denial- refusing to acknowledge some aspect of reality.
    • Displacement- transferring feelings from their true source onto a substitute target.
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The Psychodynamic Approach Key Study: Little Hans

  • Procedure
    • Hans was a five-year-old boy who developed a phobia of horses after seeing one collapse on the street.
    • Although Hans and Freud met briefly on one occasion, most analysis was conducted through letters written by Hans' father.
  • Findings
    • Freud suggested that Hans' phobia was a form of displacement in which his repressed fear of his father was transferred onto horses.
      • Freud claimed that horses were merely a symbolic representation of Hans' real unconscious fear: the fear of castration during the Oedipus Complex.
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The Psychodynamic Approach: Evaluation

  • Freud's theory has drawn attention to the connection between childhood experience and later adult development which has influenced attachment research.
    • It has also been used to explain personality development, abnormal behaviour, moral development and gender development.
  • Freud relied heavily on case studies to support his theories.
    • It is hard to generalise a case study to the general population because of the small sample size
    • His interpretations of the case studies were highly subjective such as in the case of Little Hans- it is unlikely another researcher would come to the same conclusions.
  • The Psychodynamic Approach includes a lot of untestable concepts.
    • Karl Popper argued that the Psychodynamic Approach is unfalsifiable because it cannot be proved or disproved through any manner of testing.
      • Many of Freud's concepts, such as the existence of the id or the Oedipus Complex, occur at an unconscious level making them very difficult to test.
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The Humanistic Approach

  • The concept of free will is central to the Humanistic Approach.
    • Humanistic psychologists reject models that attempt to establish scientific principles of human behaviour. They claim that humans are all unique individuals and psychology should be based upon the study of subjective experience rather than general laws.
  • Humanistic psychologists see humans as working towards self-actualisation (the top level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs)
    • They suggest every person has an innate tendency to achieve their full potential and become the best they can possibly be (self-actualisation).
    • This is the top level of the hierarchy and all four lower levels (deficiency needs) must be met before the individual can work towards self-actualisation (a growth need).
  • The focus on the self is an important feature of the approach and therapy.
    • The self refers to the ideas and values that characterise 'I' and 'me' includes perception of 'what am I' and 'what can I do'. The focus on the self is a crucial component of humanistic therapy.
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The Humanistic Approach

  • The aim of therapy is to establish congruence between the real self and the ideal self.
    • Rogers argued that for personal growth to be achieved an individual's concept of self must be broadly equivalent to, or have congruence with, the ideal self. If too big a gap between the two 'selves' exists, the person will experience a state of incongruence, and self-actualisation will not be possible due to the negative feelings of self-esteem.
  • Parents who impose conditions of worth may prevent personal growth.
    • Many issues experienced as adults, such as worthlessness and low self-esteem can be traced back to childhood and can often be explained by a lack of unconditional positive regard from parents.
      • A parent who sets boundaries or limits on the love for the child (conditions of worth) by claiming 'I will only love you if...' is storing up psychological problems for that child in the future.
  • The Humanistic Approach has had a lasting influence on counselling.
    • Rogers' client-centred therapy aims to increase feelings of self-esteem and reduce incongruence between the real self and ideal self through genuineness, empathy and unconditional positive regard from the therapist
    • Rogers' work helped to develop 'non-directive' counselling techniques.
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The Humanistic Approach: Evaluation

  • (+) Humanistic psychology is anti-reductionist.
    • Humanistic psychologists reject any attempt to break up behaviour and experience into smaller components.
    • They advocate holism, the idea that subjective experience can only be understood by considering the whole person (their relationships, past, present and future).
  • (+) Humanistic psychology portrays a positive image of the human condition.
    • Humanistic psychologists have been praised for promoting a positive image of the human condition- seeing people as in control of their lives and having the freedom to change it.
      • Freud saw human beings as slaves to their past and claimed all of us existed somewhere between 'common unhappiness and absolute despair'.
  • (-) Although Rogerian therapy has revolutionised counselling techniques and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has been used to explain motivation, Humanistic psychology has limited applications.
    • Compared to other approaches, Humanistic psychology has had limited impact within psychology as a whole, perhaps because it lacks a sound evidence base.
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