Approaches in psychology

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  • Created by: zestylily
  • Created on: 11-11-15 18:25

Social learning theory - Studies

Bandura's Bobo Doll Experiment (1961)

  • Method: Children watched an adult act violently towards a bobo doll, they were then placed in a room with the doll to see how they would behave
  • Results: After observing the adults behave violently, the children would also act this way towards the doll.
  • Conclusion: Children imitate the behaviour that they see
  • Evaluation: Ethical issues - Exposing children to violet behaviour. - children didn't have right to withdraw. - Lacks external validity. - They proved the hypothesis.
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The behaviourist approach - Studies

Watson's Little Albert (1920) - Classical conditioning

  • A boy was presented with a rat (NS). Everytime he had the rat there was a loud noise (UCS) created a fear reaction. (UCR)
  • This was repeated until the rat alone (CS) created a fer reaction (CR)
  • Results: When Albert was shown a rat he would start to cry 
  • Conclusion: A fear response to white fluffy objects has been connditioned - abnormal behaviour can be learned. 
  • Evaluation: Unethical. Experiment couldn't be repeated today, lab study-lacks ecological validity as situation was artificial. It supports Pavlov's study.

Skinner's Box (1938) - Operant conditioning

  • A rat moves around a box and when it accidentally presses a lever, a food pellet (reinforcer) drops into the cage. The rat is conditioned to keep pressing the lever to recieve food.
  • If the food stops the rat will press the lever a few more times then stop (extinction)
  • results: positive reinforcement meant the rat would repeat the same action
  • conclusion: behaviour paired with reinforcement encourges same behaviour
  • evaluation: it wasn't human, people claim free will plays a part.
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Social learning theory - Assumptions


  • People learn through observation and imitation
  • Learning can occur by observing role models
  • Believes that meditational processes (between stimulus and response) affect our behaviour 
  • learning can be the result of direct and indirect reinforcement
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The biological approach - Strengths and weaknesses


  • Scientific methods - Scanning techniques (fMRIs and EEGs), twin studies and drug trials. Technology ensured it is possible to accurately measure biological processes.
  • Real life application - Development of psychoactive drugs that can treat serious mental illnesses such as depression. - sufferers able to manage their condition and live relatively normal life.
  • People have more control over their life - If people realise they have a genetic problem (crime or mental disorder) they can seek help early.


  • Experiments lack ecological validity
  • Too deterministic - Ignores other factors like emotional and cultural factors and the effect of the mind.
  • Cannot seperate nature/nurture - Twins are often exposed to similar environments so findings could be down to nurture rather than nature.
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Social learning theory - Strengths and weaknesses


  • The importance of cognitive factors in learning - We use the mind to question how right our answers are. Shows better reasoning for learning than classical and operant conditioning alone
  • Explains cultural differences in behavious - Explains how the world is different
  • Less determinist than behaviourist - not as determinist, acknolodges free will


  • Over-reliance on evidence from lab studies - Controlled experiments. Participants behaved the way they were expected.
  • Underestimates influence of biological factors - Little reference to biologicial factors. Ignores that factors such as hormones explain behaviour.
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The behaviourist approach - Assumptions


  • Behaviour is learnt from the environment
  • Animals and humans lern in the same way
  • The mind is irrelevant. (personality shouldn't affect how you learn something)
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The biological approach - Studies

The Jim Twins:

  • Seperated as babies, reunited at 39
  • Same wife's names and son's name
  • Similar IQ, interests, habits
  • 500,000/1 odds
  • Twins grown up seperate as alike psychologically as twins brought up together

Canadian ice hockey team - Hormones:

  • Levels of testosterone were higher when they played in their home town.
  • The hormone energised the players to defent their home teritory.

Buss (1989) - Evolution & Behaviour:

  • Studies 37 different cultures. 
  • Woman desired mates with resources to provide for offspring.
  • Men desired young, physically attractive women
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The cognitive approach - Assumptions


  • The mind, like a computer, encodes, stores and outputs data
  • The human mind can and should be investigated scientifically
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The cognitive approach - Strengths and weaknesses


  • Looks at throught processes which were ignored by other psychologists - processes such as memory and attention have been studied as they affect our behaviour


  • It is reductionist - Reduces human behaviour down to individual processes (such as memory) this is a weakness because the human is a product of all processes working together not individually 
  • Too mechanical - compares humans to computers because we have similar processes. Humans are more complex than computers e.g. emotions can affect a human's output.
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The behaviourist approach - Strengths and weakness


  • Easy to quantify and measure
  • Scientific credibility - measurable evidence that is objective and can be replicated.


  • Ethical and practical issues(animal experiments) - Animals have no right to withdraw, they cannot mirror human responses and they are subject to poor conditions
  • Mechanistic view of behaviour - Reduces human behaviour to a mechanical like state.
  • Environmental determinism - behaviour is determined by past experiences and ignores free will
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The biological approach - Assumptions


  • All behaviour/characteristics is down to genetics
  • Genes evolved to match behaviour with our environment
  • The mind is irrelevent
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