Approaches in Psychology

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Behaviourist Approach 3


  • Treatment of atypical behavior.
  • Aversion Therapy to treat alcoholism (alcohol presented, person givendrug to induce unpleasan response e.g nausea, repeated pairings, person learns to associate alcohol with nausea, overtime cure addiction ).
  • Modification of speech in autistic children


  • Psychology = Principles of cc and oc can be applied to many areas of psychology
  • Individual = benefitfrom treatment, curing phobia, modifying speech, change someones life
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Behaviourist Approach - Ivan Pavlov


  • First to describe process of classical conditioning by testing on animals (dogs)
  • Learning by associating - conditioning reflex's through assocaiting a new stimulus with an innate bodily reflex

Unconditioned stimulus (UCS) = Food > Unconditioned response (UCR) = Salivation

UCS = Food + New stimulus (NS) = Bell > UCR = Salivation

Conditioned stimulus (CS) = Bell > Conditioned response = Salivation

Criticisms = Is generalisable to humans?

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Behaviourist Approach - Locke, Watson and Thorndik

John Locke = said people born as 'blank slates' and our behaviour is learnt and dependent upon our interactions and experiences with the environment

John Watson = Stated 'consciousness' couldn't be seen or meaningfully defined, therefore shouldn't be studied

Edward Thorndike's Law of Effect = stated if behaviour is followed by satisfying consequences, more likely to be repeated in the future. Based on observationsof cats trying to escape puzzle boxes

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Behaviourist Approach 2

Methods: Scientific Methods, Observations and Comparative Methods


  • Use of rigorous experimental research enhances credibility of psychology as a science
  • Provides strong arguement for nurture
  • Provides number of pratical applications and techniques to shape behaviour e.g. reward in education and treating phobias


  • Ignores the mental processes involved in learnin, unlike cognitive
  • Rejects possible role of biological factors in human behaviour (Reductionist)
  • Views humans as passive learners at mercy of environment, unlike humanistic, rejects idea of free will (deterministic)
  • Principles of conditioning don't account for spontaneous behaviour
  • Use of animals in applying laws of learning to humans has been criticised
  • Highly controlled experiments, not ecologically valid
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Behaviourist Approach

  • BA = All behaviour is learnt
  • Concerned with observable behaviour, can be objectivey and scientifically measured
  • Psychology is a science - behaviour is measured in highly controlled environments to establish cause and effect
  • Born mind a blank slate
  • Little difference between learning in animals and animals, research carried out on both
  • All behaviour can be reduced to simple stimulus-response association. Not interested in thought processes inbetween
  • Behaviour determind by association (CC) or reinforcement or punishment (OC)


  • BF Skinner (Skinners box and OC)
  • Ivan Pavolv (Pavlovs dogs and CC)
  • Watson and Raynor (Little Albert and CC)
  • John Locke (Blank Slate)
  • Edward Thorndike (Law of effect)
  • John Watson (consciousness can't be seen/meaningfully defined so shouldn't be studied
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Biological Approach 2

Strengths =

  • Uses scientiic experimental procedures in investigations (reliable)
  • Provides strong arguement for nature
  • Many useful applications
  • Benefits of selective breeding (more money to breeders, higher quality meat,desired characteristics

Weaknesses =

  • Reductionist -explains all thoughts and behaviours in terms of the actions of chemicals/hormones
  • Over simplisitc - doesn't appreciate the influence of the environment
  • Raises ethical issues (e.g genetic mapping)
  • Deterministic
  • Negatives of SB (Unfair treatment of animals, could eradicate species, against nature)
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Biological Approach - Bock and Goode

A = Research genetic influence of behaviour on non-humans

P = Reared mice alone, exposed to other animals

F = First exposed, tendency to attack other males

C = Weren't taught aggression by parents, exhibited behaviour, implies genetic aggression

C = Can't compare to human complxity (reductionist. Also, lab experiment, highly controlled conditions- low ecological validity

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The Biological Approach

Basic Assumptions =

  • Behaviour and thought processes have an innate, biological basis
  • Human genes have evolved to adapt behaviour to the environment
  • Human characteristics e.g intelligence is due to genetic makeup (heritability)
  • Stresses importance of nature aspect of nature/nurture debate
  • Physiology - role of hormones and brain etc affect behaviour


  • Bock and Goode = Found mice reared alone had tendency to attack other males when first shown to other animals (not taught agression, implies innate)
  • Charles Darwin 'The Origin of the Species' = All species evolved overtime from common ancestors through natural selection (e.g giraffes and flying squirrels). Provided scientific evidence to show how random behavioural/physical changes allow them to adapt to the environment

Methods =

Scientific Method/Experiments and Comparitive Method

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Biological Approach 3


  • Gene Therapy, Drug treatments to alleviate disorders such as bipolar depression, Maternity Leave (bond with child)


Psychology = Understand behaviours, such as imprinting and appreciate complexities of human behaviour

Individual = Benefit from drugs, get better

World = Stresses importance of nature in debate

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Behaviourist Approach - Watson and Raynor 'Little

A = Investigate whether emotional response could be conditioned in a human

P= White rat presented to Little Albert. When reached for rat simultaneously loud noise created (repeated for weeks)

F = When rat presented, immediately frightened and moved away

C = Demonstrated behaviour is learnt and phobia of rats could be conditioned in a baby

C = Ethics - After 5 ays still evidence of phobia (less evident after 1 month). Methodological - Case study = not generalisable

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Behaviourist Approach - B.F Skinner

Skinner's box:

A = Can a rat be conditioned to complete action through positive reinforcement?

P = Hungry rat put in box. Inside, when pressed, lever release pellet of food

F = Rat soon learned pressing level released food (reward) so repeated action

C = demonstrated behaviours can be learned through positive reinforcement

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Behaviourist Approach - BF Skinner

Claimeda behaviour is learnt as result of consequences in our environment

2 types reinforcement:

  • Positive = provides feeling of satisfaction that increases liklihood of a respose occuring because involes a reward for behaviour e.g worker paid for working
  • Negativ = involves removal of unpleasant experience, increases liklihood of a response because involves the removal of unpleasant consequences e.g car buzzer turns off when put seatbelt on

2 types punishment:

  • Positive = consequence of recieving something unpleasant, decreases probability of behaviour being repeated e.g speeding driver gets a ticket
  • Negative  removing something desirable decreases probability of behaviour being repreated e.g taking toys from child in a tantrum
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  • Learning can be a result of vicarious reinforcement or direct reinforcement
  • Observational learning has 4 conditions (Attention, Retention, Reinforcement and Motivation)
  • People can learn from observing role models
  • Cognitive Mediating factors are the mental processes that occur inbetween a stimulus and a response, they influence our behaviour
  • Bridge between cognitve and behaviourism
  • 2 types of model = Live model (physically present in our environment) or symbolic (present in films etc)


  • Albert Bandura = Learning can occur by observing role models, 4 conditions essential for learning, Bobo Doll experiment - aggression in children/gender differences
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SLT - Bandura Bobo Doll experiment

A = Can agression be learnt by observing a model?

P = Children shown video in which children of a similar age acted aggressively towards Bobo Doll. 3 endings to video = adlult responded positively about behaviour, negatively or no comment. After, placed in a room with Bobo Doll and behaviour observed

F= Boys greater levels of aggression even though exposed to same behaviour. Girls more influenced by negative comments

C = Children learn by observing models in their environment and in conjunction with other cognitive mediating factors imitate their behaviour

C = What qualifies as aggression? Not much else to do with a Bobo Doll than hit it, would they have acted sam without having watched a video?

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SLT- Bandura 2

Badura :

  • Claimed application of consequences not essential for learning, could occur by observing models in the environment (behaviourist disagrees)
  • Believed mind, behaviour and environment play imporant role in learning (behaviourists not interested in thinking processes, agrees more with cognitive)

Said 4 conditions essential for effective modelling:

  • Attention = Individual notices someones behaviour
  • Retention = Remembers observed behaviour
  • Reproduction = Replicates behaviour shown by model
  • Motivation = Seeks to demonstrate observed behaviour given opportunity


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Methods: Experimental and non-experimental methods, Obervations, Uses humans


  • Takes intoaccount the cogntive processes involved in learning, unlike behaviourist (bio?)
  • Not as reductionist as behaviourism as takes into account impact of environment
  • Many applications in psychology


  • Doesn't fully explain indvidual differences - what percieved as reinforcement for one person might not be for another
  • Doesnt account for all behaviour e.g. if learn by observing others, how does a person become a criminal when havent associated with or observed criminal behaviour (hard explain spontaeous behaviour)
  • We don't copy every action we observe, generalising that evryone is succeptable to influence
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  • Psychology =  Effective explainations of behaviour e.g gender roles
  • Individual = Help parents to realise ways in which their children learn so they don't pick up unwanted behaviours
  • World = Explain how we are influences by environment e.g families, school, religion (influence of god?)


Explains how we are influenced by the environment in many ways. How we can learn vicariously.

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Psychodynamic Approach


  • Unconcious processes determin our behaviour
  • Instincts/Drives motivate our behaviour and energise the mind
  • Driven from birth to adulthood by desire to gain bodily pleasure
  • Childhood experience determine adult behaviour
  • Each person goes through 5 psychosexual stages of development
  • If child experiences trauma at a stage, may result in fixation evident in adult personality
  • Neuroses (types of phobias and paranoias) result from deeply traumatic experiences hidden from conciousness
  • Personality in 3 parts: id, ego and superego
  • Free association


  • Sigmund Freud - developed psychoanalysis - idea neuroses result from deeply traumatic experiences hidden from consciousness. Rat Man Case Study. Free association - encouraged patients talk freely, observed how past experiences could be brought to consciousness and comforted emotionally. Theory of unconcious, stages of development and structure of personality
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Psychodynamics - Freud and Rat Man Case Study

A = Investigate underlying cause of Rat Man's obsessive compulsive neuroses

P = Course of year, Rat Man stated had obsessive and fearful thoughts about rats, resulting in obsessve behaviours. Origin of thoughts - military training, heard of torture involving rats, fearful would happen to father

F= Stated behaviours resulted from unconcious love and hate felt for faher, wished tortured with rats.

C = Obsessive complusive behaviours helped him overcome feelings of guilt and reduce his anxieties

C= Focused on father, no reference to domineering mother. Feelings of abadonment plausible explanation for feelings as adult. Case study, lacks generalisability

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Psychodynamics 2 - Unconcious mind Iceberg analogy

  • Tip of iceberg = conscious mind - person aware ofthoughts and perceptions
  • Just under surface = Preconcious - might be aware of (Memories and stored knowledge)
  • Deep under surface = unconcious - couldn't access (Fears, unacceptable sexual desires, violent, traumatic experences

Freud said hidden mental processes we are unaware of and can't control determine our decisions. Free will is a delusion, often make decisions unconciously. Karl Popper opposed Freud, said theory of unconcious mind not falsifiable (testable) and therefore not scientific.

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Psychodynamics - Theory of Drives and psychosexual

  • Freud explains how humans are driven from birth to adult life by desire to gain bodily pleasure. Each person goes through 5 psychosexual stages.
  • If child experiences trauma at a stage, may result in fixation.
  • Fixations evident in adult personality e.g. fixated at oral stage due to difficulty breast feeding, adult may be over dependent on others
  • 5 psychosexual stages of development (stage, age and key features):
  • ORAL (0-18months)= infants pleasure centersaround mouth. Feeding on breast, object of desire because reduces negative experience of hunger.
  • ANAL (18-36)= Pleasure from retention or expulsion of faeces, please parents from doing either
  • PHALLIC(3-6yrs)= Sexual instinct focused on genitals. Oedipus and Electra complexes. Resolution of complexities forms gender identity.
  • LATENT(6ys-puberty) = Sexual drive present but dormant. Focused towards peers and friendships
  • GENITAL(Puberty+) = Sexual interests mature, directed towards gaining pleasure through sex
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Psychodynamics - Structure of personality and Defe

  • ID= Pleasure principle, selfish part of personality, desire instant gratification of our needs and desires
  • EGO = Reality principle, mediator between id and superego. Reduces conflict between demanding id and moralistic view of superego
  • SUPEREGO = Morality principle, formed during phallic stage. Learn to internalise our parental values and social standards. Lean and store info considered right and wrong

Defence mechanisms = unconcious forces we use wen go is in conflict with id and superego. Way ego deals with anxiety caused by conflict

  • DENIAL = reducing anxiety by refusing to see the unpleasant aspects of reality e.g student who fails tells himself good grades dont matter
  • DISPLACEMENT= Mind re-directs emotions to safer outlet e.g angry, punch pillow
  • RATIONALISATION = Logical justification for a decision e.g alcoholic tells himself, drinks for health benefits rather than face alcoholism
  • SUBLIMATION = Channelling impulses to socially accepted ehaviour e.g aggressve person joins army to cover violent behviour
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Psychodynamics 2

Methods: Case studies, Psychoanalysis


  • Freud acknowledged importance of childhood experiences in determining adult personality
  • Offer casual explanations for underlying atypical psychologial conditions
  • Method of psychoanalysis still used today in psychiatry
  • Looks at whole person


  • Theories considered unfalsifiable therefor unscientific (Karl Popper)
  • Feminists argue theories male orientated
  • Case study method lack generalisability
  • Effectiveness of psychoanalysis as a therapy is questioned in comparison to proportion of patients who recover spontaneously from atypical disorders
  • Misinterpretation/Bias possible in case studies and psychoanalysis
  • Bit reductionist, focus on unconcious and first 5 years of life (early childhood)
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Psychodynamics 3


Psychology = Psychotherapy, Counselling, psychiatry

Impact = Psychologists study normal and abnormal behaviour in peope, we listen to children because of imporatance of early life experiences, mental health considered and diagnosed just y listening

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Humanistic Approach


  • Humans should be viewed as a whole and not reduced to component parts
  • Humans are active agents able to control an determine their own development
  • Humas strive towards achieving self-actualisation
  • To be psychologically healthy, the real self and the ideal self must be congruent
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs, proposed all humans have certain needs which must be met in order to achieve full potential (self-actualisation)
  • Children that recieve unconditional positive regard have the opportunity to achieve their full potential


  • Carl Rodgers - Founded approach. believed psychoanalysis failed to deal with the healthy growth of individual. Dissasstisfied with deterministic nature of beaviourists. Concerned with more holisitc view form of psychoanalysis that focuses on positive growth within indviduals-developed PCT
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs portrayed 5 levels of a pyramid, all humans have certain needs which need to be met in order to achieve full potential
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Humanistic - Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Defiency needs (bottom level)must be met first, only when satisfied can move up hierarchy to reach self-actualisation

Self-actualisation (top level)

Esteem= Self esteem and respect for others

Love/Belonging = to a group, affection

Safety = Home environment

Psychological = Sex, Food, Sleep (bottom level)

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Humanistic - Rodgers concept of self

Rodgers stated, in order for person to achieve personal growth, they must become congruent with their sense of self. 3 selfs:

  • Self-concept = Way person sees themselves
  • Ideal self = person we would like to be
  • Real self - person we actally are

Aim of PCT = close gap between ieal and real self

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Humanistic Approach 2

Methods: Usually not very scientific, more personalised - makes hard to generalise bc of context, individual experience, morals and personality        Strengths:

  • View person as active agent, able to control and determine their own development, unlike behaviourism
  • Promote idea of personal responsibilities - free will as opposed to determinism
  • Subjective experience of person is of value and importance
  • PCT used today
  • Offers less deterministic and artificial approach than behaviourism and psychodynamics because concerned with personal experience, choice, freedom, meaning and recognises context        
  • Weaknesses:
  • Hard to falsify, lack predictve power = unscientific
  • By rejecting scientific methods, lacks empirical support
  • Over emphasises persons ability to change and develop, ignores cultural constraints etc 
  • Individual emotions and consciousness are difficult to study objectively
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Humanistic 3


  • PCT (person centered theray) focuses on clients immediate situation, rather than their past (unlike psychoanalysis), client can be brought to a state of realisation, can help themselves achieve a more ideal sense of self. Therapist becomes a 'mirror' listening and reflecting back the clients thoughts and feelings


Psychology - PCT used in counselling today as an effective tool to achieve personal growth and psychological health

Individual - Maslows hierarchy of needs - employees satisfaction of needs = perform well. Practical in workplace. Affective tool to achieve personal growth and improve psychological health.

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Cognitive Approach


  • Mental processeslie between stimulus and response
  • Humans are information processors
  • Humans actively organise and manipulate information from the environment
  • Mind operates in the same way as a computer (both encode, store and output data)


  • Ulric Neisser - Cognition - refers to 'the processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated,store, recovered and used
  • Anderson - emergence of approach approach due to research on human performance and attention during WW2 , developments in computer science artificial intelligence and linguistics



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Cognitive Approach - Computational and Connectioni

Models explain mental processes inbetween stimulus and response.

Information- processing approach:

  • Humans can be compared to a computer in terms of the mind and being software and brain hardware. Like computers, encode information from the environment, store and transform information using mental processes and output behavioural response.
  • Can be used to explain everyday behaviours e.g badminton - percieve shuttlecock coming towards right hand side (encoding), decides forehand shot (decision making), hits over net (output)

Computational Model = Still uses computer analogy to explain mental processes. But seeks to explain how our cognitve system operates in terms of plans and actions, involved when we perform tasks

Connectionist Model = Uses neural analogy. Made up of huge array of neurons and nodes and connections between nodes form an activating pattern which represents learnt association

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Coginitive Approach 2


  • Focuses on internal mental processes, unlike behaviourism
  • Unique scientific/experimental methods, unlike humanistic
  • Information processing approach model, effectively used to explain mental processes


  • Models criticised as over-simplistic, ignoring the complexities of the mind
  • Humans viewed as machines with crude comparison of mind and computer
  • Many theories based performance in lab tasks, unprepresentative of everyday life/behaviours

Impact - Models explain internatal mental processes

App - Eye witness testimonies - help police imderstand different ways individuals recall info. Development of cognitive interview technique allow witnesses to provide a more reliable account

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