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  • Created on: 05-12-16 09:29

The Psychodynamic Approach

  • Sigmund Freud suggested that the part of our mind that we know about and are aware of is merely the tip of the iceberg and most of our mind is made up of the unconcious.
  • Freud described personality as tripartite, composed of three parts

The ID is the primitive part of our personality. It operates on the pleasure principle - the ID gets what it wants. It is a mass of unconcious drives and instincts and throughout life, the ID is entirely selfish and demands instant gratification of its needs.

The ego works on the reality principle and is the mediator between the other two parts of the personality. It's role is to reduce the conflict between the demands of the ID and the superego and it manages this by employing a number of defence mechanisms.

The superego is our internalised sense of right and wrong and is based on the morality principle. It represents moral standards of the child's same-sex parents and punishes the ego for wrongdoing through guilt.

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Biological - Evaluation

  • Scientific methods of investigation - In order to investigate the genetic and biological basis of behaviour, the biological approach makes use of a range of precise and highly scientific methods. This means that the biological approach is based on reliable data.
  • Real-life applications - Increased understanding of biochemical processes in the brain has led to the development of psychoactive drugs that treat serious mental illnesses such as depression. This is a strength of the biological approach because it means that sufferers are able to manage their condition and live a relatively normal life.
  • Casual conclusions - The biological approach offers explanations for mental illness in terms of the action of neurotransmitters in the brain. The evidence for this relationship comes from studies that show a particular drug reduces symptoms of a mental disorder. This is a limitation because the biological approach is claiming to have discovered causes where only an association exists.
  • Determinist view of behaviour - The biological approach is determinist in the sense that it sees human behaviour as governed by internal, biological causes over which we have no control. This has implications for the legal system and wider society.
  • Cannot separate nature and nurture - Identical twins, non-identical twins and members of the same family all have similar genes, therefore, the biological approach argues that any similarities in the way they look or behave is genetic.
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The Psychosexual Stages

ORAL 0-1 YEARS - Focus of pleasure is the mouth, mothers breast is the object of desire. Unresolved conflict results in: smoking, biting nails, sarcastic, critical.

ANAL 1-3 YEARS - Focus of pleasure is the anus, child agins pleasure from withholding and expelling faeces. Unresolved conflict results in: anal retentive - perfectionist, obsessive. or anal expulsive - thoughtless, messy.

PHALLIC 3-5 YEARS - Focus of pleasure is the genital area, child experiences Oedipus or Electra complex. Unresolved conflict results in: phallic personality - narcissistic, reckless, possibly homosexual.

LATENCY - Earlier conflicts are repressed.

GENITAL - Sexual desires become concious alongside the onset of puberty. Unresolved conflict results in: difficulty forming heterosexual relationships.

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Psychodynamic - Evaluation

  • Explanatory power: Although Freud's theory is controversial in many ways, it had a huge influence on psychology and Western contemporary thought. It remained the dominant force in psychology for the first half of the 20th century and has been used to explain a wind range of phenomena.
  • The case study method: Although Freud's theories were detailed and carefully recorded, critics have suggested that it is not possible to make universal claims about a small number of individiuals who were psychologically abnormal.
  • Untestable concepts: Critics have claimed that the psychodynamic approach does not meet the scientific criterion of flasification, in the sense that it is not open to empirical testing. A lot of his theories are near impossible to test.
  • Practical application: Freud brought the world a new form of therapy known as psychoanalysis. Psychoanaylsis is the fore runner to many modern-day therapies. Although, some critics have said it is inappropriate and harmful.
  • Psychic determinism: Freud believed there was no such thing as an accident. Even a slip of the toungue has a deep meaning and is driven by unconcious forces. Freud describes all behaviours as acts of the unconcious mind.
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Defence Mechanisms

The ego has a difficult job balancing the conflicting demands of the ID and the superego but it has help in the form of defence mechanisms.

Defence mechanisms make sure the ego is able to prevent us from being overwhelmed by temporary threats or traumas. They often involve some form of distortion of reality as a long term solution.

  • Repression: forcing a destressing memory or thought out of the concious mind.
  • Denial: refusing to achknowledge some aspect of reality.
  • Displacement: transferring feelings from the true source of distressing emotion onto a substitute target.
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The Biological Approach

  • The biological approach suggests that everything psychological is at first biological, so to fully understand human behaviour we must look at biological structures and processes within the body such as genes, neurochemistry and the nervous system.This is in contrast to the cognitive approach that sees mental processes of the mind as being separate from the physical brain.

Behaviour genetics study whether behavioural characteristics such as intelligence, personality, mental disorder etc, are inherited in the same way as physical characteristics. Twin studies are used to determine the likelihood that certain traits have a genetic basis by comparing them.

A persons genotype is their actual genetic make up where as phenotype is the way genes are expressed through physical, behavioural and psychological characteristics. The expression of a gentotype is influenced by environmental factors. This illustrates that much of human behaviour depends upon an interaction between inherited factors and environment.

The evolution of animals and plants is a fact. The main principle of this theory is that any genetically determined behaviour that enhances an individuals survival will continue in future generations. The selection occurs simply because some trais gave the possesor certain advantages. The posessor is more likely to survive, reproduce and pass on these traits. If the individual survives but does not reproduce, the traits do not remain in the gene pool.

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Cognitive - Evaluation

  • Scientific and objective methods - The cognitive approach has always employed highly controll and rigorous methods of study in order to enable researchers to infer cognitive processes at work. This has involved the use of lab experiments to produce reliable and objective data.
  • Machine reductionism - Although there are similarities between the human mind and the operations of a computer, the computer analogy has been criticised by many. The cognitive approach ignores the influence of human emotion and motivation on the cognitive system and how this may affect our ability to process information.
  • Application to everyday life - Cognitive psychology occasionally suffers from being too abstract and theoretical in nature. Experimental studies of mental processes are often carried out using artificial stimuli which may not represent everyday memory experience.
  • Real life application - The cognitive approach is probably the dominant approach in psychology today and has been applied to a wide range of practical and theoretical contexts. Cognitive psychology has made an important contribution in the field of AI.
  • Less determinist than other approaches - The cognitive approach is founded on soft determinism and 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.
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Social Learning Theory

  • Social learning theory proposed a different way in which people learn: through observation and imitation of others within a social context. It suggested that learning occurs directly, through classical and operant conditioning but also indirectly.

Vicarious Reinforcement - For indirect learning to take place, individuals must observe the behaviour of others. The learner may imitate this behaviour but imitation only occurs if the behaviour is seen to be rewarded, rather than punished. The learner observes the behaviour but most importantly, observes the consequences of the behaviour.

Mediational Process - SLT is often described as the 'bridge' between traditional learning theory and the cognitive approach because it focuses on mental factors that are involved with learning. Four mental or mediation processes in learning were identified as: attention, the extent to which we notice certain behaviours; retention, how well the behaviour is remembered; motor reproduction, the ability of the observer to perform the behaviour and motivation, the will to perform the behaviour, which is often determined by whether the behaviour was rewarded or punished.

Identification - People (especially children) are much more likely to imitate the behaviour of people with whom they identify, such as role models. This process is called modelling. A role model may not necessarily be physically present in the environment and has important implications for the influence of media on behaviour.

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Behaviourist - Evaluation

  • Scientific Credibility - By emphasising the importance of scientific processes such as objectivity and replication, behaviourism was influential in the development of psychology as a scientific discipline, giving it greater credibility and status.
  • Real-life Application - The principles of conditioning have been applied to a broad range of real world behaviours and problems. Operant conditioning is the basis of token economy systems that have been used successfully in institutions. It has also been used to treat phobias.
  • Mechanistic View of Behaviour - Animals are seen as passive and machine-like responders to the environment, with little to no concious insight into their behaviour. Other approaches in psycjology have emphasised the importance of mental events during learning. This means that learning theory may apply less to human than animal behaviour.
  • Environmental Determinism - The behaviourist approach sees all behaviour as determined by past experiences that have been conditioned. This ignores any possible influence free will may have on our behaviour.
  • Ethical and Practical Issues of Animal Experiments - Many critics have questioned the ethics of conducting such investigations. The animals involved were exposed to stressful and aversive conditions, which may also have affected how they reacted to the experimental situation.
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The Behaviourist Approach

  • The behaviourist approach is only interested in studying behaviour that can be observed and measured. It is not concern with mental processes of the mind.
  • Behaviourists suggested that the basic processes that govern learning are the same in all species which meant that behaviourist research on animals could be generalised to humans too. They identified two forms of learning: classical conditioning and operat conditioning.

Classical Conditioning - Learning through association and was demonstrated by Pavlov and his dogs. Pavlov revealed that dogs could be conditioned to salivate to the sound of a bell if it meant they got food. Pavlov was able to show how a neutral stimulus (the bell) can elicit a new learned responce (conditioned responce) through association.

Operant Conditioning - BF Skinner suggested that learning is an active process where humans and animals operate on their environment. There are three types of consequences for behaviour: positive reinforcement is receiving reward when a certain behaviour is performed. Negative reinforcement occurs when somebody avoids something unpleasant e.g a student handing work in to not be told off and punishment is an unpleasant consequence of behaviour.

P and N reinforcement increases the likelihood of that behaviour, punishment decreases it.

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SLT - Evaluation

  • The importance of cognitive factors in learning - Neither classical nor operant conditioning can offer an adequate account of learning on their own. Humans and many animals store information about the behaviour of others and use this to make judgements. SLT provides a more comprehensive explanation of human learning.
  • Over-reliance on evidence from lab studies - Many of Bandura's ideas were developed through observation of young childrens behaviour in lab settings. Lab studies are often criticised for their contrived nature where participants may respond to deman characteristics. The research may tell us little about how children actually learn in everyday life.
  • Underestimates the influence of biological factors - Bandura makes little reference to the impact of biological factors on social learning. This means that important influences such as hormones are not accounted for in SLT.
  • Explains cultural differences in behaviour - SLT has the advantage of being able to explain cultural differences in behaviour. This has proved useful in understanding a range of behaviours, such as how children come to understand their gender role.
  • Less determinist than the behaviourist approach - Bandura emphasised reciprocal determinism in the sense that we are not merely influenced by our external environment but we also exert an influence upon it.
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The Cognitive Approach

  • The cognitive approach argues that internal mental processes can and should be studied scientifically. As a result, the cognitive approach has investigated those areas of human behaviour that were neglected. Cognitive psychologists study things indirectly by making inferences about what is going on inside people's minds.

Theoretical and computer models - One important theoretical model is the information processing approach, which suggests that information flows through the cognitive system in a sequence of stages. The cognitive approach also uses computer models, where the miind is compared to a computer by suggesting that there are similarities in the way information is processed. Such computational models of the mind have proved useful in the development of thinking machines.

The role of the schema - Cognitive processing can be affected by the persons beliefs or expectations. Schema's are packages of ideas and information developed through experience. They act as a mental framework for the interpretation of information. Babies are born with simple motor schema for innate behaviours such as sucking and grasping. As we get older, our schema becomes more detailed and sophisticated and adults have developed mental representations for everything from the concept of psychology to a schema. Schema's allow us to process lots of information quickly and this is useful as a mental short-cut that prevents us from being overwhelmed by stimuli.

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Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Cognitive Neuroscience is the scientific study of the influence of brain structures on mental processes. Mapping brain areas to specific cognitive functions has a long history in psychology.
  • As early as 1860s Paul Broca had identified how damage to an area of the frontal lobe could permanently impair speech production.
  • It is only in the last 20 years with advances in brain imagining techniques such as fMRI and PET scans, that scientists have been able to systematically observe and describe the neurological basis of mental processes.
  • Tulving et Al were able to show how different types of long-term memory may be located on opposite sides of the pre-frontal cortex. The system in overall charge of working memory is thought to reside in a similar area.
  • Scanning techniques have also proved useful in establishing the neurological bases of some mental disorders. The link between the parahippocampal gyrus and OCD is discussed. It appears to play a role in the processing of unpleasant emotions.
  • The focus of cognitive neurosciene has expanded recently to include the use of computer-generated models that are designed to 'read' the brain which has led to mind mapping techniques. One possible future application of this could be to analyse the brain wave patters of eyewitnesses to determine whether they are lying in court.
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Humanistic Approach

  • The humanistic approach works to understand behaviour that emphasises the importance of subjective experience and each persons capacity for self-determinism.
  • The humanistic approach concerned itself with the explainations of healthy growth in individuals.

Free Will: The humanistic approach claim that humans are self-determining and have free will. This means that people are not affected by external or internal influences but we are active agents who have the ability to determine our own development.

Self-Actualisation: Every person has an innate desire to achieve their potential and become the best they can possibly be. Humanistic psychologists regard personal growth as an essential part of what it is to be human.

Self Congruence: It is argued that for personal growth to be achieved, our self (the way we see ourselves) must have congruence (be similar to) with our ideal self (the person we want to be). If too big of a gap occurs, the person will be in a state of incongruence and self-actualisation will not be possible due to negative feelings of self-worth.

Client Centered Therapy: Rogers developed client-centered therapy to help people cope with the problems of everyday living. Many of the issues we experience as adults, such as low self-esteem, has roots in our childhood and can be explained due to a lack of unconditional positive regard (unconditional love).  A parent who sets boundaries or limits on love for their child (conditions of worth), such as saying "I will only love you if.." is storing psychological problems for that child in the future.

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Maslow's Hierachy of Needs

Self-Actualisation: achieving one's full potential, including creative activities


Esteem Needs: prestige and feeling of accomplishment


Belongingness and Love Needs: intimate relationships and friendship


Safety Needs: security and safety needs


Pysiological Needs: food, water, warmth, rest

Maslow states a person must fully achieve one level before you can move up to the next level. Self-Actualisaion is only achieved if the person has self-congruence also.

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Humanistic - Evaluation

  • Not reductionist: Humanists 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.
  • Limited application: Humanistic psychology has very little real life application. It has limited impact within the discipline of psychology as a whole.
  • Positive approach: Humanists bring the person back into psychology and promote a positive image of the human condition. It offers a refreshing and optimistic alternative and sees all people as good.
  • Untestable concepts: The approach includes a lot of vague ideas that are abstract and diffcult to test. Things such as congruence and self-actualisation may be very difficult to test in an experimental environment.
  • Cultural bias: Many of the ideas that are central to humanistic psychology only relate to individualistic cultures, and do not relate to collectivist cultures - who emphasise the need of a group and not the individuals.
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thank you so much
very helpful in analysis!

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