approaches - psychology


The Biological Approach

  • The biological approach suggest that everything psychological is at first biological, so to fully understand human behaviour, biological psychologists look at biological structures and processes within the body such as genes, neurochemistry and the nervous system.
  • Behaviour has a genetic and neurochemical basis - behaviours are inherited in the same way as physical chareteristics such as height or eye colour. Neurochemistry also explains behaviour, e.g low levels of seratonin in OCD.
  • The mind and the body are one and the same - from a biological perspective, the mind lives in the brain, meaning that all thoughts feelings and behaviour have a physical basis. Further contrasting to Cognitive approach which sees the mind as separate from the brain.
  • Twin studies are used to investigate the genetic basis of behaviour. Concordance rates between twins are calculated - the extent to which twins share the same characteristics. Higher concordance rates amongst identical (Monozygotic MZ) twins than non identical (Dizygotic DZ) twins is evidence of genetic basis. E.g 68% of MZ twins both have OCD compared with 31% of DZ twins (Nesdat et al 2010)
  • The differnec between genotype and phenotype. Genotype a persons actual genetic make-up. Phenotype is the way genes are expressed through physical, behavioural and psychological characterists.
  • Theory of evolution - Charles darwin (1859) theory of natural selection. 
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The Biological Approach Evaluation

Scientific methods of investigation (P)                                                                                         Biological approach makes use of a range of precise and highly scientifc methods to investigate the genetic and biological basis of behaviour (E). Such as scanning thechinques (e.g FMRIs) and drug trials - possible to accuratley measure biological/neural processes in ways that are not bias (E). meaning that the biological approach is based on reliable data (L)

Biological approach has real-life application (P)                                                                          Increased understanding of biochemical processes in brain has lead to development of psychoactive drugs for mental disorders e.g depression (E). Although these are not effective on all patients, have revolutionised treatment for many (E). Strength because it means that sufferes able to live a relatively normal life rather than in hospital (L).

Approach is based on a determinist view of behaviour (P)                                                  Determinist in that it sees behaviour as governed by internal biological causes which we have no control on (E). Is disagreed with in legal system - individual responsible for all actions, 'criminal gene' would complete this theory (E). Such research may have negative implications for society (L).

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The Learning Approach - Behavioursim

  • Focus on observable/measurable behaviour only - not concerend with the mental processes of the mind. Introspection rejected by behaviourists as it's concepts were vague and difficult to measure.
  • Controlled lab studies - behaviourists tried to maintain more control and objectivity within their research 
  • Use of animals - behaviourists suggest processes for learning are the same in all species, so animals e.g rats can replace humans in experimental subjects.
  • Classical conditioning learingin through association (PAVLOV) conditioning dogs to salivate when bell rings UCS is food, UCR is salivation, NS is the bell after conditoning CS is the bell, CR is salivation.Pavlov showed a natural stimulus can come to elicit a new learned response
  • Operant conditioning learning is an active process we operate on our environment SKINNER. Rats and pigeons in a box, when rat activated leaver rewarded with a food pellet. Desirable consquence led to behaviour being repeated. If pressing leaver meant avoiding electric shock, behaviour also repeated.
  • 3 consequences of behaviour. Positive reinforcement - reward when behaviour is performed. Negative reinforcement - behaviour that avoids something unpleasant. Punishment 
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Learning Approach - Behaviourism Evaluation

Gave Psychology scientific credibilty (P)                                                                                    Approach focused on measurement of observable behaviour with controlled lab settings (E). Behavioursts emphasised importance of scientific processes i.e objectivity or replication (E). Brought the language and methods of natural science into psych, giving subject greater credibility and status (L).

Laws of learning developed by behavioursists have real-life application (P)                             Principles of conditioning have been applied to a broad range of real-world behaviourists and problems (E). Token economy systems reward appropriate behaviour with tokens that can be exchanged for privaleges (operant conditioning) successfully used in prisons (E). Treatments like these are suitable for patients who lack 'insight' into thier conditoon and not capable of talking abou thier problems (L).

Behaviourism is a form of environmental determinism (P)                                                       Approach sees all behaviour as determined by past experiences that hve been conditioned - ignores influence of free will on behaviour (E). Skinner suggests free will is an illusion, when somehting happens we impose a sense of having made the decision but our past conditioning the outcome (E). Extreme position, ignores influence of consious decision making processes on behaviour - as suggested in cognitive approach - (L).

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Learning Approach - Social Learning Theory (SLT)

  • Learning that occurs indirectly - Albert Bandura agreed with behaviourist approach that learning occurs through experience. He also proposed learning happens in a social context through observation/imitation of others' behaviour.
  • Learning related to consequences of behaviour (vicarious reinforcement) - we observe other people's behaviour and take not of it's consequences. Behaviour that is rewarded (reinforced) is more likely to be copied than behaviour that is punished.
  • Mediational (cognitive) process play a crucial role in learning - four processes in learning. 1. Attention 2. Retention 3. Motor reproduction 4. Motiviation. First two relate to learning of behaviour, last two performance of behaviour .
  • Identification of aggression (BANDURA) two research points 1. children watched either: a. adult behaving aggressively to bobo doll b. not aggressivley to doll --> when given own doll, children who had seen aggression were more aggresive to doll. 2. children saw adult who was: a. rewarded b. punished c. no consequence  --> when given doll, children who saw aggression being rewarded were more aggressive themselvs.
  • Children model aggressive behaviour - bobo doll studies suggest that children are likely to imitate acts of violence if they observe these in an adult role model
  • It's also the case that modelling aggressive behaviour is more likeley if such behaviour is seen to be rewarded (vicarious inforcement)
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Learning Approach - Social Learning Theory (SLT) E

SLT emphasises the importance of cognitive factors in learning (P)                                                Neither classical or operant conditioning can offer a comprehensive account of human learning on thier own becasue cognitive factors are omitted (E). Humans/animals store info about the behaviour of others and use this to make judgements for when it's appropriate to do certain actions (E). SLT gives a more complete explaination of human learning than the behaviourist approach by recognising the role of mediational process (L)

SLT is less determinist than the behaviourist approach (P                                                          Bandura emphasised reciprocal determinsim - we are influenced by environment, but we also exert an influence on it through behaviours we chose to perform (E). This element of choice suggests there is some free will in the way we behave (E). More realistic/flexible position than is suggested by behaviourist approach as it recognises the role we play in shaping our own environment (L)

SLT relies too heavily on evidence from controlled lab studies (P)                                                Bandura's ideas developed with observation of kids' behaviour in lab settings - raises problem of demand characteristics (E). Main point of doll is to hit it, so kids in those studies may have been bahving as thought expected (E). Research may tell us little on how children actually learn agression in everyday life (L).

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The Cognitive Approach

  • Scientific study of mental processes - contrst to behaviourist approach, cognitive argues thta mental processes should be studied e.g studying perception and memory
  • Role of interfernece in the study of mental processes (p's) - mental p's are private and can't be observed, so are studied indirectly by making inferences on whats going on in peoples minds on the basis of thier behaviour
  • Theoretical models to decribe/explain mental p's - the info processing approach suggests info flows through a sequence of stages including input, storage and retrieval - like in msm.
  • Computer models to describe/explain mental p's - 'computer analogy' suggest similarities w/ computer and human minds e.g central processor (the brain) changing of info into an useable code and 'stores' to hold information
  • The schema is central to the cognitive approach - schema are packages of info developed from experience, act as 'mental framework' for interpreation of incoming info, babies born w/ simple motor schema for innate behaviours e.g sucking or grasping, our schema is more sophisticated with (w/) age
  • Cognitive nueroscience - study of the influence of brain structures on mental processes (cognition) scientists can now describe neurological basis of mental p's due to advances in brain scanning. incld. research in memory that links to episodic/semantic memories to opposite side or prefrontal cortex
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The Cognitive Approach Evaluation

Application to everyday life (P)                                                                                                        Cognitive approach is dominant in psychology today, has been applied to wide range of practical/theoretical contexts (E). The approach has made an important contribution to field of artifical intelligence (AI) and development of robots (E). These advances likely to revolutionise how we live in the future (L).

Use of scientific and objective methods (P)                                                                                   Rigorous methods of study e.g lab studies, in order to infer cognitive processes at work (E). Has enabled the two fieds of biology and cognitive psychology to come together (cognitive neuroscience) (E). Meaning the study of the mind has established a credible scientific basis (L).

Approach is based on machine reductionism (P)                                                                            Although there are similaries between human mind and a computor, the 'computor analogy' has been criticised (E). E.g human emotion/motivation have been shown to influence accuracy of recall, e.g in eyewitness accounts - factors are not considered in 'computor analogy' (E). Cognitive approach oversimplifies human cognitive processing and ignores importan aspects that influence performance (L).

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The Psychodynamic approach

A perspective that describes different forces (dynamics), most of which are unconcious, that operate on the mind and direct human behaviour and experience. The unconcious is a part of the mind that we are unaware of but continues to to direct most of our behaviour. 

The structure of personality 

Id - entirely unconcious, the id is made up of selfish aggressive instincts that demand immediate gratification 

Ego - the 'reality check' that balances conflicting demands of the Id and Superegp

Superego - the moralistic part of our personality which represents out ideal self / how we are meant to be 

Defence mechanisms 

Unconcious stratageis that the Ego uses to manage the conflict between the Id and the Superego - there are three: repression, denial and displacement 

Psychosexual stages - five stages each child passes through determining future develpoment 

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The Psychodynamic Approach Evaluation

The psychodynamic approach has explanitory power (P)                                                              Although Freud's theory is controversial it has had influence on western ideas (E). It has been used to explain a wide range of behaviours (moral, mental disorders) and drew attention to the influence of childhood on adult personalitly (E). Alongside behaviourism, it was the dominant approach in psychology for first half of twentieth century (L).

The case study method Freud used has been criticised (P)                                                             Freud's ideas developed using small number of case studies e.g little hans, dora and rat man. Critics suggest it is not possible to make universal claims about human nature based on limited sample (E). Frued's obs were detailed and carefully recorded, interpretations are highly subjective and unlikely other researcher would've drawn same conclusion (E). In comparrison with other approaches, Frued's methods lacked scientific rigour (L).

Practical application in the real world (P)                                                                                          Introduced new form of therapy, psychoanalysis - designed to access unconcious mind using range of techniques like dream analysis (E). Suitable for people suffering from mild neuroses but has also been criticised as inappropriate for people with severe mental disorders like schizophrenia (E). Psychoanalysis forerunner for modern day therapy e.g 'talking therpay' (L)

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The Humanistic Approach

Concept of free will is central - rejects attempts to establish scientific principles of behavour. We are all unique, and psychology should concern itself with the study of subjective experience rather than general laws (a person centred approach).  

Maslow's hierarchy of needs has self actualisation at the top - self actualisation refers to the inate tendancy that each of us has to want to achieve our full potential and become the best we can possibly be. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs the four lower levels (deficiency needs) must be met before we reach self actualisation.

Aim of therapy is to establish congruence between self concept and the ideal self - Carl Rodgers argues that personal growth requires and individual's concept of self to be congruent with their ideal self (the person they want to be). If the gap is too big person will experience state of incongruence and self actualisation isnt possible 

Parents who impose conditions of worth may prevent perosnal growth - issues as worthlessness and low self esteem have thier roots in childhood and are due to lack of uncondiitonal positive regard from out parents. A parent who sets boundaries on thier love "i will only love you if..."

Humanistic approach had lasting influence on counselling

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The Humanistic Approach Evaluation

Humanistic psychology is anti-reductionist (P)                                                                                Humanistic psychologists reject any attempt to break up behaviour and experience into smaller components (E). They advocte holism - idea that subjective experience can only be understood by cosidering the whole person (thier relationships, past, present and future etc.) (E). This approach may have more validity than its alternatives by considering meaningful human behaviour within its real life context (L).

Approach has limited application in the real world (P)                                                                       Carl Rodger's theory and therapy has revolutionised counselling techniques and Maslow's hierarchy of needs has been used to explain motivation in thw workplace (E). However, compared to other approaches, humanistic psychology has limited impact within psychology as a whole - perhaps becasue it lacks a sound evidence base (E). As a result, the apprach has been described not as a comprehensive theory but as a loose set of abstract concepts (L).

Western cultural bias (P)                                                                                                                  Many of its central ideas e.g individual freedom etc. would be more associated with individualist cultures in the western world like UK (E). Collectivist cultures e.g India emphasise need of of group and interdependance may not identify with its values (E). Product of cultural context (L)

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