Approaches and Issues

A set of cards to help with Unit 3 OCR Psychology

  • Created by: Anna
  • Created on: 11-04-11 12:46


Social Approach

This investigates how the social context, including the presence and behaviour of other people :“With few exceptions, social psychologists regard their discipline as an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behaviour in influenced by the actual, implied or imagined presence of others”.

Examples of “Social Approach” studies:

AS Psychology                                                               A2 Psychology

-Milgram (obedience)                                                    -Farrington (Why people turn to crime)

-Piliavin (subway Samaritans)                                         -Sutherland (differential association)

-Reicher and Haslam (BBC Prison Study)                      

1 of 46

Social Approach S+W


Extremely Useful: Research often originates from real world events eg: the Nazi Holocaust and therefore have valuable “real world” applications.It can attract the interest of people outside academic psychology, therefore advancing the subject and bringing wider attention to the work that psychologists do.


Because these studies are often inspired by real world events they can quickly become dated, this also can make them very ethnocentric.

2 of 46


Developmental Approach

This approach looks at the changes individuals go through during their lives. Children are generally the focus of these studies as more psychological change takes place during the early years. Rather than looking at psychological change as a whole, psychologists look at change in particular areas such as emotions, cognition and social behaviour. 

Examples of “Developmental Approach” studies:

AS Psychology                                                               A2 Psychology           

-Freud (little Hans)                                                          -Bowlby (44 juvenile thieves)

-Bandura (imitating aggression)                                     -Kohlberg (moral development)

-Samuel and Bryant (conservation)                                 -Farrington (why people turn to crime)

3 of 46

Developmental Approach S+W


This approach is extremely useful as it gives an understanding into childrens development which in turn, can be used to help education authorities in planning lessons and the curriculum. 

By studying a childs development and finding what is “normal” it is easier to identify abnormal behaviour allowing for professional development.


Because these studies work mostly with children, special care must be taken when addressing ethical issues.

The range of research methods available to psychologists are very limited as young children lack abilties to answer questions or write in a sophisticated manner.

4 of 46


Individual Differences Approach

In most approaches, the focus is on how we typically behave however this approach focuses more on how we differ from each other with research often on people who do not typically “fit the mould”. The approach looks at how people differ in aspects of personality such as creativity, intelligence etc. it also looks at mental health issues which can generate controversy.

Examples of “Individual Difference Approach” studies:

AS Psychology                                                         A2 Psychology                  

-Rosenhan (Sane in insane places)                       -Yochelson and Samenow          

-Thigpen and Cleckley                                            -Brunner (genes and serotonin)

-Griffiths (gambling)

5 of 46

Individual Approach S+W


This approach studies many mental disorders in depth which provides a lot of helpful information on understanding mental disorders and treatments

Helps psychologists avoid generalising too much.


The success of this approach rests solely on the accuracy of the tools it uses, many are valid and reliable but psychometric tests can be questioned.

This approach focuses a lot on case studies which are time consuming and expensive, they are also very difficult to generalise from.

6 of 46


Cognitive Approach

This approach focuses on the idea that if we want to understand how a stimulus (what we see, or what another person says) leads to a response (what we say or how we behave) then we must study the mental processes such as memory, language, perception etc. It makes a comparison between the brain and computers eg: they both have information inputted, processed and output.

Examples of “Cognitive Approach” studies:

AS Psychology                                                                             A2 Psychology                 

-Loftus and Palmer (eyewitness testimony)                                  -Yochelson and Samenow 

 -Baron-Cohen (autism)                                                                  -Kohlberg (moral development)                 

-Savage-Rumbaugh (language acquistion)                                   -Jahoda (self fulfilling prophecy)

7 of 46

Cognitive Approach S+W


As the studies are highly controlled and scientific, the research can be easily replicated to see if results are reliable, this helps the psychologists have confidence in their findings.

The studies are very useful research into eyewitness testimonies for example, would be useful in court settings.


The computer analogy which is at the heart of this approach could be seen as reductionist as it misses out emotional and social factors.

The methods used can lack validity as it is not possible for scientists to directly observe thinking and therefore have to guess. 

8 of 46


The Physiological Approach

This approach focuses on the relationship between our biological make up and our behaviour and experiences, claiming that our behaviour and experiences can be explained in terms of brain structure and chemicals.

Examples of “Physiological Approach” studies:

AS Psychology                                                  A2 Psychology                                 

-Sperry (split brains)                                         -Raine 

-Dement and Kleitman (REM)                           -Brunner (genes and serotonin)

-Maguire (taxi drivers)                                       -Conner and Levine 

9 of 46

Physiological Approach S+W


There is a great deal of evidence suggesting that human action is strongly influenced by biological factors, therefore supporting the approach.

The approach is highly scientific typically using highly technical equipment in a tightly controlled environment.


This is a reductionist approach as it ignores environmental factors that could affect a persons behaviour.

They tend to be laboratory experiments meaning the research can often lack ecological validity.

10 of 46


The Experimental Method (Laboratory and Field)

Experiments are highly controlled pieces of research that investigate the impact of an independent variable (IV) on the dependant variable (DV). Attempts are made to eliminate all possible extraneous variables, there will typically be a experimental condition and a control condition the only difference being the one thing the experimenter wants different (IV). 

Examples of studies that use the experimental method:

AS Psychology                                                                       A2 Psychology

-Piliavin (underground Samaritans)                                          -Raine (brain dysfunction)

-Loftus and Palmer (eyewitness testimony)                            -Frowd et al 

-Baron-Cohen (autism)                                                             -Vrij and Mann

-Griffiths (gambling)                                                                  -Pennington and Hastie

11 of 46

Experimental Method S+W


Highly controlled experiments allow experimenters to isolate the IV and investigate the effect on the DV helping them assess cause and effect.

They are generally easily replicated and therefore reliable.


The experimental method often lacking in ecological validity.

The knowledge that they are in a experiment may cause a person to act differently (demand characteristics) that could compromise the results.

12 of 46


The Case Study Method

This is where we study an individual or a small group or individuals in depth

Examples of studies that use the case study method:

AS Psychology                                                            A2 Psychology

-Thigpen and Cleckley (Eve)                                         -Brunner et al  (MAOA         

-Freud (Little Hans)

-Savage-Rumbaugh (Language Acquisition)

13 of 46

Case Study Method S+W


The case study method generates a lot of rich qualitative data which is useful if the subject has something unique about them that the researcher wants to learn more about.

Its easier to keep track of a small amount of people


We cannot generalise the results from one person to a whole population.

Case studies are extremely time consuming and therefore require a lot of dedication and time from both the researcher and participant.

14 of 46


Self Report

This is a form of data that involves obtaining data by either asking participants questions or finding out the degree to which they agree/disagree to a set of pre prepared statements.Interviews-these involve direct verbal questioning of the subject. Structures of these vary and Questionnaires-these are written methods of gaining data from subjects that do not necessarily require the presence of a researcher.

Examples of studies that use self reports:

AS Psychology                                                                       A2 Psychology                                           

 -Loftus and Palmer (eyewitness testimony)                             -Farrington (poverty)

-Freud (little Hans)                                                                     -Kohlberg  

-Samuel and Bryant (conservation)                                          -Vrij and Mann (detecting lies)

-Baron Cohen (autism)                                                              -Frowd et al

15 of 46

Self Reports S+W


Very straightforward.

They are very quick and easy to administer and data from a large number of people can be taken.


The person being interviewed can easily lie or not have a particular reason for acting the way that they did.

They can be very time consuming.

16 of 46



This involves watching and recording peoples behaviour. This can take a range of forms:


-Participant/Non Participant


Examples of studies that use observations:

AS Psychology                                                                          A2 Psychology                                        

 -Piliavin (underground Samaritans)                                            -Conner and Levine                               

-Bandura (bobo doll)

-Griffiths (gambling)

17 of 46

Observations S+W


Covert naturalistic observations make it possible for researchers to observe people without any risk of demand characteristics.

Naturalistic observations can be highly ecological valid.


Overt observations will lead to unnaturalistic behaviour.

Controlled observations generally lack ecological validity.

18 of 46


Methodological Issues such as Reliability and Validity

Validity: This is a method of measurement that refers to whether it measures what its supposed to.

How to ensure that studies are valid:

The experimenter must ask themselves whether or not the proposed test looks like it will be measuring what its meant to. This relates to Face (or Content)Validity. If it does then they must design a highly controlled experiment to ensure there are no extraneous variables.

After the experiment the researcher can check validity by comparing results with previous results concurrent validity,

19 of 46


Reliability: This refers to how consistently it measures.

How to ensure that studies are reliable:

There are two aspects of reliability that a researcher has to attend to:

-Internal Reliability: this refers to how consistently a method measures within itself eg: you wouldn’t want a ruler that had varied sizes of cm. A good way to check for this is to correlate the results of half the items with the other. If a high positive correlation coefficient is attained the test can be deemed internally reliable (split half method).

-External Reliability: refers to how consistently a method measures over time when repeated eg: would you still get the same results if the test was done again? A simple way of testing this is to correlate the results with the results taken from the test done at a later date.  A high positive correlation coefficient suggests good external reliability.How to ensure that studies are reliable:

20 of 46



The ethical guidelines published by the BPS, clarify how participants should be treated during psychological research.

For humans: this relates to consent, deception, withdrawal, protection from harm, confidentiality, debriefing and where observations can take place.

 For animals: this relates to avoiding or minimising stress and suffering, considering alternatives to animal research, and using the smallest possible number of animals.

Studies that breach ethical guidelines:

-Bandura                                                                 -Piliavin

Studies that stay within ethical guidelines:

-Reicher and Haslam                                              -Griffiths

21 of 46

Ethics: For and Against

Arguments for staying within ethical guidelines:

-To avoid psychologists getting a bad reputation as a subject that treats participants disrespectfully.

-It can help to ensure that psychologists will get volunteers for future experiments as they know they will be treated well.

Arguments against staying within ethical guidelines:

-It can mean that participants do not behave naturally as they know they are being observed.

-Limits are put on what research can be carried out consequently certain aspects of human behaviour can not be observed.

22 of 46


Ecological Validity

This refers to whether a measure or test is really like its counterpart in the real world, in other words is it a true representation of how someone would act in real life.

Studies that lack ecological validity:

-Loftus and Palmer: watching a video recording of a car crash is not the same as seeing one in real life.

-Kohlberg: moral dilemmas were all hypothetical

Studies that are highly ecological valid:

-Rosenhan: carried out in genuine mental hospitals

-Farrington: he was interested in what his 411 participants were doing in their everyday lives.

-Inbau: his guidance about how to carry out interrogations was based on his own experience of doing so.

23 of 46

Ecological Validity-For and Against

Arguments for making research ecologically valid:

-Research is more likely to be regarded as useful.

-If participants are unaware of research taking place then they will not be affected by demand characteristics.

Arguments against making research ecological valid:

-If done in a real life setting it will be very difficult to control any extraneous variables that there may be.

-It will also be harder to replicate as it will be difficult to recreate the exact setting of the previous experiment.

24 of 46


Longitudinal and Snapshot

A longitudinal study is one that is carried out over a period of time with data being collected from the same participants at a series of different points in time. In a snapshot study the data is collected in one go.

Examples of longitudinal studies:

-Thigpen and Cleckley- done over 14 months

-Freud- done over two years

-Farrington-began in 1961

Examples of snapshot studies:

-Samuel and Bryant


25 of 46

Longitudinal: S+W

Strengths of longitudinal studies:

-It is possible to identify precisely when a developmental change occurs.

-Rich, detailed data can be obtained.

Weaknesses of longitudinal studies:

-Can suffer from attrition of the sample.

-Researchers can get too involved with their participants and lose objectivity.

26 of 46


Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Examples of collecting qualitative data

-Milgram-descriptions of participants behaviour eg: seizures

-Reicher and Haslam-descriptions of the prisoners and guards behaviour.

-Bandura-notes of comments that children made

-Piliavin-notes of comments passengers made.

Examples of studies collecting quantitative data

-Milgram-levels of voltage participants went up to

-Reicher and Haslam-self ratings for social identification and authoritarianism

-Bandura-figures for number of aggressive acts of different types

-Piliavin-figures for number of helpers, time before they helped.

27 of 46

Qualitative Data-S+W

Strength of qualitative data

-Has a richness and a depth, quantitative data often lacks eg: it can tell us peoples motivations.

-It can also be wide-ranging describing all the behaviours that go on rather than simply those that are being looked out for or measured.

Weaknesses of qualitative data

-It is extremely difficult to collect together into tables, graphs etc.

-It is not open to being analysed statistically and cannot tell us whether something has had a significant effect and therefore which hypothesis should be retained.

28 of 46


Determinism and Freewill

This relates to whether behaviour is a product of our own choice (freewill) or whether it is caused (or determined) by factors out of our control. These factors could be genetic (biological determinism) or physical or social circumstances (environmental determinism)

Examples of studies supporting a determinist explanation of human behaviour:

-Freud-unconscious processes as the cause of human behaviour.

-Raine-brain dysfunction to blame for murder?

-Jahoda-other peoples attitude as cause for juvenile delinquency.

Examples of studies supporting a freewill explanation of human behaviour.

-Reicher and Haslam-not all guards or prisoners behaved the same way.

-Milgram-not all participants went up to the full voltage.

29 of 46

Determinism: For and Against

Arguments for a deterministic explanation of human behaviour:

-At least some of our behaviour is determined by our genes, upbringing.

-Knowing what factors cause a particular behaviour is very useful: practical applications might centre on genetic modification. 

Arguments against a deterministic explanation of human behaviour:

-It seems possible to freely will some of our behaviour.

-The concepts of moral and legal blame both rest on the idea that we are responsible for our own behaviour and that we have the ability to behave differently to the way we do. But a deterministic approach would argue that blame and punishment are inappropriate as it is not a persons choice.

30 of 46


Reductionism and Holism

This is the debate as to the best way of understanding human behaviour: do we focus on individual aspects of human behaviour one at a time and try to understand the role it plays? Or do we look at everything at once to see if a large number of factors plays a part in even a single behaviour.

Examples of studies that are reductionist

-Dement and Kleitman

-Loftus and Palmer

Examples of studies that are holistic



-Yale Model of Persuasion

31 of 46

Reductionism: For and Against

Argument for Reductionism

-By focusing on one thing at a time we can see whether that aspect has influence on what is being investigated.

-By looking at one a time we can build up a explanation of psychological phenomena

Arguments against Reductionism

-It is possible to miss out other factors that could impact on behaviour being investigated.

-The reductionist approach is often linked with the experimental method which often raises the issue of ecological validity therefore questioning the relevance of findings. 

32 of 46



Examples of studies which explain human behaviour in terms of “nature”

-Brunner-violent behaviour seen as a result of lack of the enzyme MAOA

-Conner and Levine-as rats castrated immediately after birth got into significantly less fights than uncastrated rats. Suggesting testosterone affects behaviour.

-Raine-this suggests acts of manslaughter/murder could be related to abnormally low levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex.

Examples of studies which explain human behaviour in terms of “nurture”

-Bandura-he would explain violence as the result of social learning.

-Bowlby-with 17 of his 44 juvenile thieves having suffered a prolonged or permanent separation from their primary caregiver during the first five years of their lives. Bowlby saw this as the cause for their behaviour.

33 of 46

Nature: For and Against

Arguments for a “nature” explanation of human behaviour:

-There is evidence that our behaviour is the result of genetic inheritance.

-If it could be shown that some of our behaviour was the result of genetic inheritance then it would be possible (through genetic modification) to create “perfect” human beings.

Arguments against a “nature” explanation of human behaviour:

-Not all behaviour is the result of genetic inheritance

-By focusing on improving people’s genetic inheritance we are in danger of overlooking the importance of environmental factors on a persons behaviour.

34 of 46


This literally means to be focused on particular ethnic group, normally it is seen as a criticism as it means that the researcher is failing to recognise that what is true for one ethnic group may not be true for everyone.

Examples of studies that are ethnocentric:

-Canter-this theory about marauders and commuters applies to people who typically have one fixed base, but would such patterns of movement apply to nomadic people in the same way?

-Piliavin-this study only tells us about the level of helpfulness of Americans (NYC)

Examples of studies which are not ethnocentric:

-Jahoda-its not just the Ashanti people in the Gold Coast who explain behaviour by reference to the day which a person is born.

-Kohlberg-to ensure he wasn’t studying the moral development of American boys he studied children from Taiwan, Mexico, Turkey and Yucutan too.

35 of 46

Ethnocentrism: For and Against

Arguments for ethnocentrism

-By focusing on one culture at a time we can gain a in-depth understanding of people within that culture.

-Research that is focusing on one ethnic group can give us data that can be used for purposes of comparison.

Arguments against ethnocentrism

-Conducting research on people from only one culture makes it hard to generalise the findings.

-There can never be a control group of people who are completely unaffected by the culture they are in.

36 of 46


Psychology as a Science

A scientific approach is said to be made up of three things:

-Objectivity: science subjects should be free of subjective (personal) views and should attempt to report things as they are, not as people think they should be.

-Falsifiability: theories should be capable of being disproved as without this anybody could say anything.

-Replicability: only the findings from methods that can be replicated should be accepted as it wouldn’t be wise to accept findings if noone knows how the results were obtained. 

Studies which are scientific:

-Loftus and Palmer                                             -Piliavin-very tightly controlled field experiment.

-Pickel-very controlled experiment

Studies which are not scientific:


37 of 46

Psychology as a Science: For and Against

Argument for psychology being scientific:

-If psychological evidence has to meet scientific standards then its results are more likely to be respected.

-It will make the results more reliable.

Argument against psychology being scientific:

-If psychological evidence has to be falsifiable then many theories eg: subconscious, would have to be abandoned.

-Placing value on replicable studies mean they generally have to be reductionist, highly controlled experiments which will lack ecological validity.

38 of 46


Individual and Situational Explanations

This debate relates to how behaviour can be explained and whether it is the result of factors to do with the individual (eg: personality) or to do with the situation they are currently in (eg. Issues at home affecting attitude or ability at school).

Examples of studies which are explain human behaviour in terms of “personality”

-Milgram- with a third of his ppts not going all the way to 450volts the situation clearly didn’t determine everybody’s behaviour.

-Thigpen and Cleckley-the varying behaviours that they witnessed on the part of their patient were explained as the result of different personalities residing in the body.

Examples of studies which explain human behaviour in terms of “situation”

-Inbau-he would argue that a interrogation done in a particular way will lead to a confession.

-Rosenhan-his study suggested that regardless of behaviour if done in a mental hospital setting, it will lead to diagnosis and admission.

39 of 46

Situational: For and Against

Arguments for a situational explanation of human behaviour 

-There is evidence arguing situations can and do influence human behaviour.

-Knowing behaviour is affected by situation is helpful as we can create situations that will lead to more desired behaviours.

Arguments against a situational explanation of human behaviour

-Situations rarely produce the same behaviour on the part of all people within the situation.

-It can be used as an excuse for people.

40 of 46


The Usefulness of Psychological Research

Would it have practical applications in real world contexts?

Studies which are useful

-Canter’s geographical profiling theory                            -Cognitive Interviewing

-Bandura                                                                           -Loftus and Palmer

Studies which are not useful

-Inbau                                                                                -Conner and Levine

-Pennington and Hastie                                                     -Piliavin

41 of 46

Usefulness: For and Against

Arguments for psychological research being useful

-It can improve the quality of peoples lives.

-It has a clear social benefit and therefore more likely to attract funding.

Arguments against psychological research being useful

-Could be used by the wrong people for bad purposes eg: Yale model of persuasion being used to help get a murderer acquitted.

-If the research always needs to have a practical application then many other purposes and important research may be ignored and in the long run, while it may not now serve a purpose, it could do in the future.

42 of 46


The Psychodynamic Perspective

This approach is based on the ideas of Sigmund Freud. It suggests that:

-Our behaviour and feelings as adults are all results of childhood experiences.

-Relationships are of primary importance in determining how we feel and behave.

-Our behaviour and feelings are powerfully affected by the meaning of events to the unconscious mind and by unconscious motives.

-We can gain clues as to what is going on in a persons subconscious through their dreams, slips of the tongues and what they say in free association.

Examples of psychodynamic studies

-Freud (Little Hans)

-Thigpen and Cleckley

-Yochelson and Samenow


43 of 46

Psychodynamic: S+W

Strengths of the psychoynamic perspective

-It recognises the importance of the unconscious mind in making sense of why people behave the way they do.

-It recognises the importance of early experience and relationships in explaining later adult behaviour.

Weaknesses of the psychodynamic perspective

-Theories are based on case studies: as most of these are a particular kind of person it is difficult to generalise.

-Most theories are unfalsifiable and vague therefore it is difficult to measure validity.

44 of 46


The Behaviourist Perspective

-Psychology should be seen as scientific and studied in a scientific manner.

-The only subject matter should be “behaviours” which can be observed and measured, rather than internal events like thinking and emotion.

-They proposed two processes of learning: classical and operant conditioning.

-Studying closely the effect of stimulus’ and the responses  given.

Examples of Behaviourist Perspective studies:

-Bandura (imitating aggression)

-Griffiths (gambling)

-Savage-Rumbaugh (kanzi)

-Jahoda (self fulfilling prophecy)

45 of 46

Behaviourist: S+W

Strengths of the behaviourist perspective:

-It introduced the scientific method to the study of human behaviour falicitating the discovery of reliable effects.

-Its theories has many practical applications from education to advertising and even prison management and therefore is useful.

Weaknesses of the behaviourist perspective:

-In trying to reduce all behaviour to stimulus-response communications it fails to appreciate the complex nature of the human mind and therefore is reductionist.

-How humans learn may be different to how animals learn and therefore it is difficult to generalise the results.

46 of 46




Please in future could you finish the cards before making them public,


Ele - moderator



this is a great set of revision cards! i really enjoyed using it; espcially to check over all my notes and fill in any gaps.

I only ran through the different issues (ethics, reductionism, determinism etc..) and the approaches (developmental, social etc...) and the perspectives (psychodynamic/behaviourism) but these notes also include the different research methods which I havent looked at (lap exp, self reports etc..)

It was really helpful; Thank you SO MUCH!!! today's the big exam! off i go to meet my destiny! (in just under 2 hours)



Hello, these are wonderful. Thank you

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Approaches resources »