approaches and perspectives

all approaches and perspectives, studies they link to, strengths and weaknessess, sims and diffs, etc.

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  • Created on: 04-06-13 13:04

Cognitive Approach

Concerns the mind and mental processes - how we think (rationally and irrationally), solve problemsperceive, make sense and understand the world, how and why we remember and forget.

The main assumption of the cognitive approach is that how we think is central in explaining how we behave and how we respond in different situations.

The approach sees the human mind rather like a computer; information enters (input), is processed and stored, and is sometimes used again (output). 

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Cognitive Approach


✓ The approach has useful applications, ranging from advice about validity of eyewitness testimony and how to improve performance in situations requiring close attention (such as traffic control) to successful therapies for psychological problems such as stress (SIT Meichenbaum).

✓ The cognitive approach is not deterministic and it allows that humans have free will to make decisions about behaviour.


✘ The congitive approach tends to ignore social, motivational and emotional facotrs and assumes that humans are rational. It underemphasises the role of human emotion.

✘ Much research by cognitive psychologists is experimental and based in laboratories, in situations that lack ecological validity.

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Cognitive Approach


  • Loftus and Palmer
    • Eye-witness testimony and leading questions
  • Baron-Cohen
    • Autism
  • Savage-Rumbaugh
    • Kanzi
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Cognitive Approach

                Studies                         Sims                                            Diffs

L&P and Savage-Rumabaugh  Both done in a lab Savage-Rumbaugh used chimps, L&P used humans

L&P and Baron-Cohen Both collected quant data L&P done in lab, B-C was a quasi exp

Savage-Rumbaugh and B-C Both have useful applications S-R was longitudinal, B-C was                                                                                                                snapshot

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Developmental Approach

This approach is concerned with how we change as we age and mature - in particular, how we change cognitively and socially. Much of the research has focused on the change withinchildhood, as this is the fastest period of change in a person's life.

Increasingly, however, over the last two decades, psychology has recognised the life-span approach and acknowledged the changes (social and cognitive) that continue to take place throughout all stages of adulthood.

One key assumption of this approach is that events that happen to us early in life have a long-term effect on the course of our development.

Another assumption is that people of the same age share much in common, in terms of cognitive abilitiesissues they face and so on.

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Developmental Approach

✓ This approach helps identify changes that are common to most people and predict age-related changes in aspects of behaviour. For example, theories of cognitive development can be applied to improve teaching and learning situations in schools.

✓ Longitudinal methods can be used to monitor the long-term effect of an experience

✘ If longitudinal research methods are used, it is difficult to control other factors that can also affect what we are measuring, reducing the validity of research conclusions.

 Whether longitudinal or cross-sectional methods are used, large samples are required, because of participant attrition and in order to be able to generalise findings to the research population. Usually need long-term funding.

✘ The developmental approach may be reductionist because it may overestimate the influence of age as a cause of behaviour change and ignore other factors such as social or situational influences on behaviour

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Developmental Approach


  • Freud
    • Little Hans
  • Samuel and Bryant
    • Conservation
  • Bandura
    • Aggression
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Developmental Approach

                Studies                        Sims                                  Diffs

Bandura and Samuel & Bryant Both lab exp Bandura raised a lot more ethical issues

Bandura and Freud Both suggest experiences with adults Bandura studied many children,                                           have a large effect on children       whereas Freud only studied one.

Samuel &Bryant and Freud Both deal with stages of development  Samuel & Bryant are very                                                                                        controlled, whereas Freud was more                                                                                                            subjective

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Social Approach

This approach is concerned with how humans interact with each other. Areas of particular interest include interpersonal attraction and relationships, prejudice and discrimination, and group dynamics (conformityobedience and minority influence).

It focuses in particular on how the individual behaves in these social situations. When we are looking for an explanation of why someone behaved the way they did, the social approach would say to look at the individiual in terms of the the social context and their interactions andperceptions of others. Rather than as an isolated individual.

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Social Approach


 This approach helps us to focus on the situation in which behaviour is being observed, rather than just looking at the characteristics of the person.

 This approach recognises that much behaviour takes place in a social context and helps us understand how people behave in groups.


 If experimental methods are used, especially in laboratory experiments, it is difficult to create an everyday social setting, so research may lack ecological validity.

 Research may be deterministic and may overestimate situational factors and underemphasise the individual differences and the role of 'free will'

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Social Approach


  • Pilliavin
    • Helping Behaviour
  •  Reicher and Haslam
    • BBC Prison Study
  • Milgram
    • Obedience
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Social Approach

               Studies                                     Sims                                              Diffs

Milgram and Reicher & Haslam Both lab exp, both volunteer samples Milgram studied individuals                                                                                                   R&H studied group processes

Milgram and Piliavin Both influenced by someebody working for Milgram was a lab exp, Piliavin                                   experimentor, both have ethical issues                 was a field exp

Piliavin and Reicher & Haslam Both looked at people in groups Piliavin used a real life                                                                and used observation        setting where pps did not know they                                                                               were being observed R&H used an artificial                                                                                     setting and pps knew they were being                                                                                                           observed

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Physiological Approach

The physiological approach studies the biological basis of human behaviour.

This may include discovering localised functions in the brain. This can be done by working withbrain-damaged patients, but more recently involves neuro-imaging techniques and often focuses on the chemical basis of human behaviour, e.g, serotonin on depression.

May also consider the genetic basis for behaviour.

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Physiological Approach

 The objective, reductionist nature of physiological explanations facilitates experimental research

 Physiological explanations are scientific because they do not need us ot infer metaphysical constructs such as 'mind' to explain behaviour.


✘ The physiological approach offers an objective, reductionist and mechanist explanation of behaviour, which is oversimplistic.

✘ It overlooks the environmental aspect of behaviour. It ignores past expierence in our environment as an influence on behaviour.

 Physiological explanations are deterministic, suggesting that all behaviour is entirely predictable.

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Physiological Approach


  • Maguire
    • Hippocampus
  • Dement and Kleitman
    • Dreamining and REM
  • Sperry
    • Split-brain patients
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Physiological Approach

           Studies                                     Sims                                        Diffs

Dement & Kleitman and Sperry Both used small samples D&K Manipulated IV (lab) Sperry used                                                                                           naturally occuring IV (quasi)

Dement & Kleitman and Maguire Bothnused highly specialised D&K collected qual data                                                                           lab equipment                  Maguire did not                                                               (D&K - EEG, Maguire - MRI scans)

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Individual Differences

This approach is concerned with the differences between people (rather than the things we might have in common), particulrly in terms of personality and abnormality.

One of the assumptions of this approach is that there are differences between people of any group, in terms of their personal qualities, the ways in which they respond to situations, theirbehaviour and so on, and that it is examining these differences that is the most revealing.

Some research within the approach has focused on trying to measure these differences, for example, through the use of psychometric tests such as IQ tests or personality tests. Some research has tried to categorise and identify the different types of abnormality.

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Individual Differences


✓ Has useful applications especially in therapy for treating dysfunctional behaviour.

✓ Case studies give a detailed picture of an individual and help to discover how a persons past may be related to their present behaviour.


✘ The approach may be reductionist because it may overestimate the role of dispositional factors and ignore social and situational influences on behaviour.

✘ If case study methods are used, the findings can only be applied to the person being studied and can not be generalised to explain the behaviour of others. (Eve, Little Albert)

✘ Retrospective studies may rely on memory, which may be biased, faulty or incomplete, and on past records which may be incomplete.

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Individual Differences


  • Rosenhan
    • Sane in insane places
  • Griffiths
    • Gambling
  • Thigpen and Cleckley
    • Multiple Personality Disorder (Eve)
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Individual Differences

               Studies                                             Sims                                   Diffs 

Rosenhan and Thigpen & Cleckley Both deal with psychiatric problems Rosenhan used Pp                                                                                                observation T&C used a case study

Rosenhan and Griffiths Both conducted in real-life environments Rosenhan deals with a                                                                                              psychiatric problem Griffiths deals with                                                                                         something that can become a                                                                                                          psychiatric problem

Griffiths and Rosenhan Both used qual data T&C was a case study Griifiths is a natural exp                                      (interviews speaking aloud)                               and observation                                         and quant data (IQ, number of wins)

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Behaviourist Perspective

Behaviourist psychology assumes that all behaviour is learned, and that experience andinteraction with the environment make us what we are because we learn stimulus-response units of behaviour in reaction to the environment.

All behaviour can be explained in terms of conditioning theory through classical and/or operant conditioning to produce stimulus and response links, which build up to produce complex behaviours.

All behaviour is determined by environmental influences, e.g, learning. We are born as a blank slate (Tabula rasa) upon which stimulus-response units are built.

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Behaviourist Perspective


✓ Classic learning theory has had a major influence on all branches of psychology.

✓ Behaviourism has given rise to many practical applications, such as treatments for dysfunctional behaviour (systematic desensitation), where desirable behaviours are rewarded. The principle is that if a dysfunctional behaviour (such as phobia) is learnt than it can be unlearnt.


✘ It is reductionist - it reduces complex behaviour down to stimulus-response links.

✘ It is deterministic - behaviour is determined by the environment and past experience. It implies that humans are passive in response to their environment.

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Behaviourist Perspective



  • Aggression
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Psychodynamic Perspective

Human behaviour is explained in terms of an interaction between innate drives and early experiencesFreud wrote that there are three parts to the human psyche.

  • The id (the primitiveinnate part of personality)
  • The ego (the conscious and intellectual part of personality that regulates the id)
  • The superego (the moral part that is from parents and society)

Freud also devised a theory of psychosexual developmentoral****phalliclatency and genital.

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Psychodynamic Perspective


✓ Freud recognised that childhood is a critical period of development.

✓ Has useful applications in the form of therapy.

✓ Case studies provide rich, in-depth detailed data and allow for changes to be tracked over time.


✘ Data is often collected retrospectively, and because it was interpreted there is a potential for investigator bias.

✘ It is deterministic because it implies that people have little free will, and it suggests that adult behaviour is determined by childhood experiences.

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Psychodynamic Perspective


  • Freud
    • Little Hans
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