Approaches in Psychology

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  • Created by: sian
  • Created on: 25-03-14 10:44

Psychodynamic Approach- A01 marks

  • Unconscious mind motivates behavour, split into three parts- conscious-what we're aware of , pre-conscious-what we could be aware of(memories), unconscious-things we are unaware of e.g inappropriate sexual desires (explained through Ice-berg analogy).
  • Freud believed we could repress things from our conscious mind - unconscious mind but our emotions would come through, to access freud used methods such as dream analysis, free association and transference.
  • Believed our personality was split into three parts- Id (selfish part, ages 0-2, our biological instincts respond imed to instincts, based on pleasure principles) Ego (reality principle- parental side, ages 2-4, inappropriate sexual desires repressed, incharge of defence mech) Super ego (moral part, ages 4-6 -oedipus complex occures)


  • Early childhood experiences, especially the relationships with our parents determine our adult personalities and behaviour
  •  Oedipus complex -little Hans case study description
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Psychodynamic Approach- A02 marks

  • Techniques of dream analysis, transference and free association used in therapy-successful in treating mental illnesses + depression. approach had huge impact of psychology - being the first approach to develop a therapy for mental health problems, still used in psychiatry. led to the development of other psychological therapies


  •  lacks falsifiability as we cannot disprove/prove what is unconscious- unscientific.


  • The psychodynamic approach is deterministic because adult behaviour is determined by childhood experiences instincts and unconscious mind. It ignores free will.


  • Freud's work was mainly done on the white middle class, mostly women which lacked variation as every class and culture is different and cannot be generalised to all.
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Psychodynamic Approach (gender) A01 marks

  • Freud believed that gender was closely related to both the relationship between the parent and the child and the resolution of the phallic stage.


  •  Freud suggested that gender identity and role are acquired during the third stage of psychosexual development.


  • Freud believed that the first three years of the child’s life they are bisexual. This is because the child’s sexuality is shown to be both masculine and feminine; the child hasn’t portrayed a strong sense of any particular gender yet.


  • Development of gender roles to be a result of the natural male state to be one of activity- boys abandom the passivity of his bisexual phase to become active and dominant. Female state s one of passivity-girls adopt passivity of bisexual stage and relinquishes her role.



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Psychodynamic Approach (gender) Case Study

A study which doesn’t support Freud’s theory -  Green (1978

  • to see if gender identity was affected in atypical households.
  • 37 children 3 and 20 years, living with parents either transsexual or homosexual.
  • Children’s choice of toys, clothing , occupational choice and roles assumed were monitored, resulting in all but one child showing typical gender identity.
  • shows - Freud’s theory of a secure gender identity requires the presence of both a mother and father is false. those without two parents with the traditional mother and father roles children can still have definite and secure gender identity

A study to support the Oedipus complex -Little Hans

  • Freud described Hans’s phobia of horses - outward expression of his unconscious castration anxiety. His fear of horses - displaced fear of his father- Han’s father wore dark glasses (like blinkers) and had a beard (like a muzzle).
  • According to Freud, Han’s fear was particularly strong- mother pregnant. This made Han’s very jealous,fear of horses falling was an unconscious desire for his father to drop down dead.
  • criticised as it’s difficult to generalise from a study of 1 subject - other boys wouldn’t necessarily show the same anxiety as Han’s.
  • Freud - accused of interpreting the case to support his own theory, never met Han’s -evidence unreliable as Han’s had witnessed a horrific horse accident ,easily have triggered his anxiety  
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Oedipus/Electra Complex

As the child enters the phallic stage, the focus of its libido moves to the genitals and the development of girls and boys diverge.

Oedipus Complex

  • Boys enter the Oedipus complex- sexual energy is directed in to the male phallus,feelings for his mother become sexually intense.
  • He desires his mother and is jealous of his father wanting to take his place- becomes anxious that his father will become aware of his feelings and castrate him.
  •  torn between his desire for his mother and his fear of his father.  To avoid castration the boy uses a defence mechanism - ‘identification with the aggressor’, with the aggressor being the father. identify themselves with their father adopting how their father acts in an attempt to copy his attitude.

Electra Complex

  • girls unconsciously have desires for their father initially desiring for a penis, (‘penis envy’) however  later understands she can’t have a penis so substitutes for wanting a baby and sees father as the love object.
  • Girl sees her mother in the way and identifies with her so she won't find out


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Biological Approach Assumptions - A01

  • Behaviour and though processes have an innate, biological basis.
  • The mind and brain are the same
  • Human genes have evolved to adapt behaviour to the environment - Darwin theory
  • Human characteristics e.g.intelligence are due to our genetic makeup
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Biological Approach - A02

  • Uses empirical methods which are expermental procedures in its investigations and has generated a large body of objective evidence


  • Has many practical implications knowing how biology is involved in psychological disorders enables researchers to find suitable treatments.


  • Approach is reductonist reduces all aspects of human behaviour to physical proccesses and the activity of our neurones- over simplistic - difficulty in explaining the most distinctive aspect of human behaviour- consciousness and self awareness


  • Ignores the influence of the environment it is extreame on the nature/nurture debate-evidence parents,peers influence behaviour.
  • deterministic as it ignores an individual’s free will as all thoughts, feelings and behaviour is due to your biological make-up
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human nervous system/Neurones

The structure and function of neurones- Humans have 2 control systems that respond to the environment- The Nervous System - CNS + PNS The Endocrine system - Glands               

The Nervous System - CNS includes brain and spine     PNS includes somatic Nervous System,  Autonomic Nervous System whch includes sympathetic branch + parasympathetic branch

Neurons- nerve cells that transmit nerve signals to and from the brain.                                          Motor Neurons- carry messages from the brain + spinal cord (CNS) to organs and Muscle - Short dendrites long axon                                                                                                                    Sensory Neurons- carry messages from receptors in the body (PNS) to the brain and spinal cord- Long dendrites short axon                                                                                              Interconnecting Neurons- only in our visual system, brain, spinal cord. transfer from sensory neuron to other interconnecting neurons or motor neurons- short dendrites, short/long axon

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human nervous system/Neurones

Components of the Neuron                                                                                                             Axon- carries nerve impulses away from cell bodies                                                                     Myelin Sheath- covers, protects (insulates) the axon, also helps to increase transmission of nerve impusles                                                                                                                                         Node of Ranvier- axonal membrane is uninsulated - capable of generating electrical activity Dendrites- branches at the end of the axon each with its own terminal button                          Terminal Button- where the nerve impulses will send signals to adjacent cell- another muscle or neuron

Synaptic Transmission                                                                                                              Synapse- the gap between the end of 1 neuron and the dendrites of the next neuron                       Allows electrical messages from one neuron to transfer to adjacent neuron known as synaptic transmission.                                                                                                                                   When neuron is at rest- negative electrical charge inside cell , positive charge outside.                Electrical impulse moves down neuron, along the axon - known as Action Potential - process reverses electrical charge i.e positive inside, negative outside                                        

Neurotransmitters - can inhibit (decrease the firing of a cell) or excite (increase the firing of a cell) Main neurotransmitters: Dopamine - affects emotional arousal, pleasure, voluntary movements Serotonin- regulates sleep, wakefullness and aggressive behaviour- involved in pain    Endorphine- affect mood and reduce feelings of pain ( natural painkiller)




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Nervous system (PNS)

The Peripheral Nervous System has two divisions:  

Autonomic nervous system -maintains homeostasis by controlling glands and vital muscles - heart, stomache - opperates involuntary                                                                                                         Somatic nervous system - controls skeletal muscles and recieves info to and from sensory receptors

Autonomic  Nervous System                                                                                                             Acts as link between viscera (heart, stomach, intestines,glands etc) and CNS

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