Approaches and Perspectives

HideShow resource information

Psychodynamic Perspective

Definition: - Assumes all human behaviour can be explained in terms of inner conflict of the mind (i.e. the unconscious).
- The structure of the mind involves the unconscious and the conscious.
- Problem behaviours are often due to unconscious fears, desires or conflicts, usually from childhood.

Methods used: Tend to be case studies.

Example Studies:
'Little Hans' - Longitudinal case study. Freud found that Hans developed a phobia of horses; dreamt of plumber replacing his bottom and widdler with bigger ones "like daddys". Freud concluded that the phobia of horses was a displaced fear of the father as Hans was afraid of horses with black bits around their mouth (moustache) and blinkers (glasses) due to his Oedipus complex in which he had an intense sexual love for his mother and saw his father as a rival, and to resolve this fear, Hans would become like his father

1 of 15

Psychodynamic Perspective

'Adams' investigated whether homophobia was associated with homosexual arousal. Using 64 men (34 homophobic) who were exposed to sexually explicit ****** stimuli. Changes in their penile circumference was recorded. It was found that only homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to a homosexual stimuli.

Strengths: - Can explain both normal and abnormal behaviour, e.g. phobias (fear of being displaces)
- Has a huge impact on the world of councilling, psychotherapy and psychiatry. i.e. cured Little Hans and treated Eve White.
- Treats the whole person, not just the problem, i.e. is holistic.

Weaknesses: - Very difficult to test the theory of unconscious motivation.
- Whatever is not remembered is said to be 'repressed'. This can be non-falsifiable, making it unscientific. Case Studies tend to be subjective.
- Case study utilises unrepresentative samples = cannot be generalised.

2 of 15

Psychodynamic Perspective

Link to methodological issues: - Validity: bias. Reliability: not standardised. Case Study: lots of data / not generalisable.
- Ecological validity: Studies real life experiences. Longitudinal: able to see how people develop over time/ through stages.
- Qualitative data: detailed but unreliable and subjective.

Link to approaches/issues/debates: - Developmental approach: going through stages of development, i.e. Samuel and Bryant.
- Determinism: unconscious controls you. Ethnocentric bias: based on Western cultures.
- Situational: Interactions with parents. Individual: Their own unconscious mind (i.e. ID/ego/superego). Nature: Everyone born with ID/goes through stages. Nurture: Superego gained from parents.
- Unscientific. Usefulness: in therapy, councilling, etc. Holistic.

3 of 15

Individual Differences Approach

Definition: - Assumes all human beings are unique.
- Assumes that human beings will be different in terms of intelligence, personality, lifestyles, etc. These differences make it difficult to categorise behaviour.
- Some behaviour is normal and some is abnormal and often this is difficult to define.
- We can use psychological tests to measure and compare individuals characteristics.

Methods: - Case studies and Quasi experiments

Example Studies: Thigpen and Cleckley - Case study of Eve White referred for 'severe and blinding' headaches. They use a variety of different tests to examine the individual differences between Eve White/Black and Jane. 

Rosenhan - Field experiment where 8 pseudopatients were entered into 12 psychiatric hospitals complaining of hearing voices. All but 1 were diagnosed with Schizophrenia and although they stopped showing symptoms, they were still classed as abnormal due to this label. Shows poor reliability of DSM when diagnosing abnormality as everyone is different in terms of personality and intelligence, etc so their behaviours cannot be categorised reliably by existential symptoms.

Griffiths - Heuristics / cognitive biases in regular gamblers were identified compared to non-regular gamblers. (i.e. measured differences between regular and non-regular)

4 of 15

Individual Differences Approach

Strengths: - Uses research with high ecological validity (e.g. Griffiths done in real arcade);
- Useful as highlights the difficulties with diagnosing or treating 'abnormal' behaviours (e.g. Rosenhan showed staff of hospitals make Type II errors by categorizing behaviours due to existential symptoms)

Weaknesses: - Approach can result in breaking ethical issues (e.g. Rosenhan); 
- Research tends to produce descriptive data but cannot explain it (e.g. Thigpen and Cleckley)

Links to methodological: - Ethical issues (e.g. Rosenhan)
- Ecological validity (e.g. Rosenhan or Griffiths)
- Longitudinal (e.g. Thigpen and Cleckley)

Links to approaches: Cognitive - Lacks ecological validity (L+P); Uses control (B-C) 
Social - Explains importance of others and environment but individual focuses on dispositional hypothesis and is idiographic (looks at small numbers of individuals to understand behaviour)

Links to issues/debates: - Individual explanation;
- Nature debate
- Reductionist. 

5 of 15

Social Approach

Definition: - Assumes our behaviour is a result of interactions with the environment and other people. This approach looks to investigate the effect of groups on our behaviour and tries to explain that we behave as we do because of situational factors as opposed to individual factors.
- It tends to support 'determinism' rather than 'free will' because it states our behaviour is determined by interactions with the environment. Makes use of observation and field experiments to analyse peoples behaviour in certain situations, where high ecological validity allows for natural behaviour to be observed and examined.

Example Studies: Milgram - Used controlled observation with 40 males from New Haven to show how obedience can be influenced by environment. Such as authority figure (experimenter dressed in grey lab coat and clipboard); prestigious Yale university. 65% administered 450v.
Piliavin - Helping behaviour is influenced by the costs of helping; costs of not helping; rewards of helping and rewards of not helping. For example more costs of helping than costs of not helping a drunk, so more helped cane than drunk showing environment influences behaviour.

Strengths: - Can explain many phenomena, such as why people don't help (e.g. Piliavin)
- Provides evidence for its concepts and theories using wide range of methods and often in scientifically objective manner, increasing validity (e.g. Milgram)
- Social influences shown to have strong influence upon peoples behaviours, thoughts and emotions. (e.g. Zimbardo)

6 of 15

Social Approach

Weaknesses: - May underestimate the effect of individual differences upon behaviours as in many research, not all participants followed the trend of the others (e.g. Milgram 35% stopped 300v)
- Can often create unethical situations (e.g. Piliavin)
- Some research criticised for lacking ecological validity (e.g. Reicher and Haslam)
- Some research criticised for being a 'snapshot' of the historical and cultural context at the time it was researched, therefore may not be relevant to today/other cultures (e.g. Milgram)

Links to methodological: - Snapshot designs
- Ecological validity (e.g. Piliavin high, Milgram/Reicher and Haslam low)
- Ethics (e.g. Milgram)

Links to approaches: Behaviourist - Uses controlled investigations (Bandura); Lacks Eco (Milg)
Individual - Supports individual explanation rather than situational

Links to issues/debates: - Situational Explanation
- Nurture, i.e. taught to obey authority.
- Theories deterministic but some studies themselves show free will is involved (e.g. Milgram)
- Reductionist as only focuses on situations and environment. 

7 of 15

Developmental Approach

Definitions: - Assumes that the way we think and behave changes over our lifespan and that behaviours or abilities develop in stages. For example, Kohlberg suggested our moral reasoning begins at a pre-conventional level where we're concerned with rewards and punishments but our thinking gets more complex as we age, bringing us to a conventional level later in life.

Methods: - Laboratory experiments; Longitudinal and snapshot.

Example Studies: Freud - Aimed to provide an account of the treatment of 5 year old Hans for phobia of horses. Suggested the phobia was displaced fear of his father due to Oedipus complex as Hans afraid of horses with black bits around mouth and blinkers. Uses developmental approach as believed Oedipus complex part of phallic stage of psychosexual development, therefore suggesting behaviours develop through stages.

Samuel and Bryant - Aimed to investigate whether ability to conserve, with mass/number/volume increases with age. Found children mean age 8.3 made less errors than children with mean age 5.3. Uses developmental approach as it shows that cognitive abilities such as conservation develop as we age.

8 of 15

Developmental Approach

Strengths: - Useful to understand how people learn and develop over time so the theories can be applied to the way education is taught. (e.g. Samuel and Bryant so when teaching young children it must be understood that their cognitive abilities have not yet developed fully)
- Shows how nurture can affect the way we develop and influence people to become better role models. (e.g. Bandura)

Weaknesses: - Lacks ecological validity so cannot be generalised (e.g. Samuel+Bryant highly controlled and artificial tasks so behaviour may not be natural)
- Study of children can be more susceptible to ethical issues (e.g. Bandura lack consent) 
- Some research has difficulty generalising from sample (e.g. Freud only used one subject)

Links to methodological: - Longitudinal and Snapshot.

Links to approaches: Cognitive approach - Both scientific (L+P;S+B); Cognitive only nature as suggests behaviour is due to the way we process thoughts (B-C Autisim due to lack of theory of mind so cannot attribute mental states to ones own); Developmental involves nurture (Bandura)
Psychodynamic perspective - Not scientific (Freud subjective lacks control;T+C projective tests) Developmental is scientific (S+B;Bandura)

Links to issues/debates: - Nature (e.g. Freud) but Nurture (e.g. Bandura) 

9 of 15

Cognitive Approach

Definitions: - Assumes behaviour can be explained in terms of how the mind operates/processes information. In this way the mind works similarly to a computer: storing, processing and retrieving data. Internal processes such as memory, thinking and language are important features influencing behaviours. The cognitive approach looks at differences/defects in processing.

Methods: - Case studies; Quasi experiments; Laboratory experiments.

Example Studies: Loftus and Palmer - Used laboratory experiment where participants shown film clips of car accidents and given a series of questions about the accidents. A critical question was used with a different verb in each condition (Hit/smashed/bumped/collided/contacted) to gain speed estimations about the cars. It was found that given 'smashed' gave higher estimations (40.5) than given 'hit' (34). Uses cognitive as shows the way people process information can be altered by leading questions and therefore their perceptions of events such as car accidents can be affected.

Baron-Cohen - Used quasi experiment where participants given 'Eyes Task' to suggest what emotions pictures of eyes are showing. Autistic gave 16.3 correct; normal gave 20.3 correct. Uses cognitive as shows that people with Autism have difficulty with theory of mind tests and so difficulty attributing mental states to others. Therefore, they process information differently.

10 of 15

Cognitive Approach

Strengths: - Useful as it provides explanations of many aspects of human behaviour, such as why people may turn to crime (e.g. Palmer and Hollin compared moral reasoning between offenders and non-offenders and found that offenders have less mature moral reasoning on rewards etc)
- Tends to be scientific as it makes use of controlled investigations to reduce extraneous variables (e.g. Loftus and Palmer used lab experiment in controlled environment so noise doesnt affect DV

Weaknesses: - Tends to lack ecological validity due to high amount of control (e.g. Loftus and Palmer used lab experiment so greater risk of demand characteristics, behaviour not natural)
- Difficult to see thought processes so people may lie which reduces validity of the research. (e.g. Yochelson and Samenow found criminals have distinct thinking patterns different to non-criminals, however it was acknowledged that the patients lied when answering questions as they thought it would improve their situation)

Links to approaches: Individual - Not scientific (e.g. Griffiths field exp) but cognitive is (e.g. L+P)
Social - Both scientific (Milgram controlled observation; L+P); Nurture (Bandura) Nature (Baron)
Physiological - Both nature as cognitive processes take place inside peoples minds (Palmer+H) and physiological suggests behaviour due to biology (Dabbs)
Developmental - Both scientific (L+P; Samuel+Bryant) but nurture (Bandura) nature (baron)

11 of 15

Physiological Approach

Definition: - Suggests all behaviour has a biological basis and all that we do is influenced by our biology such as genetics, brain damage or neurotransmitters. It also suggests that all that is psychological is first physiological, as the mind appears to reside in the brain all behaviours, thoughts and feelings have a physical or biological cause. Therefore the approach would suggest behaviour is more due to nature than nurture, so differences in behaviours are innate and not learned.

Examples: Raine - Looked at criminals who pleaded NGRI and their brain functions using PET scanning. Participants had radioactive glucose injected into them so it would show which areas of the brain were highly used and which weren't. Found that criminals had lower brain activity in bilateral pre-frontal cortex. Physiological because it looks at a biological basis and how the lack of activity in this area of the brain may explain why criminals committed the crimes they did by suggesting their behaviour was innate and due to differences in localised areas of their brains.

Dabbs - Looked into testosterone levels connection with violent crimes. Took saliva swabs from criminals and found those who committed personal crimes such as **** or violence had higher testosterone levels than those who committed crimes such as burglary. Physiological because uses a biological basis of hormone levels to explain why these criminals committed these crimes. Hormone levels suggest their behaviour was part of their nature.

12 of 15

Physiological Approach

Strengths: - Scientific as uses physiological measures which are not easily influenced by extraneous variables and therefore increase validity. (e.g. Maguire used MRI scans which cannot be influences by the participants or any external factors such as temperature or noise)
- Ethics of the research. It is often conducted on naturally occurring, or quasi, participants such as in Sperry's study. This means the situations where participants had severed Corpus Callosum's do not have to be created, which would be highly unethical, so we can study what previously we wouldn't have been able to.

Weaknesses: - Difficulty generalising from the samples used. Quasi experiments pose a problem in generalising the results to the whole population. As these participants are different we cannot generalise the results to the whole population, for example, in Raine's study we cannot say that all criminals have less activity in their pre-frontal cortex, perhaps just those that are insane.
- Lacks ecological validity due to the use of controlled investigations and therefore the findings cannot be generalised to the real world. (e.g. Dement and Kleitman, participants slept in a lab)

Links: Nature - approach shows how behaviour can be innate due to biological abnormalities. Eg. Raine suggests criminals behaved the way they did due to inactive pre-frontal cortex. Also, Dabbs suggests some criminals are violent due to high testosterone levels. However, Maguire suggests physiological changes due to nurture as hippocampus changed in size due to learning.

13 of 15

Behaviourist Perspective

Definition: Assumes that all behaviours are learned from the environment, through either classical conditioning (through association); operant conditioning (rewards and punishments) or Social Learning Theory (imitation). Behaviourists would suggest that when we are born our mind is 'tabula rosa', i.e. a blank slate and all behaviours are learned after birth. For example, Pavlov showed that dogs can learn to salivate to a ringing noise through classical conditioning by associating the smell of food with the sound of a bell.

Examples: Watson and Raynor - Aimed to see if its possible to induce a fear of a previously unfeared object, through classical conditioning. They paired the presence of a rat with a loud banging noise repeatedly to Little Albert in order to condition Alberts fear of the noise onto the rat. This uses the behaviourist perspective as it shows that phobias can be learned through association with the environment by the use of classical conditioning.

McGrath - Aimed to treat a girl with a specific noise phobia using systematic desensitisation in a case study of a 9 year old girl. She was taught to pair her feared object (i.e. the loud noise) with relaxation, deep breathing and imagining herself at home with her toys. This would eventually lead her to associate the noise with feeling calm. Therefore this uses the behaviourist perspective as it shows phobias can be treated by associating their fear with a calming feeling through classical conditioning.

14 of 15

Behaviourist Perspective

Strengths: - Scientific approach as makes use of controlled investigations (e.g. Bandura)
- Useful as it can help to treat problem behaviours (e.g. Paul and Lentz used operant conditioning to treat patients with psychotic disorders)

Weaknesses: - Tends to be reductionist as it ignores the influences of biology, etc and only focuses on the environmental influences (e.g. Watson and Raynor suggested that Little Alberts fear of the rat was purely due to associating the rat with a loud banging noise, and not any biological abnormalities in Albert)
- Tends to lack ecological validity due to using controlled, scientific methods (e.g. Bandura)

Links - Scientific as uses controlled methods like Bandura and Milgram; 
Deterministic, states all behaviours are determined by our environment and we have no free will. 

15 of 15




Very colourful and highly useful approach to Psychopathology!

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Approaches resources »