The Biological approach
- The biological approach uses scientific, experimental procedures in its investigations.
- It provides strong arguments for the nature side of the nature-nurture debate.
- The biological approach has had many useful applications, for example drugs to alleviate disorders such as bipolar depression.
- The biological approach is reductionist. It explains all thoughts and behaviours in terms of the actions of nerves and chemicals.
- The approach is over-simplistic. It fails to fully appreciate the influence environmental factors can have on behaviour.
- The approach raises ethical issues, for example genetic mapping. Is it right to artificially manipulate our genetic mapping?
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The Behaviourist approach
- Behaviourists' use of rigorous, experimental methods of research enhances the credibility of psychology as a scientific discipline.
- The approach provides strong arguments for the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate.
- The approach has provided a number of practical applications and techniques to shape behaviour, for example the use of rewards in education.
- The behaviourist approach ignores the mental processes that are involved in learning unlike the cognitive approach, which views these processes,as important.
- The approach rejects the possible role of biological factors (nature) in human behaviour.
- behaviourists view humans as passive learners at the mercy of their environment unlike humanistic psychologists who view humans as active agents.
- The principles of operant and classical conditioning do not account for spontaneous behaviour in humans.
- The use of animals in applying laws to humans has been criticised. Surely we are more complex than animals?
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Social learning theory
- Social learning theory takes into account the cognitive processes that are involved in learning.
- Social learning theorists use both experimental and non-experimental methods of research, for example Bandura's use of the experimental and observational method when investigating gender differences in aggression.
- Social learning theory has been applied to many areas of psychology and has provided effective explanations of behaviour, for example acquisition of gender roles.
- Social learning theory does not fully explain individual differences, that is to say what may be perceived to be reinforcement for one person, may not be for another.
- Social learning theory does not account for all behaviour. For example, if we learn by observing others, how is it that a person becomes a criminal when they have not associated with and/or observed criminals and their behaviour?
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- The cognitive approach focuses on internal metal processes, unlike behaviourism.
- The approach uses scientific experimental methods, unlike humanistic psychologists.
- Models such as the information-processing approach have been effectively used to explain mental processes.
- Cognitive models have been criticised as over-simplistic, ignoring the complexities of the mind.
- Humans are viewed as machines with the crude comparison of the mind to a computer.
- Many cognitive theories are based on performance of artificial laboratory tasks therefore unrepresentative of everyday behaviours.
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The Psychodynamic approach
- Freud acknowledged the importance of childhood experiences in determining adult personality.
- Freud's theories offer casual explanations for underlying atypical psychological conditions.
- Freud's methods of psychoanalysis are still used in psychiatry today.
- Freud's theories are considered to be unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific.
- Freud's use of the case study method lacks generalisability.
- Freud's controversial idea that infants display sexual urges has received enormous criticism.
- The effectiveness of psychoanalysis as a therapy is questioned in comparison to the proportion of patients who recover spontaneously from atypical disorders.
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The Humanistic approach
- Humanistic psychologists view the person as an active agent, unlike behaviourism.
- Humanistic psychologists promote the idea of personal responsibility - free will as apposed to determinism.
- The subjective experience of a person is of value and importance.
- Person centred therapy is used by psychologists and counsellors in therapy today.
- Humanistic theories are hard to falsify. They lack predictive power and are therefore unscientific.
- In rejecting the use of the scientific method, humanistic theories lack empirical support.
- Humanistic psychologists over-emphasise the persons ability to change and develop, for example they ignore cultural constraints.
- Individual emotions and consciousness are difficult to study objectively.
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