Complete revision cards on each psychological approach in the OCR specification for AS Psychology including the assumptions, strengths and weaknesses of the Social, Cognitive, Developmental and Physiological approaches; the Psychodynamic (Psychoanalytical) and Behaviourist perspectives and the psychology of Individual Differences.

  • Created by: georgia
  • Created on: 05-06-13 06:37

The Social Approach

The Social Approach: Milgram, Piliavin, Reicher & Haslam

Assumption: Behaviour is determined by our social context (how we behave in/because of the presence of others) and can change radically if that context is altered. For example, in the Milgram study, behaviour is observed when an authority figure is introduced. 

Strengths: Social Research produces useful results e.g. Piliavin et al. to help us understand how to increase 'helping behaviour' while Milgram shows the importance of resisting authority. 

-A range of data can be collected e.g. Reicher & Haslam research gathered both quantitative data (levels of cortisol in saliva) and qualitative data (daily self-report); as does Milgram's (e.g. how many participants went up to 450v and observations about how stressed participants appeared). 

Weaknesses: Often Reductive (doesn't take into account non-social causes of behaviour e.g. Individual Differences); Milgram is reductive however can be justified with the value of results especially for participants (self knowledge)

-Often has significant ethical problems with right to withdraw, informed consent etc. For example, Milgram and Piliavin; however, Piliavin could argue natural setting and covert observation meant people could be fairly observed and results would be valid. 

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The Cognitive Approach

The Cognitive Approach: Loftus & Palmer, Baron-Cohen, Savage-Rumbaugh 

Assumptions: Behaviour can be explained by looking at internal mental processes (including memory, perception etc) and these can be investigated using experimental methods such as Loftus & Palmer. 

Strengths: Tends to use highly controlled methods which can be replicated and produce reliable results e.g. Baron-Cohen's research (standardised procedures e.g. black and white photos in The Eyes Task)

-Results tend to be useful e.g. Loftus & Palmer demonstrated the dangers of leading questions distorting witness evidence. 

Weaknesses: Research can be quite reductive e.g. no consideration for social factors in Loftus & Palmer study, which might have an impact on memory recall (perhaps an authority figure, e.g. a policeman, asking leading questions might have a greater impact than an ordinary person).

-Lacks ecological validity e.g. Baron-Cohen's 'Eyes Task' is a very artifical situation (usually when trying to read someone's emotions, we see the whole face, have knowledge of context and the faces are animated- not static).

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The Developmental Approach

The Developmental Approach: Bandura, Samuel & Bryant, Freud 

Assumptions: Human beings pass through a number of developmental stages during their lives; these have a combination of physiological, cognitive and other factors. For example, children will usually be able to cope with mental tasks (e.g. the conservation tasks in the Samuel & Bryant study) at certain ages whilst being unable to do so at an earlier age. 

Strengths: Useful in establishing 'Developmental Milestones' e.g. Samuel & Bryant suggest if a child cannot do conservation tasks before the age of 8 effectively, something might be wrong. 

-Helps us address issues in the 'Nature/Nurture' debate e.g. Bandura shows nurture can have a significant impact on levels of aggression with the use of aggressive and non-aggressive models. 

Weaknesses: Often uses lab based, high controlled research (good for eliminating confounding variables) which leads to low ecological validity e.g. Bandura (children aren't in normal social setting). 

-Frequently uses child participants who can't give informed consent, exercise the right to withdraw or be properly debriefed e.g. Freud, Bandura and Samuel & Bryant.

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The Physiological Approach

The Physiological Approach: Sperry, Maguire, Dement & Kleitman. 

Assumptions: Behaviour can ultimately be explained by looking at the physical processes going on within the brain and central nervous system (e.g. mental abilities like spatial awareness, in the Maguire study, have origin in the structure of the brain: the hippocampus). 

Strengths: Tends to be lab-based studies e.g. Maguire, and use sophisticated equipment to collect very accurate and objective quantitative data (e.g. MRI scan in the Maguire study). 

-Potentially very helpful in helping us understand how damage might affect the brain e.g. Sperry's study of lateralised brain function and the effect of hemisphere de-connection ('split brain'). 

Weaknesses: Tends to be reductive and ignores other levels of explanation such as cognitive and social factors.

-Lacks ecological validity; often done in lab experiments e.g. Dement & Kleitman (study does not represent normal sleeping behaviour e.g. participants are woken frequently by a doorbell in night). 

-Samples are not typical of the population in general making generalisations less valid e.g. Sperry's 'split brain' participants. 

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The Psychodynamic (Psychoanalytical) Perspective

The Psychodynamic Perspective: Freud, Thigpen & Cleckley

Assumptions: Behaviour and psychological problems have their origins in 'unconcious forces' formed because of the repression of conflicts within the personality e.g. Little Hans's repression of hostility and fear towards his father and his subsequent phobia of horses which he associated with him. 

Strengths: Psychodynamic approaches have explained a wide variety of psychological conditions such as phobia (Little Hans) to multiple personality disorder (in the case of Eve). 

-Studies have been used as a basis of therapy which has proven to be useful for some (Anna O was apparently 'cured' by Freud). 

Weaknesses: Prone to observer bias e.g. in the case of Freud, Hans's father was already a supporter of Freud's theories prior to the study and may have looked for evidence to confirm them whilst Thigpen & Cleckley built a close relationship with Eve which may have led to bias. 

-Samples tend to be small due to case study method implemented and culturally bias which doesn't justify generalisation (Freud concluded one Austrian boy proved the Oedipus complex for all males).

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The Behaviourist Perspective

The Behaviourist Perspective: Bandura, Savage-Rumbaugh

Assumptions: Human behaviour is learnt by a process of positive and negative reinforcement (we repeat behaviours that feel good and don't repeat behaviours that don't). Fundamentally, this is the same as what happens in animals (explaining why rewards led to Kanzi repeatedly using the lexigram board in the Savage-Rumbaugh study). 

Strengths: Tends to be conducted under highly controlled conditions (e.g. Bandura: children tested individually and timed in room 1, 2 and 3) and can therefore eliminate confounding variables e.g. having violent role models and being violent. 

-This perspective has obvious practical application e.g. we should try and be more careful about the kind of models children are exposed to.

Weaknesses: Highly determinist e.g. if you're  exposed to violent role models you will become violent; choice and responsibility aren't considered (Bandura). 

-Quite reductive: Individual Differences aren't considered or physiological factors (such as genetics and brain chemistry) might be involved in things like, for example, whether we are violent or not.

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The Psychology of Individual Differences

The Psychology of Individual Differences: Rosenhan, Thigpen & Cleckley, Griffiths 

Assumptions: Human beings differ widely in a range of ways including cognitive abilities and emotional wellbeing; these differences give us important insights into what is 'normal' however some studies (e.g. Rosenhan) highlight the difficulties and dangers of labelling individuals as 'abnormal'. 

Strengths: High levels of Practical Application e.g. Rosenhan's research led to recognition of the negative impact of psychiatric labels and improved diagnosis (DSM-IV) whilst Griffith's work led to new treatments of addiction. 

-Both Rosenhan and Griffiths research took place in environments of real ecological validity therefore the conclusions can be applied to 'real life' situations e.g. casino and mental hospitals. 

Weaknesses: Often samples are unrepresentative and small e.g. Thigpen & Cleckley's case study and the 'snowball sample' used in the Griffiths study (few women or older participants). 

-In terms of ethics, researchers may be more concerned with investigating than helping (e.g. Thigpen & Cleckley and the rare case of MPD) or them deceiving or exposing participants to possible harm (e.g. Rosenhan deceiving psychiatrists).

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