Assumptions of the approaches in the AS course

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 08-05-12 12:39


A main assumption is that cognitive, emotional and behavioural development is an ongoing process and that such changes result from the interaction of nature and nurture. The developmental approach to understanding the human condition covers the whole lifespan. Of particular interest are changes over time. Researchers use a wide range of methods and techniques. The focus is on how behaviours are initiated and then develop. Typical areas of study include; emotional and moral development; how thinking develops and how children learn to communicate.

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Individual differences

The main assumption of the individual differences perspective is that to understand the complexity of human behaviour and experiences it is necessary to study the differences between people rather than the those things we all have in common. For example, the individual differences approach largely focuses on things such as personality, problem behaviours (gambling) and abnormality (MPD)

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This approach studies the biological basis of human behaviour. This may involve discovering localised function in the brain. This can be done by working with brain-damaged patients but more recently involves neuro-imaging techniques. It often focuses on the chemical basis for human behaviour eg serotonin and depression. It may also consider the genetic basis for behaviour. 

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Social psychology is interested in studying individuals in a social context, sucvh as family, friends, institutions and wider society. Social behaviour may involve activity within a group or between groups. According to social psychologists our behaviour is influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others. One of the debates in psychology is whether an individual's behaviour is a result of their personality or their social context.

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Cognitive psychology studies our mental processes or cognitions. These mental processes that cognitive psychologists focus on include memory, perception, thinking and language. The main concern of cognitive psychology is how information recieved from our senses is processed by the brain and how this processing directs how we behave. Cognitivbe processes are examples of hypothetical constructs. That is, we cannot directly see processes such as thinking but we can infer what a person is thinking based on how they act. Cognitive psychology has been influenced by developments in computer science and analogies are often made between how a computer works and how we process information. Based on this computer analogy cognitive psychology is interested in how the brain inputs, stores and outputs information.

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All behaviour is learnt. Either by the process of classical conditioning (association) an example is Pavlov's study, operant conditioning (reinforcement) an example of which is Skinner's study, or social learning (imitation) which is shown in the Bandura study.

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The psycodynamic approach is based on the work of Freud. It sees childhood experiences as influential. The approach is based on unconscious motivations. Personality: Id, Ego, and Superego. Psychosexual stages: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Gential. Oedipus and Electra complexes.

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