Controversies - Definitions

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  • Created by: gracepxx
  • Created on: 30-05-16 11:34

"Environmental influences" (Genes vs Environ)

Referred to as 'nurture' influences, which are learned (acquired) through interactions with environment and includes both physical and social world, and may be more widely referred to as 'experience'


Concept was originally put forward by empiricist philosophers who believed we were all born 'Tabula Rasa' (blank slate to etch experiences onto)


Example: social influences of role models who have seen to be rewarded for their aggressive behaviour towards a Bobo Doll in Bandura's expts in 1960s

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"Genetic influence" (Genes vs Environ)

Referred to as 'nature' influences which are inherited from parents in the short term, and our evolutionary ancestors over the long term

Genetic influences do not simply refer to abilities present at birth, but to any ability determined by genes, even those which lie dormant for a number of years and appear later through maturation

Example: genetic development of the visual perceptual system, which together with exploration of environments as we become mobile,influences depth perception

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"Scientific benefits" (Sci vs Ethics)

Advantage gained in terms of knowledge and understanding from scientific research


Abenefit could be something that was not known before, or it could be the improvement of existing knowledge -  may also be assessed by practical gains in terms of improved treatments for illnesses, or changes to government policy based on psychological research

An example from Psych is Milgram's study which showed 'ordinary people' are willing to obey authority figures, disproving the 'Germans are different' hypothesis

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"Ethical costs" (Sci vs Ethics)

Expense to the Ps in a study (or indeed society as a whole)


This could be at a participant level (in terms of psychological/physical trauma for example), or a societal level, where technology may be abused to gain data


These costs can be relatively major or minor, eg in Milgram's study participants were so traumatised and stressed that they had siezures, a big ethical cost 

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"Cultural bias" (Issues of cul. bias)

Culture bias is the tendency to judge all people in terms of own cultural assumptions or standards

Culture bias is not concerned with genuine differences if they exist but it is concerned with 'assumed' differences which come from the distorted view that psychologists have because of their own cultural differences

Eg the belief (not evidence) that certain races may have lower IQs than others

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"Gender bias" (issues of gen. bias)

Gender is a psychological element of a person’s sex that is distinct from the person’s biological makeup.

Gender bias tends to benefit one gender in relation to the other.

For example, one type of bias is alpha bias that is the tendency for some theories and research to assume real and enduring differences between men and women, whereas beta bias is the tendency for some theories and research to ignore or minimise differences.

These theories tend to be based on an androcentric view (behaviour is male centred) or estrocentric (female centred).

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"Free will" (question of free will & determ.)

That all behaviour results from a person's own active volition, that is, each person has freedom to control what he or she thinks or does, an individual is seen as being capable of self-determination


Humanistic psychologists like Maslow believe in free will, e.g deciding to kill another person

It is important to realise that free will does not mean randomness

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"Determinism" (question of free will & determ.)

Position that all human thought and behaviour is determined by forces (internal or external) which are outside of a person's individual control, as opposed to an individual's will to do something

These forces can be internal (eg biological - genes like IGF2R that might influence intelligence) or external (eg environment - rewards or punishments) or (more likely) a mixture of the two

This means behaviour should be in theory predictable. BUT it may not necessarily lead to predictability, due to a complexity of determinants

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