Debates in Psychology

Revision cards for 9 debates:

Ethical Issues

Nature vs Nurture

Gender Bias

Culture Bias

Determinism vs Free Will

Reductionism vs Holism

Scientific Methodologies and Methodologies

Humans vs Non-human (Animal)

Science vs Non-science

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  • Created by: Ellie
  • Created on: 18-06-13 10:50

Ethical Issues

  • Examples - Milgrams obedience study - suffered psychological harm due to deception (believed they were shocking another being).
  • Harlows monkeys reseasrch is questionable due to the removal from mother - suffering anxiety and trauma.
  • As a result of studies like this - ethical guidelines have been produced to govern researchers behaviours - extending to the use of animals - researchers have an obligation to ensure suffering is minimal.
  • Welfare of animals - lab setting - responses of psychologically healthy animals are of much more use than traumatised and terrified animals - in the interest of the researcher to ensure good condition
  • UK has strict ethical controls - researchers must get a licence (a demanding process).
  • Guidance from BPS - must submit outline of research to a committee that decide if participants will be harmed - assessed on basis of BPS eyjical guidelines - include informed consent, deception, debriefing, confidentiality, right to withdraw etc. If research not carried out correctly, rick of expulsion from BPS - hard to conduct future research - risk losing job. Important to have methods of dealing with issues that arise.
  • Must ask, do the ends justify the means?
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Nature vs Nurture

  • Nature - refers to abilities, strengths, weaknessed and characteristics determined by our genes. Inherited from our parents, determined by biology, not experiences.
  • Supporters of this are called 'nativists'. Many natavist approaches - argue for a genetic basis for behaviour, eg biological - explain in terms of genes and hormones, not due to enviroment.
  • Nurture - refers to the influence of our experiences, may be both physical (enviroment) and social (interaction).
  • Supporters of this are called 'empiricists'. They say our characteristics are shaped by experience. Behaviourism (learning theory) say everything is learnt by conditioning.
  • Examples - developmental psychology - biology and genetics or experiences after birth are most imporant for the formation of our attachment bonds. Evolutionary approach - argues attachment is instinctive, on the other hand there is the learning theory, suggests attachments are conditioned.
  • Nativist and empiricist approaches are extreme. Most psychologists take the interactionist view, accepting behaviour is influenced by both nature and nurture - full understanding can only be achieved by considering both sides.
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Gender Bias

  • Dominantly male perspective - andocentric bias, has two forms - alpha-bias (differences between male and female are exaggerated so stereotypical characteristics may be emphasised) and beta-bias (seen when the differences between males and females are minimised so that only th male view is considered/applied to both genders, meaning experiences unique to females are ignored).
  • Gender bias can arise due to the way research has been carried out - eg when male sample is generalised to whole population. Examples of studies include Zimbardo and Milgram.
  • Some argue that techniques are biased. 'Male prefered' techniques include carefully controlled and manipulated experimental methods. 'Female prefered' techiniques include less control, a person-centred approach (interviews) - results from personal participation and experience.
  • The way in which research is reported is important - the way reults are used and applied can be influential with respect to gender bias. For example, Bowlby's work on material deprivation - women should stay at home and care for children or risk long-term problems. This could increase gender inequality (mothers encouraged not to return to work). 
  • Articles often prefer data that shows differences between groups as null-results are not usually published.
  • Does gender bias need to be reduced and is it a problem? Maccoby and Jacklin (1974) found that in most areas there was no gender bias - wrong to assume all research does. 
  • Subtle differences may be exaggerated to support differences between sexes - encouraging gender bias and maintain gender supremacy of men in powerful positions. 
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Cultural Bias

  • Culture - knowledge and values shared by a society. Differ from one to another in many ways - so psychological research in one culture may not directly apply to another. For example, individualistic cultures (importance on individual achievement) may be designed/analysed/interpreted differently from research in collectivist cultures (emphasis on the social group rather than individual).
  • Ethnocentric approaches = ethnocentric bias. Occurs when a culture is judged and assessed in terms of the norms of another culture - exaggerating differences leading to a distorted view. Two thirds of all psychological research is carried out in North America - bias towards NA behaviour. These limit the validity of findings. As well as vast majority of pp's are white USA/European, with less than 5% of pp's being from other cultures.
  • Anti dote to ethnocentrism is cultural relativism - treating each culture as unique and worthy of study. 
  • Etic/emic distinction needs to be considered. Etic - study of a culture from the persepctive of another (eg Eastern from Western can cause distortion and reduce validity, the SS). Emic - study of a culture from within the culture itself (eg European from European, less likely to be distorted due to high ecological validity. 
  • Cultural bias is common is psychology (most research is carried out in the West) - exaggerates cultural differences and misunderstandings).
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Determinism vs Free Will

  • Revolves around the extent to which our behaviour is result of forces we can't control or whether people are able to decide for themselves whether or not they act in a certain way.
  • Deterministic view - not being under the control of the individual. Determined by external and internal forces - enviroment and biology. If not in control - it is determined by something else. for example Skinner, we don't have free will at all. Behaviours determined by our learning experiences, a result of conditioned responses. Free will suggests determinisim removes freedom and dignity, devaluing human behaviour. It underestimates the uniqueness of humans and freedom to choose own destiny. 
  • Important implications. Deterministic explanations for behaviour reduce individual responsibility. Unpredictable subject matter.
  • Human behaviour is only somewhat predictable. Vast cmplexity of human behaviour means psychologists can never offer a complete explanation for behaviour that's 100% certain - meaning behaviour is not absolutely determined, but not totally random and entirely unpredictable. 
  • Pure deterministic or free will approach does not seem appropriate when studying human behaviour. Most psychologists use free will concept to express idea that behaviour isn't a passive reaction to forces, but individuals actively respond to internal and external forces. 
  • Soft determinism used to describe this position - people do have choice but behaviour is always subject to a biological or enviromental pressure. 
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Reductionism vs Holism

  • Reductionism - belief human behaviour can be explained by breaking it down into smaller compnent parts. Reductionists say it's best to use simple explanations. 
  • Behaviourists such as Skinner explain all behaviour as being a result of past learning. Relationships between stimuli and our responses to them = basis for all we know and how we behave. Complex behaviour is being reduced to simple stimulus and response relationship. The biological approach to abnormality can be seen as reductionist as psychological problems are seen to be able to be treated ike a disease (treatable with drugs). Mental illness as an imablance of chemicals in the brain is reductionist.
  • Reductionism operates at different levels. Lowest level - offers psychological explanations (genes, neurochemicals). Highest socio-cultural level - focus on influence of behaviour of where and how we live. Between extremes are behavioural, cognitive and social explanations.
  • Supporters of the reductionism approach say it's scientific. Complicated behaviours are broken down into smaller parts to be scientifically tested - explanations based on scientific evidence. Argued it lacks validity, as well as they don't identifying why behaviours happen. 
  • Suggested the usefulness of the approach depends on the purpose they're put in. Can lead to incomplete explanations. 
  • Interactionism is an alternative approach. Focusing on different levels of interaction with one another. 
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Scientific Method and Methodologies

Generalisability 
Reliability 
Application (and extrapolation) 
Validity 
Ethics (and ethnocentricism) 
Science 

 Content analysis can allow for both quantitative and qualitative operations time consuming
Experiments + cause and effect can be established - demand characteristics 
Correlational studies + make predictions - correlation does not measure cause
Observations + analyst is able to see what is being done - level of difficulty or volume normally experienced not taken into account
Questionnaires + range of answers - low response rate 
Interviews + flexible - social desirability 
Case studies + exploration of complex issues - not relevant to all situations 

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Human vs Non-human (Animal)

  • Research is carried out on animals as the results may also benefit them. There is greater control and objectivity in procedures, much of the behavioural theory was established using animals studies due to this. We may use animals when humans can't be such as Harlows monkeys. Both humans and animals have enough of their physiology and evolutionary past in common to justify conclusions, although animals in stressful conditions may provide little useful information.
  • Moral justification - is science at any cost justifiable?
  • Sentient beings - do animals experience pain and emotions? There is evidence that they do respond to pain but may not be the same as conscious awareness. However there is evidence that non-primates have self-awareness. Humans with brain damage lack sentience but would only be used in research with consent.
  • Speciesism - Singer 1990 argued discrimination of species is the same as gender or racial discrimination. Gray 1991 argued we have a duty to care for human, species is not equivalent.
  • Animals rights - Singers view is utilitarian, whatever produces the greater good for the greater number is ethically acceptable. Regan 1984 argue animals shouldn't be used. Having rights is dependent on responsibilities in society - no responsibility means no rights.
  • Existing constraints - animal research is strictly controlled. In the Uk, the Animals Act 1986 requires research to be taken place at licensed labs, researchers and projects. License granted if means are justified, humans can't be used, minimum number of animals used, discomfort kept to a minimum. 3 r's (Russell and Birch 1959) reduction, replace, refine.   
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Science vs Non-science

  • Psychology is a science - used to gain knowledge and uncover facts that can be relied on. Knowledge enables us to control things, eg schizophrenia, if knowledge was false, treatments wouldn't work. To uncover facts, Karl Popper's ideas of falsification of a theory are the foundations for scientists using scientific methods, key features are:
  • Empiricism - Info gained through observation and measurements, not a reasoned argument.
  • Objectivity - Scientists strive to be objective, expectations should not affect their recordings.
  • Replicability - One way to demonstrate validity is to repeat it. If the outcome is the same, this affirms the truth of the original results. To achieve this, scientists must record procedures carefully so they can be followed in the future. 
  • Control - Scientists seek to show casual relationships to enable them to predict and control world. Experimental method is the only way - vary one factor and observe the effect. For a fair test, all other conditions must be the same (controlled).
  • Theory construction - One aim of science is to record facts, another is to use facts ti construct theories to help us understand/predict the natural phenomena around us.
  • Pschology is not a science - Miller 1983 suggests psychologists so no more than 'dress up'. They use the tools of science but the essence of science has eluded them. Could be called 'pseudoscience' at best, it is dangerous though as discoveries can be claimed as facts. Kuhn 1962, there is no single paradigm, suggested a 'pre-science'. 
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BANDREAMS

Bias

Approaches

Nature vs Nurture

Determinism vs Free Will

Reductionism vs Holism

Ethical Issues

Application to the real world

Methods and Methodology

Science vs Non-science

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GRAVES

G

R

A

V

E

S

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