Defining Principles of Each Area, Core Studies.


Social Area.

  • To understand human behaviour, we need to understand the social context in which it occurs.
  • All behaviours occur in a social context, even when nobody else is present.
  • A major influence on people's behaviour, thought processes and emotions are other people and the society they have created.
  • Behaviour should be studied in a realistic and systematic way, and therefore social psychologists will use both field and lab experiments to conduct their work.
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Cognitive Area.

  • Internal mental processes such as memory, attention and perception are key to understanding human behaviour.
  • We can best understand the mind as an information processor or computer. This mechanistic approach suggests information received from our senses is processed/encoded using our previous knowledge and experience, and this then directs how we behave, our responses and our reactions.
  • Human behaviour can be tested scientifically and empirically, using laboratory-based methods.
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Developmental Area.

  • The developmental area is also known as 'lifespan psychology' as it is now understood that our behaviour develops over time throughout our lives.
  • There is no single explanation of behaviour in developmental psychology; it is more of a focus on how behaviour develops, and the extent to which it is a result of the environment interacting with innate behaviours
  • The theories and methods can be considered holistic, e.g. methods can vary from case studies, to observations and even biological methods such as MRI scanning, as developmental psychologists are trying to explain; cognitive, biological, social and the emotional development of an individual.
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Biological Area.

  • Behaviour can be largely explained in terms of biology (genes/hormones): what is psychological is always first biological.
  • Psychology should study the brain, nervous system and various biological systems in an attempt to explain behaviour.
  • Psychology should be seen as a science, to be studied in a scientific manner, measuring variables objectively, for example using physiological measures, such as MRI scans.
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Individual Differences Area.

  • The individual differences area assumes that individuals differ in their personality, thinking and behaviour.
  • This area believes that it is possible to measure and quantify individual differences.
  • It assumes that our behaviour is due to individual differences and in order to understand human behaviour, we need to study how we differ from each other as well as how we are the same.
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Behaviourist Perspective.

  • We are all born with a blank slate (tabula rasa), and all behaviours are learned through classical conditioning, operant conditioning or SLT.
  • Theories should be supported by empirical data obtained through controlled measures.
  • Behaviouism emphasises environmental factors whichy influence behaviour to the exclusion of innate or inherited factors.
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Psychodynamic Perspective.

  • An individual's abnormal behaviour is determined by underlying psychological conflicts or parts of the mind of which they are largely unaware.
  • Structures of the personality, the ID and the superego, are in battle and if the ego cannot resolve this conflict, problems can occur.
  • Important information about the unconscious mind can be found in how we express ourselves outwardly.
  • Psychodynamic theorists focus mostly on past experiences, notably early parent-child relationships, so our development is affected by early relationships, specifically studying how our behaviour is a result of an interaction between unconsious innate drives (desire or pleasure) and early experiences (extent to which our early desires were gratified).
  • Childhood is a critical period in development of our behaviour and personality.
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