Evaluation's in AS Unit 2: Psychodynamic

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  • Created by: Danni
  • Created on: 19-05-16 10:46

What are defence mechanisms?

The 5 defence mechanisms Freud suggested had an effect on our personality are...

  • Repression - keeping thoughts in the unconscious, and not allowing them into the conscious, so that they are not remembered.
  • Denial - when someone denies a traumatic event has occurred and acts as though nothing has happened, protecting the individual from unhappy or unacceptable thoughts.
  • Regression - using the comforting behaviours of an earlier age to cope with something which is currently causing a significant amount of stress.
  • Projection - when somebody deals with having unacceptable thoughts by saying that they are somebody else’s thoughts, perhaps so that the ego can deal with the feelings without problems from the superego.
  • Displacement - this occurs when thoughts or wishes that an individual finds to be unacceptable are transferred onto someone or something else, or the urges/thoughts are turned into something different.
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Defence mechanisms: Strengths

One strength of defence mechanisms is that...

  • Application - There are everyday examples of all of the above defence mechanisms in real life, such as crime victims often experiencing repression, and denial being frequently found in everyday language. 

Another strength of defence mechanisms is...

  • When a defence mechanism is revealed to someone and they have it explained to them how defence mechanisms work, they tend to feel a bit better (this is because Freud claimed that the mechanisms keep the primitive urges of the id in the unconscious, but once revealed to the conscious, the problems stop).
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Defence mechanisms: Weaknesses

One weakness of defence mechanisms is that...

  • The concept of defence mechanisms cannot be tested scientifically, as the DV is not operationalised (whilst we do find everyday, real-life examples of them in action – this is not scientific testing). 

Another weakness of defence mechanisms is that...

  • Because defence mechanisms are specific to an individual, they require the interpretation of the analyst (such as with projection, for example, whilst one person might claim that somebody else is jealous of them, and that’s because they are in fact jealous of that person, for another person, it may actually just be that the other person is envious of them).
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What are case studies?

They are studies that involve one unique individual (or small group) and gather in-depth, detailed information about them. Many research methods are used within them, such as observations, questionnaires, interviews etc.

Freud's case studies:

He used them to study an individual using methods such as free association, dream analysis, and Freudian slips to try and uncover unconscious wishes and desires. Freud also used these case studies as a therapy - psychoanalysis - to help his patients uncover, and overcome, their repressed memories / thoughts.

Free association - analysand speaks a stream of consciousness and the analyst tries to find connections and uncover the unconscious wishes.

Dream analysis - analysand describes a dream and the analysand looks at the latent content, analysing it through symbols analysis to uncover the underlying meaning (unconscious thoughts).

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Case studies: Evaluation


  • They are often the only way of studying a particular phenomenon and they can gather data that can otherwise not be obtained. 
  • They produce valid data because it comes fairly directly from those involved and it is usually gathered in their natural environment.


  • Not replicable as the sitauation is unique. Also, another researcher at another moment in time may gather different data. if they are not replicable, they cannot be tested for reliability.
  • It is hard to use the results and say they are true to other situations - the findings cannot be generalised.
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Freud's case studies: Evaluation


  • They can be used to help the patient as well as gather data - practical application.
  • They use special means to uncover the unconscious that cannot otherwise be accessed, and Freud had to develop special ways of gathering data from such a complex situation.


  • The analyst has to interpret the data and so it could be subjective, whereas a scientific study requires objectivity.
  • The concepts, e.g. the unconscious, are not measurable and so are hard to test in a scientific way. This means that conclusions can be drawn but there can't ever really be proof.
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Qualitative data: Evaluation

Qualitative data is where detail and opinions are gathered. Case studies gather a lot of this type of data - Freud's only gathered this type of data.


  • It tends to be valid because it is in-depth and detailed, so 'real life'.
  • Using it is often the only way to study the required area, as Freud found.


  • Hard to generalise to other situations because of the depth and detailed making it unique.
  • Also it is gathered, often by one individual and so can be subjective - not scientific. Freud in particular used interpretation - e.g. dream analysis - therefore a scientific body of knowledge cannot be built.
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Correlational designs: Evaluation

Correlation designs used the same participant providing data for two variables being measured. It is not suggesting one variable causes another, but that there is a relationship between the two.


  • Little manipulation of variables. Measures are often taken of existing situations with few controls needed. Quite a straightforward design.
  • Can show relationships between two variables which might not be expected and so can point to new areas of research.


  • A relationship is found but without finding out whether the two variable are causually or chance related. Therefore cannot be used scientifically to establish a cause and effect.
  • Tend to lack validity because at least one variable has to be operationalised, which tends to make it unnatural.
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Longitudinal studies: Evaluation

They are studies that follow one set of participants over time, using methods such as observation or surveys. Freud rather than using groups studied individuals over extended periods.The participants stay the same and measures are taken over time so that comparisons can be made.


  • Useful for looking at developmental trends.
  • Use the same pps, which means that ppt variables will not give bias in the results.


  • In practice, it can be difficult to keep all the pps for each of the measures, and people can drop out. This means that the sample can become biased if it systematically excludes certain people.
  • The researchers themselves may change over time, which can affect the study as relationships with the pps may differ.
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Cross-sectional studies: Evaluation

They are measures taken at one moment in time. A cross-section of the population is chosen and then those people's results on some measure are compared. Uses two different groups of pps.

Example: a cross-sectional study of language development would look at 2 year olds in an area and 5 year olds in the same area and compare their language skills - instead of waiting for the 2 year olds to turn 5.


  • Gather immediate results - easier, cheaper, less time consuming.
  • They are more ethical as measures are only taken once rather than imposing on pps often.


  • Different pps are used in the conditions, so ppt variables can affect the results.
  • There are many different variables in the two (or more) situations being tested that cannot be controlled, for example the evironment, their background etc. that may affect the results.
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Freud's theory: Strengths


  • It is a completely novel approach to explaining mental disorders. In Freud's time treatment was limited, if any at all.
  • His methods were unique and developed specifically for his own purpose, to which they were well suited. He needed to uncover the unconscious, which was inaccessible by normal means.
  • Not as subjective in interpretation as is thought; 'sometimes a cigar is just a cigar'. He was not willing to analyse anything out of context - e.g. considered their whole background.
  • He generated his theory from in-depth case studies which provided him with rich and in-depth information.
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Freud's theory: Weaknesses


  • The lack of evidence that could be called scientific - because his methods required subjective interpreation. Freud also drew his ideas from his own experiences. Also this can minimise it's generalisability - not only in theory but in evidence to support it.
  • Freud's concepts are not measurable - e.g. the unconscious - and so cannot be tested for reliability.
  • Freud used case studies which cannot be replicated to test for reliability.
  • Freud drew his conclusions from a small sample of case studies - mainly women (biased gender) and did not really study children. Also a lot of his patients were mainly middle class and this may have influenced their neuroses. This means his theory is hard to generalise from a biased sample and say that it is true to an entire population.
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(STUDY) Little Hans: Evaluation

Freud studied the case of Little Hans to try and understand the 5 year olds phobia of horses and try to treat it. He used a case study, including dream analysis - to research Hans.


  • Freud gathered information from Han's father rather than him directly, however, he did try to work on information directly from Hans when he talked freely about his problems - even to his father - so the data was valid to that extent.
  • Freud focused on sexual matters and the unconscious and this has led to psychoanalysis and other therapies to be develloed to help treat neuroses.


  • Likely to involve subjective interpretation - unreliable.
  • Parents followed Freud and so the data collected from them may be biased.
  • Other explanations e.g. Bowlby who said that a child needs their mother as an attachment figure and Hans clung to his mother as she had threatened to leave the family.
  • His concepts are not measureable - unscientific and unlikely to be reliable (can't repeat).
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(STUDY) Axline - Dibs: Evaluation

Studied Dibs, a 5 year old boy, in order to aim to unlock his feelings and problems causing his behaviour - lack of communication / social interaction.


  • The sessions were recorded and observed carefully and lots of real, rich detailed were gathered.
  • Axline did not participate or interpret Dibs' behaviour at all - she did not get involved or affect the data and so it is valid.
  • Can be explained by Freud's theory - stuck in the oedipus complex and feared his father would castrate him (phobia of horses reinforced father fear and castration anxiety).


  • Axline was a participant observer and so could possibly have had an effect on Dibs' behaviour.
  • You can't repeat and test for reliability as it is unique to Dibs.
  • It is also hard to analyse theoretically as she did not interpret anything.
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