Approaches in Psychology

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  • Created on: 02-02-21 17:38

Origins of Psychology

Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920)

Who Was Wundt?

  • first scientist to set up a psychological lab (in 1879 in Leipzig, Germany)
  • trained in medicine and philosophy
  • he wanted to take psychology out of philosophy and establish it as a science in its own right

Summary of Wundt's Contributions

  • 1874 - wrote the first psychology textbook
  • 1879 - set up first lab of experimental psychology
  • used the scientific method to study sensation and perception
  • introduced introspection as a method of studying mental states
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What Is Introspection?

a method used to understand how mental processes work 

Wundt's Use Of Introspection

  • trained observers were presented with controlled stimuli (e.g. ticking metronome)
  • participants were asked to describe how stimuli made them think and feel
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Evaluation of Wundt's Contribution

A Strength of Wundt's Contribution is that...

P: Wundt contributed to the development of psychology.

E: He used carefully controlled conditions in his research, which encouraged other researchers, such as behaviourists, to adopt a scientific approach.

E: This increased the credibility of psychology as a science.

L: Therefore, Wundt's focus on studying mental processes led to the development of the cognitive approach. 

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Evaluation of Wundt's Contribution

A Weakness of Wundt's Contribution is that...

P: Wundt's method of introspection was heavily criticised for being subjective.

E: This is because it is based solely on a person's opinions.

E: For example, you cannot verify a person's sensations and feelings.

L: This lack of objectivity led to dissatisfaction with introspection as a research method.

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Key Words

Subjective And Objective

  • Subjectivity - something that is affected by personal feelings and beliefs
  • Objectivity - unbiased, not affected by personal feelings and beliefs
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Evaluation of Wundt's Contribution

Another Weakness Of Wundt's Contribution is that ...

P: Introspection does not produce reliable findings.

E: This is due to the subjective nature of introspection.

E: As a result, Wundt often failed to reproduce his findings. 

L: This lack of reliability resulted in most researchers abondoning introspection for laboratory experiments, involving observable behaviour. 

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The Emergence Of Psychology As A Science

Emergence of Psychology As A Science 

1. The behaviourist approach was a result of dissatisfaction with Wundt's new scientific method.

2. Watson (1913) focused on investigating observable behaviour instead of the mind.

3. Behaviourists use carefully controlled lab experiments 

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The Learning Approach: Behaviourism

Behaviourist Approach Assumptions

Assumption 1: Behaviour Is Learned Through The Environment

  • behaviouritsts believe that humans are born a blank slate (tabula rasa) and that all behaviour is learnt from the environment e.g. upbringing, culture, and society...
  • therefore behaviourists are on the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate and believe that genetic influences don't have as much effect on behaviour as environment 
  • we learn by responding to stimuli in the environment
  • e.g. stimulus - red light  response - stop car 
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Classical Conditioning

Assumption 2: Behaviour Is Learned Through Association

1. Before Conditioning

unconditioned stimulus (food) - RESPONSE - unconditioned response (salivation)

2. Before Conditioning

neutral stimulus (bell) - RESPONSE - no conditioned response (no salivation)

3. During conditioning

bell+food - RESPONSE - unconditioned response (salivation)

4. After Conditioning

conditioned stimulus (bell) - RESPONSE - conditioned response (salivation)

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Key Study: Little Albert Experiment

Little Albert Experiment

Aim: Watson and Rayner (1920) conducted a study to demonstrate that phobias can be learnt through classical conditioning

Procedure: A 9 month old baby, Little Albert, was shown a white rat and his reaction to the rat was noted. Albert was shown the rat again but this time, a very loud noise was made by striking a steel bar with metal. This was repeated many times. Finally, the rat was put in front of Albert with no loud noise.

Findings: In the beginning, Little Albert  was not scared of the rat, but after it was paired with a loud noise he developed a fear response. Even when there was no loud noise, Little Albert remained scared of the rat.

Conclusion: Fear can be controlled in a young child. Watson and Rayner later found out that Little Albert had generalised his fear to any small white object e.g. small rabbit, white dog 

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Assumption 3: Behaviour Is Learned Through Operant

Operant Conditioning - 

Skinner's Research - Skinner developed the Skinner Box to test the effects of rewards on behaviours. 

A hungry rat was put in the box. The box had a lever and each time the rat  moved about it would accidentally knock the lever which caused a food pellet to drop next to the lever. After a few trials, the rats quickly learned to press the lever to gain the food reward. The consequences of recieving food ensured that the rat would keep hitting the lever. 

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Assumption 3: Behaviour Is Learned Through Operant

Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement and Punishment 

Skinner (1938) identified three types of consequences that can follow behaviour:

1. Positive Reinforcement - receiving a reward when a certain behaviour is performed 

e.g. the lever pressing behaviour of the rats in the Skinner box was positivelt reinforced with food pellets

2. Negative Reinforcement - occurs when someone avoids something unpleasant 

e.g. not receiving food 

3. Punishment the opposite of reinforcement as it weakens or eliminates a repsonse rather than increase it. an unpleasant consequence that decreases behaviour that it follows

e.g. pressing the lever resulted in an electric shock so the rats quickly learned not to press it

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Evaluation of Behaviourism

A strength of the behaviourist approach is that ...

P: It has practical applications

E: techniques based on the principles of operant conditioning have proved to be succesful in the real world

E: systems of rewards and punishment, such as token economy, have proved to be useful in schools, prisons and mental institutions

L: this is a strength because these techniques improve behaviour, when used consistently. They are especially useful when dealing with children with learning difficulties, such as autism. The consistent application of rewards has allowed these children to achieve much more than they would have been able to using traditional teaching methods.

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Evaluation of Behaviourism

Weakness Of The Behaviourist Approach is that... 

P: it is reductionist

E: It reduces all behaviour to classical conditioning and operant conditioning. 

E: Phobias, such as Little Albert's fear of the rat, are explained through the association of a stimulus and response.

L: This is relevant because there are many other factors, such as the role of genetics and the influence of cognitive processes, that contribute to human behaviour and are neglected by the behaviourist approach. 

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Evaluation of Behaviourism

Another weakness of this approach is that...

P: It has been criticised for using animals in research e.g. dogs, rats and pigeons

E: it is argued that this is not appropriate due to the differences in the complexity of human and animal behaviour. 

L: This matters because it may prevent results from this research from being generalised to human behaviour.

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The Learning Approach: SLT

Social Learning Theory 

  • The founder of SLT, Albert Bandura, agreed with Behaviourists, that most of our behaviour is learned through conditioning.
  • He added that we also learn through observation and imitation 
  • social learning theory suggests that learning occurs indirectly through vicarious reinforcement

The Four Key Concepts of SLT

Vicarious reinforcement - observing the consequences of another person's behaviour 

Imitation- when an individual observes behaviour from a role model and copies it 

Modelling - someone who influences the behaviour of someone else. if the individual goes on to imitate this behaviour. it's called modelling

Identificationwe identify with people who are similar to us because we want to be like them

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The Learning Approach: SLT

The Four Mediational Processes - we do not automatically observe the behaviour of a model and imitate it. there are certain thought processes (mediational processes) that take place before imitation

Learning The Behaviour

Attention - the observer must be paying attention and observing the model e.g. they must notice and pay attention to the behaviour being modelled 

Retention  - the observer must remember the behaviour they have seen as behaviour may be noticed but not always remembered

Performing The Behaviour 

Reproduction - the observer must be capable of reproducing the behaviour they have seen e.g. a 90 year old woman might really enjoy watching Dancing On Ice but that doesn't mean that she will attempt to imitate it because she physically can't 

Motivation - the rewards and punishments that follow the behaviour will be considered by the observer. If the possible reward is greater than the cost, then the behaviour is more likely to be imitated by the observer.

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