How To Compare/Contrast an Approach


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Does the approach explain behaviour through the role of the environment (NATURE) or the role of innate factors (NATURE)?

Can it be reductionist in its approach to human behaviour? If it focuses too much on nature, does it neglect any nurture explanations (or vice versa)?

Or does it take a more holistic approach by taking into account both nature and nurture explanations and the interaction between them?

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Practical/Therapeutic Applications

Has the approach led to practical real world applications? How beneficial have these applications been? 

Has the approach been applied in a therapy (see question 2 of exam)? If so, what does the research suggest about the EFFECTIVENESS of this therapy? Are there any drawbacks to this therapy? 

How does this benefit psychology/ the society? Did the approach change the way we think about human behaviour? What is the current status of the approach? 

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Determinism/Free Will

Does the approach state that we are free to choose our behaviour (free will) or are we controlled by internal or external factors beyond our control (determinism). Or does the approach use a combination of the two?

If an approach is deterministic, it is scientific as it assumes all behaviour is a product of cause and affect. Free will conversely then can be seen as unscientific and difficult to prove.

However, a deterministic approach would imply that people have no control over their behaviour; can you completely hold someone responsible for their actions? Free will on the other hand assumes that people are empowered to shape their own lives. 

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 Does the approach try to break down complex behaviour into more simple components (REDUCTIONIST) or does it view behaviour as a complex system, which cannot be understood by examining the component parts (HOLISTIC)?

Reductionist explanations are very scientific, and the principle of reductionism underlines NEARLY ALL psychological research. Holistic theories, on the other hand are much less scientific and it can be difficult to investigate the interaction of different components of a whole.

A reductionist approach however can oversimplify complex behaviour. Reductionist explanations often ignore the interaction of the phenomena, and so can be limited in terms of its ability to explain. However, holistic explanations take into account these complex interactions;the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Does the methodology of the approach focus on the study of individuals as a way to provide unique insights into human behaviour (IDEOGRAPHIC) or does it study large groups of people with the aim of developing general laws and theories that can be generalised to all people (NOMOTHETIC)?

The nomothetic approach is in line with scientific principles, as it means that rules can be generated that allow us to compare between groups of people, as well as making testable predictions. The ideographic approach conversely does not produce results that can be generalised to all people, which limits its usefulness. 

The ideographic approach however allows for greater understanding of the individual, treating each person as a distinct individual. The nomothetic approach does not take into account the uniqueness of each person, meaning that it can only give a superficial understanding of an individual. 

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Research Methodology

Does the approach use scientific methodology? 

Does it collect qualitative or quantitative date? Qualitative data is in depth rich data but is open to interpretation. Quantitative data gathers data in numerical form and can be used to generalise, but it can lack validity.

Are animals used in studies? Can we generalise from animals to humans? 

Is the sample of participants used in the research representative of all humans? Is there a gender/culture/historical bias?

Does the research methodology reflect real life (ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY)? 

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