Individual Differences

Some questions and notes for the individual differences section of unit 2 for AQA A AS specification of psychology.

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  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 24-05-12 14:04

The Cognitive Perspective

What are the main principles of the cognitive approach? Psychology should be seen as a science, the mind is a complex computer dealing with data, behaviour can be explained in terms of how the mind operates, we have a choice over our behaviour and thoughts and supports the nurture side (behaviour can be changed).

How does this approach explain psychopathology? Ellis' ABC model states that we have an activating event e.g. bitten by a dog, then have a belief (either rational or irrational) e.g. all dogs bite and then a consequence (rational beliefs lead to healthy emotions) e.g. feeling anxiety when near dogs so avoiding them excessive. Phobias occur when we have more irrational than rational beliefs. Beck's cognitive triad: we have negative view of the world, of the self and of the future when we have depression and obsess over negative thoughts.

What are the strengths and weaknesses? Ellis' ABC model relates to everdaylife (mundane realism), prefers scientific methodologies making experiments easily repeatable and reliable and cognitive therapies work. But, it is reductionist because it ignores the role of genes etc and relies on computer metaphore, cause and effect can't be easily differentiated between in Beck's cognitive triad and scientifical methodologies have no relation to real life (mundane realism).

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The Learning/Behavioural approach

How does the learning approach explain psychopathology? It is deterministic in claiming that behaviour doesn't usually change but can change with conditioning such as classical conditioning (learning by association e.g. little albert) or operant conditioning (learning by cnsequences/reinforcement e.g. seligman's dogs). It accounts for behvaiour in terms of observable facts and events without mention of mental entities.

What are the strengths of this approach? It shows the importance of the environment, has good practical application e.g. treating alcoholism with systematic disensitisation and only uses observable empirical evidence making it more objective.

What are the weaknesses of this approach? The use of animals is unethical and inappropriate as they have a different nervous system to humans, it's reductionise by focusing on the environment and ignoring other factors and it ignores the importance of mental cognitive factors.

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The Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytic approach

How does the psychodynamic approach explain psychopathology? Freud explained that we have 3 levels of conciousness: the conscious (current thoughts/perceptions), the preconscious (easily accessible but not currently thinking of) and the unconscious (contains emotionally painful memories). We also have a personality formed by the age of 6 consisting of: 1. the ID - motivated by sex and aggression 2. the Ego - controls the Id, delaying an action until practical or appropriate 3. the Superego - reflects morals of society or parents to judge and censor ego. These are in conflict and when this is unresolved and one wins then defence mechanisms are used, if used overly then they cause abnormality. It is deterministic seeing abnormality as internal. E.g. Little Hans who had a phobia of horses due to his Oedipal complex and Anna O who had 'hysteria'.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach? It's a break through in psychology as the first to explain abnormality, supports both nature (Id) and nurture (superego), first to consider the stages of development and childhood and is supported by a 7 day study where 3-6 year olds showed affection to opposite sex and aggression to same sex parents. But, it places too much emphysis on sex (simplistic), Freud claimed nothing happens in latency period and validity is an issue due to a lack of scientific evidence and subjectivity.

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Biological Treatment

What is ECT and what evidence is there concerning it? Where an electrode is placed on either side of the head and volts from 70 to 130 passed through. Patients are given muscle relaxants and anaesthesia. Endler used it to treat himself, it saves lives of those with suicide risk, arguably no long term risks so safe and effective and Corner found 60 - 70% improvement when using it. But, Breggin claims it leads to brain damage, 84% of patients were shown to relapse 6 months after ECT and the department of health found that 2 years later patients experienced side effects, anxiety and impairment to memory.

How are drugs used as a treatment for psychopathology? Antidepressants e.g. prozac and tryclic drugs e.g. Elavil which regulates seratonin by increasing seratonin and noradrenaline by preventing the reabsorption of these back into cells which release them. Antipsychotic drugs e.g. clozapine for schizophrenics, but this only treats 60% by reducing brain sensitivity which responds to dopamine so increasing seratonin to inhibit dopamine. And antianxiety/tranquilisers e.g. Benzodiazepines and Beta blockers.

What are the weaknesses of using drugs to treat abnormality? The placebo effect is an issue, long term effects to the cardiovascular system, antidepressants like prozac are widely available, high rates of relapse and dropout, issues with withdrawal symptoms and tolerance as we regulate drugs ourselves. Drugs are also addictive and can only be used over a certain length of time.

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Cognitive Treatment

How does Cognitive Behavioural therapy work? It aims to change faulty thoughts by 1. identifying faulty cognitions 2. working out whether they are true and aiming to change them by making positive associations 3. setting goals to think more positively and adaptively by focusing on a client's successes. The Blow up technique can be used to make a client realise that their faulty thoughts are irrational and laughable. The client also acts upon thoughts e.g. getting in a car and reciting in their head that they will be ok. The therapist reviews the client's diary oif thoughts and progress.

What are the strengths of CBT? It treats the cause of the abnormality not just the symptoms. It has supporting evidence: Keller et al. found that patients who combined drug therapy and CBT in treating depression benefitted more than either method alone and Evans et al found that CBT was at least as good as drug therapy in preventing relapse over a two week period.

What are the weaknesses of CBT? How long it lasts depends on the problem (8-12 sessions), faulty cognitions may be a consequence of a disorder not a cause and CBT can be lengthy and costly so is best used when combined with drug or other therapies.

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Behaviourist Treatments

How does systematic disensitisation work? The person is taught to relax, they create a hierachy of fear inducing/arousing situations, they are taught depp muscle relaxation and imagine the least frightening scene and gradually they beomce more confident in approaching the fear e.g. Watson and Rayner used it with little peter.

How does Aversion therapy work? By using classical conditioning to associate unpleasant and unwanted responses with undesired behaviour e.g. smoking, drug, and alcohol addictions.

What are the strengths of the behaviourist treatments? 80-90% of specific phobias were reduced in severity by using systematic disensitisation without the return of new or original symptoms and Paul found that it was most effective in treating a fear of public speaking compared with 1) a stress tape 2)a placebo and 3) insight therapy. It also treats the causes rather than symptoms of a disorder.

What are the weaknesses of behaviourist treatments? Arguably not effective in treating complex fears, more time consuming than drug therapies, requires determination from the client, symptoms may re emerge and the reduced severity of 80-90% suggests that mild symptoms may still be present and that it doesn't provide a complete cure.

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