issues and debates

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  • Created on: 07-10-19 21:56

biological determinism

one factor - determines outcome 

Biological determinism refers to the idea that all human behaviour is innate and determined by genes research into human genome provides evidence to support the idea of biological determinism for example research has found that a particular gene (IGF2r) is implicated in intelligence (Hill et al 1999). Furthermore, Chorley et al 1998 reported a statistically significant association between IQ test scores and the IGF2ron chromosome six suggesting that intelligence is to some extent biologically determined. (suggests no free will)

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environmental determinism

Environmental determinism Behaviourists believe that all behaviour is caused by previous experience forces outside the individual, through the processes of classical and operant conditioning (which may be direct or indirect). phobias may develop as a consequence of conditioning — a new stimulus response relationship can be learned if the item 'dog' is paired with being bitten. Such a phobic response is also unlearned through conditioning (e.g. systematic desensitisation). The principles of learning theory have been applied to many areas of behaviour, such as aggression and eating behaviour (behaviourism)

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psychic determinism

 Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality suggests that adult behaviour is determined by a mix of innate drives and early experience, i.e. both internal and external forces. Behaviour is driven by the libido, which focuses sequentially on erogenous zones, such as the mouth or anus. If a child is frustrated or overindulged (external forces) at any stage during development, then the libido remains tied to the relevant erogenous zone and the individual is thus fixated on that zone. The method of obtaining satisfaction that characterised the stage will dominate their adult personality. 

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Scientific determinism

emphasis on causal explanations Scientific research is based on the belief that all events have a cause. An independent variable is manipulated to observe the causal effect on a dependent variable. For example, in your Year 1 studies you learned about Harlow's (1959) research on attachment involving an independent variable (wire mother with milk or cloth covered) and a dependent variable (attachment formed). The result demonstrated that contact comfort, not food, determined the formation of an attachment. 

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determinism evaluation

Genetic determinism It is doubtful that 100% genetic determination will ever be found for any behaviour. For example, studies that compare identical twins (individuals who have an identical genetic make-up) find about 80% similarity on intelligence or about 40% for depression. In other words, if one twin has a high IQ, there is only a 80% chance that the other twin will be the same. Therefore genes do not entirely determine behaviour. 

Environmental determinism The concordance rates referred to above equally show that environment cannot be the sole determining factor in behaviour; there is at least some genetic input.Therefore environmental explanations cannot solely determine behaviour. 

in criminal cases in the US, for murderers to claim that their behaviour was determined by inherited aggressive tendencies and therefore they should not be punished with the death penalty. Stephen Mobley, who killed a pizza shop manager in 1981, claimed this happened because he was born to kill, as evidenced by a family history of violence. The argument was rejected, and Mobley was sentenced to death. In practice, therefore, a determinist position may be undesirable because it would allow individuals to 'excuse' their behaviour. Determinism is also an issue in the treatment of mental disorder. If we take the view that disorders such as schizophrenia and depression are determined by an individual's biology (genes and neurotransmitters), then it follows that treatment should target their genes or neurotransmitters. However, such determinist treatment may then block the consideration of other treatments that might be beneficial, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. 

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Free will

Determinism is the view that an individual's behaviour is controlled by either internal or external forces. This means that behaviour should be predictable. Free will is used to refer to the alternative end of the spectrum where an individual is seen as being capable of self-determination. According to this view, individuals have an active role in controlling their behaviour, i.e. they are free to choose and are not acting in response to any external or internal (biological) pressures. However, it is important to realise that free will does not mean randomness, and determinism may not necessarily lead to predictability.  The eighteenth century author Samuel Johnson had an easy solution: 'We know the will is free; and there's an end to it:  Determinism Behaviour is controlled by external or internal factors acting upon the individual. Free will Each individual has the power to make choices about their behaviour. Hard determinism The view that all behaviour can be predicted and there is no free will. The two are incompatible. Soft determinism A version of determinism that allows for some element of free will. 

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Free will evaluation

The illusion of free will Just being able to decide between different courses of action is not free will, but it may give us the illusion of having free will, an argument put forward by the behaviourist B.F. Skinner. His point was that a person might/choose/to buy a particular car or see a particular film, but in fact these choices are determined by previous reinforcement experiences.  Culturally relative The idea of self-determination may be a culturally relative concept, appropriate for individualist societies only. Collectivist cultures place greater value on behaviour determined by group needs.  Research challenge to free will The free will position received a significant blow from research conducted by Benjamin Libet et al. (1983).They recorded activity in motor areas of the brain before the person had a conscious awareness of the decision to move their finger. In other words, the decision to move the finger (a conscious state) was simply a 'read out' of a pre-determined action. Follow-up research confirmed the findings; for example, Chun Siong Soon et al. (2008) found activity in the prefrontal cortex up to 10 seconds before a person was aware of their decision to act. However, other researchers have conducted similar studies and reached a different conclusion. For example, Trevena and Miller (2009) showed that the brain activity was simply a /readiness to act' rather than an intention to move. For the moment it seems that neuroscience still supports free will. 

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Reductionism involves breaking a complex phenomenon down into more simple components. It also implies that this process is desirable because complex phenomena are best understood in terms of a simpler level of explanation. Psychologists (and all scientists) are drawn to reductionist explanations and methods of research because reductionism is a powerful tool, which has led to major discoveries. The alternative to reductionism is holism, the view that simple components do not express the essence of a behaviour or experience — the sum of the parts does not equal the whole

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biological determinism

Biological reductionism refers to the way that biological psychologists try to reduce behavior to a physical level and explain it in terms of neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, brain structure 

For example, explanations of psychological disorders are often biologically reductionist as genes an neurochemical imbalances are offered as the main cause for example a meta-analysis of 14 twin studies of OCD found that monozygotic twins were more than twice as likely to develop OCD in comparison to dizygotic twins if their co-twin were more than twice as likely to develop OCD in comparison to dizygotic twins if their co-twin also had disorder (Billett et al) thus suggesting genetic link.

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environmental reductionism

 Behaviourist explanations suggest that all behaviour can be explained in terms of being reduced to simple building blocks od stimulus and response associations and that complex behaviours are series of S-R chains for example behaviourists reduce complex behaviour of attachment down to stimulus-response link where the mother becomes conditioned stimulus who becomes associated with the pleasure from feeding, therefore, the child comes to feel pleasure (conditioned response) when he or she encounters their mother leading to the formation of attachment. 

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experimental reductionism

is where complex behaviour is reduced to a single isolated variable for the purpose of testing for example while the multi-store model of memory suggest that memory consists of three stores has its own coding, capacity and duration, cognitive psychologists often examine memory in terms of isolated variables, for example, Miller 1956 examined the capacity of short term memory experimental reductionism underpins the experimental approach complex behaviours are reduced to operationalise isolated variables in order to measure and determine causal relationships and you can then challenge and analyse the aim 

This applies to cognitive approach +not in sec 

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reductionism evaluation

One consequence of biological explanations have been the development of drug therapies. The strength of such treatments is that they have led to a considerable reduction in institutionalisation since the 1950s. It is also a more humane approach to the treatment of mental illness insofar as it does not blame the patient, which may, in turn, lead to greater tolerance of the mentally ill. On the other hand, drug therapies are fraught with difficulties. Their success rates are variable and they treat the symptoms and not the causes, and thus may not have lasting effects. Reducing mental illness to the biological level ignores the context and function of such behaviour. Psychological explanations take more account of these and have produced many successful therapies.  Environmental reductionism The behavioural approach was developed as a result of experiments with non-human animals. It may be appropriate to explain their behaviour in terms of simple components, but such explanations may not be appropriate for more complex human behaviour. Humans are not scaled-up versions of other animals — their behaviour is influenced by social context, intentions and so on. Even in non-human animals, reductionist explanations ignore other possible influences such as cognitive and/or emotional factors.  Experimental reductionism Reducing behaviour to a form that can be studied is productive and maybe a necessary part of understanding how things work. Experimental research in psychology has produced a huge array of findings of behaviour. But findings often do not reflect the real world. 

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This approach focuses on systems as a whole rather than on the constituent parts and suggests that we cannot predict how the whole system will behave just from a knowledge of the individual components. This means that reductionist explanations would only play a limited role in understanding behavior.  Gestalt psychology The word 'Gestalten' means 'the whole' in German and was an approach favored by a group of German psychologists in the first part of the twentieth century. They focused especially on perception, arguing that explanations for what we see only make sense through a consideration of the whole rather than the individual elements, as illustrated by the illusion on the right.  Humanistic psychology Humanistic psychologists believe that the individual reacts as an organized whole, rather than a set of stimulus-response (S-R) links. What matters most is a person's sense of a unified identity, and thus a lack of identity or a sense of wholeness' leads to mental disorder.  Cognitive psychology Memory is a complex system which in recent years has been understood in terms of connectionist networks. The idea of a network is that each unit (such as a neuron) is linked to many other units (other neurons). These links develop through experience and, with each new experience, the links are strengthened or weakened. Connectionist networks are described as holist because the network as a whole behaves differently than the individual parts; linear models (where one item links only to the next in a sequence) assume that the sum of the parts equals the whole. 

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holism evaluation

The mind-body problem - an interactionist approach One of the issues arising from a reduction list perspective is the mind-body problem — the problem of describing the relationship between the mind and body/brain. One solution to this problem (materialism) suggests that ultimately everything is reducible to the physical world. The problem with this kind of reductionism is that it assumes that the physical basis of behavior has a causal link to the higher levels, whereas we can only observe that certain physical events are associated with mental events. For example, certain electrical activity in the brain (during REM sleep) is associated with subjective reports of dreams. Psychologists often make the mistake of leaping to the assumption that one causes the other. There is another alternative way to deal with the mind-body problem as well as dealing with reductionism, which is to analyse how the different levels of explanation interact. Dualists believe there is a physical brain and a non-physical mind' which interact with each other. Research has shown that the mind can affect our biology. For example, Martin et al. (2001) found that depressed patients who received psychotherapy experienced the same changes in levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain as those receiving drugs. Kandel (1979) points out that such physiological changes should not be surprising because we know that learning creates new neuronal connections. 

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idiographic approach

the idiographic approach involves the study of individuals and the unique insights each individual gives us about human behavior 

Qualitative methods: The idiographic approach is qualitative because the focus is on gaining insights into human behaviour by studying unique individuals in depth rather than gaining numerical data from many individuals determining average characteristics The focus is on the quality of information rather than quantity It is also qualitative because it employs qualitative methods such as unstructured interviews case studies and thematic analysis Examples of the idiographic approach: Sigmund Freud used case studies of his patients as a way to understand human behaviour, such as the case of Little Hans. This case consists of almost 150 pages of verbatim quotes recorded by Hans father and descriptions of events in Hans life plus Freud's own interpretations of the events (Freud 1909) Freud did produce generalisations from his case studies, but these are still idiographic because they are drawn from unique individuals Humanistic psychologists also favour the idiographic approach as they are concerned with studying the whole person and seeing the world from the perspective of that person What matters is the person's subjective experience and not something that someone else might observe of their behavior Another example is given in the Research Methods activity on the facing page - the study of Jenny by Gordon Allport was used by him as a way to support his theory of personality (Allport 1961) Allport believed that this idiographic perspective could tell us more about human behavior and personality than could the use of personality tests, which only provide statistical information fact he called his approach the psychology of the individual

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nomothetic approach

 involves the study of a large number of people and then seeks to make generalizations or develop laws/theories about their behaviour This is also the goal of the scientific approach Quantitative research is based on numbers - measures of central tendency and dispersion graphs and statistical analysis. Such calculations require data from groups of people rather than individuals Research studies may only involve 20 people, but normative research, such as establishing norms for 1Q tests involves thousands of participants Examples of the nomothetic approach: The biological approach seeks to portray the basic principles of how the body and brain work. As we saw earlier in this chapter this approach has sometimes mistakenly just studied men and assumed that the same processes would occur in women, e.g the stress response Behaviourist psychologists produced general laws of behaviour - classical and operant conditioning Their research may not have involved thousands of human participants which is the more typical nomothetic approach, but they were seeking one set of rules for all animals-humans and non-humans Cognitive psychology is also a nomothetic approach in its aim to develop general laws of behaviour which apply to all people, such as understanding typical memory pro The cognitive approach does use case studies (such as HM the man with no short-term memory, but these are required because, in order to understand the working of the normal mind, it is often necessary to look at normal cases 

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Focus on the individual level: Humanistic psychologists and qualitative psychologists in the latter half of the last century felt that there was too much emphasis on measurement and that psychologists had lost sight of what it was to be human Allport, who was the first to use the terms idiographic and nomothetic argued that a drastic reorientation was needed and that's precisely what the idiographic approach did. Allport argued that it is only by knowing the person as a person that we can predict what that person will do in any situation Thus the great strength of the idiographic approach has been to focus psychology Time-consuming: The idiographic approach is more time consuming Both approaches are based on large amounts of data, but one is in terms of collecting large amounts of data about one person (idiographic) and the other is in terms of number of people (nomothetic) Collecting large amounts of data from a group of people takes time but, relatively speaking, is quicker because once you have devised a questionnaire or psychological test, data can be generated and processed quickly

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Combined methods: Holt (1967) argued that the idiographic/nomothetic distinction is a false separation because inevitably generalizations are made Holt claimed that there is no such thing as a unique individual and what idiographic approaches actually do is generate general principles. In other words, the idiographic approach actually ends up being nomothetic (as Hall and Lindzey concluded regarding Allport's approach), Millon and Davis (1996) suggested that research should start with the nomothetic approach and once laws have been produced, they can then focus on a more idiographic understanding. In fact, the future for drug therapies will probably entail just that - individualized recipes for what is effective based on a mix of genetic and environmental insights. A number of approaches actually combine the two approaches. Freud used idiographic methods to study people, but also used those insights to produce general laws about human development in his theory of personality. Finally, uniqueness can be produced using the nomothetic approach - it depends on how we define uniqueness. For Allport, only individual traits capture a person's uniqueness, whereas for Eysenck each individual is unique insofar as they have a unique combination of extraversion introversion and neuroticism. Therefore uniqueness can be explained through nomothetic laws

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Nature vs nurture

·         It is no longer a nature vs nurture debate but a new understanding of how genetics work- an interactionist approach

·         The Interactionist model argues that our genes and our environment constantly interact to determine our personality. They work together to determine the end point, as they both influence the other. Every behaviour is multifactorial, For Example: In the diathesis-stress model, a genetic vulnerability or predisposition (diathesis) interacts with the environment and life events (stressors) to trigger behaviours or psychological disorders. The greater the underlying vulnerability, the less stress is needed to trigger the behaviour.

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Nurture is the view that behaviour is the product of environmental influences The environment is seen as everything outside the body which can include people, events and the physical world Environmentalists (also known as empiricists) hold the assumption that the human mind is a tabula rasa (a blank slate) and that this is gradually filled as a result of experience This view was first proposed by John Locke in the 17th Century and was later taken up by behavioural psychologists For example, John Watson (1913) famously wrote: "Give me a dozen healthy Infants well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up and ill guarantee to take any. one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select doctor, lawyer, merchant-chief. and yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors

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Behaviourism - Assume that all behaviour can be explained in terms of experience alone B.F Skinner used the concepts of classical and operant conditioning to explain learning for example behaviourists suggested that attachment could be explained in terms of classical conditioning (food is mother who feeds the baby) or operant conditioning (food reduces the discomfort of being hungry)

Social learning theory- Bandura's view was a little less extreme than traditional behaviourism he too proposed that behaviour is acquired through learning adding the new dimension of indirect (vicarious) reinforcement but Bandura did also allow that biology had a role to play for example he acknowledged that the urge to behave aggressively might be biological but the important point was that the way a person learns to express anger acquired through environmental influences (direct and indirect reinforcement)

Other explanations- Environmental explanations can also partly explain the occurrence of schizophrenia. Batson et al. (1956) proposed the Double Bind Theory which suggests that schizophrenia is the result of disordered communication within the family, where one. This is where one instruction is given overtly to a child (e.g. a mother says ‘come to me’) while another instruction is given covertly (e.g. the mother’s manner and tone of voice are rejecting). Prolonged exposure to such interactions prevents the development of a coherent construction of reality, and in the long run, this manifests itself as schizophrenic symptoms.

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Nature is the view that behaviour is the product of innate biological or genetic factors. For a long time, psychologists have known that certain physical characteristics, such as eye colour, skin pigmentation and certain diseases (e g. Huntingdon's) are biologically determined and the result of heredity (or genetic inheritance). Heredity is the process in which traits are passed dowry from one generation to the next. Furthermore, characteristics like height weight, hair loss, life expectancy and vulnerability to specific illnesses are positively correlated with genetic relatedness. This has led psychologists to investigate whether psychological characteristics are also "wired in before we are born

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 the nativist position and the basic assumption is that the characteristics of the human species are a product of evolution and that individual differences are the result of each person's unique genetic code// For example, family, twins and adoption studies show that the closer the relatedness of two people, the more likely it is that they will show the same behaviours. For example, the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia is approximately 1% of the general population. However, Gottsman and Shields (1991) pooled the results of around 40 family studies and found that the risk increases to 46% for those with two parents who have schizophrenia. Also, Joseph (2004) pooled the data for schizophrenia studies conducted before 2001 and found an average concordance rate of 40.4% for MZ twins and 7,4% for DZ twins, highlighting a significant genetic component// Characteristics and differences that are not observable at birth, but which emerge later in life, are regarded by nativists as the product of maturation, as we have a "biological clock" which switches certain behaviours on' or 'off in a pre-programmed way. For example, Huntingdon's disease is a genetically transmitted disorder that usually emerges between the ages of 30 and 50, although it can appear at any time since the genetic cause is innately present// Evolutionary explanations also emphasise the importance of nature as they assume that behaviours or characteristics which increase our chances of survival and reproduction will be naturally selected; the genes for these characteristics or behaviours will be passed on, as they provide an adaptive advantage. For example, Bowlby proposed that children come into the world biologically programmed to form attachments because this will help them to survive, This suggests attachment behaviours are naturally selected and passed on as a result of genetic inheritance (heredity mechanisms)

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Nature and nurture cannot be separated It is now widely accepted that heredity and the environment do not act independently and both nature and nurture are essential for almost all behaviour. Therefore, instead of defending extreme nativist or environmentalist views, most researchers are now interested in investigating the ways in which nature and nurture interact. The interactionist approach is the view that both nature and nurture work together to shape human behaviour.

Diathesis-stress many psychologists argue that both a genetic predisposition and an appropriate environmental trigger are required for a psychological disorder to develop; this is set out in the diathesis-stress model. The diathesis is the biological vulnerability such as being born with a gene that predisposes you to develop a disorder. However, the disorder will only develop if there is an environmental ‘stressor’ to trigger it. Evidence to support the diathesis-stress model comes from the Finnish Adoption Study which compared 155 adopted children whose biological mothers had schizophrenia, with a matched group of children with no family history of schizophrenia. The researchers also assessed the quality of parenting through questionnaires and interviews. They found that the group with schizophrenic mothers had a 10% rate of schizophrenia, but they also discovered that all of the reported cases of schizophrenia occurred in families rated as ‘disturbed’. When the family environment was rated as ‘healthy’, even in the high-risk sample (mother with Schizophrenia), the occurrence of schizophrenia was well below the general population rates. However, the environment was not the sole cause, as the low-risk children from ‘disturbed’ families did not develop Schizophrenia Therefore, the environment alone was not enough to trigger the disorder. This research provides strong evidence that schizophrenia is best explained by looking at an interaction between genetic inheritance and environmental triggers, in this case, family environment.

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Neural plasticity is another example of how nature and nurture interact. The brain can reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity is a term which describes the changes in the structure of the brain (nature), as a result of life experience (nurture). For example, Maguire et al. (2000) investigated the hippocampi volume of London taxi drivers’ brains. She found that this region of the brain was larger in taxi drivers in comparison to non-taxi drivers. Consequently, Maguire concluded that driving a taxi (nurture) actually had an effect on the size of the hippocampi (nature). Blakemore and Coopers 1970 work with kittens shows how experience affects innate systems the kittens were given large collars from when they were born to restrict what they could see and they were raised in a circular drum with either only vertical or horizontal stripes when they were introduced to the real world at age 5 months they no longer had the ability to see lines of the opposite orientation their innate visual system had been altered through experience

Epigenetics This refers to the material in each cell of your body that acts like a set of switches to turn genes on an off  things such as life experiences such as stress control these switches and these switches are passed on through generations such as twins may produce children with different weights although they both follow the same diet because epigenetic material they inherited which was derived from an environmental effect This is why cloning doesn’t produce identical copies cloning involves placing the genetic material from one individual egg that had no nucleus the egg should then grow into an identical copy however that does not happen even though they may have the same gentic make up they make look dissimilar the reason is that the epigenetic material was produced by environmental effects in the donors lifetime this means that genetics and the environment are much less separate than previously thought.

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Gender bias

The term bias is used to suggest that a person's views are distorted in some way, and in psychology, there is evidence that gender is presented in a biased way. This bias leads to differential treatment of males and females, based on stereotypes and not real differences (Alpha bias evidence) For example, Freud argued that 'anatomy is destiny meaning that there are genuine psychological differences between men and women because of their physiological differences, for example, he claimed young girls suffer from 'penis envy, and viewed femininity as a failed form of masculinity The difficulty lies in distinguishing real" from culturally created gender differences Evidence suggests that there are a small number of real gender differences, confirmed through cross-cultural studies. For example, in a review of the research on sex differences, Maccoby and Jacklin (1974) concluded that there were only four differences between boys and girls, including: Girls have greater verbal ability Boys have greater visual and spatial abilities Boys have greater arithmetical ability, a difference that only appears at adolescence Girls are less aggressive than boys

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Androcentrism male centred

Androcentrism means being centred on, or dominated by males and can be conscious (the individual knows they are behaving this way) or unconscious. In the past most psychologists were male, and the theories they produced tended to represent a male view of the world. Hare Mustin and Marecek (1988) argued for there being two types of gender bias: alpha and beta bias

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alpha bias

Alpha bias refers to theories which exaggerate the differences between males and females. For example, in his psychoanalytic approach Freud argued that because girls do not suffer the same oedipal conflict as boys, they do not identify with their mothers as strongly as boys identify with their fathers, so develop weaker superegos.  The evolutionary approach in psychology has also been criticised for its alpha bias. This is because this approach suggests that evolutionary processes in the development of the human species explain why men tend to be dominant, why women have a more parental investment in their offspring, and why men are more likely to commit adultery. However, society has changed considerably over recent years, and it is argued that the evolutionary perspective shouldn't be used to justify gender differences. these could be used to oppress women 

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Beta bias

Androcentrism can resut in Beta bias theories have traditionally ignored or minimised sex differences. These theories often assume that the findings from males can apply equally to females.  For example, Kohlberg's stage theory of moral development was based on extensive interviews that he conducted with boys aged 10-16. The same all male sample was then re-interviewed at intervals of 3-4 years over a 20-year period. His classification system is based on a morality of justice and some researchers, such as Carol Gilligan (1982), have found that women tend to be more focused on relationships when making moral decisions and therefore often appear to be at a lower level of moral reasoning when using Kohlberg's system Therefore Kohlberg's approach meant that a real difference was ignored. There is also evidence of beta bias in psychological research. Male and female participants are used in most studies, but there is normally no attempt to analyse the data to see whether there are significant sex differences. Where differences are found, it may be possible that these occur because researchers ignore the differential treatment of participants. For example, Rosenthal (1966)reported that male experimenters were more pleasant, friendly, honest, and encouraging with female than with male participants This led Rosenthal to conclude: "Male and female subjects may psychologically, simply not be in the same experiment at all."

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Feminist psychology Carol Gilligan feminist psychology argues that there are differences in male and female the alternative the social constructist approach aims to understand behaviour in terms of social processes and thus find a way for greater equality feminist psychologists agrees there are real biologically based sex differences but socially determined stereotypes make a far greater contribution to perceived differences therefore feminist psychology takes the view that a prerequisite to any social change with respect to gender roles must be a revision of our facts about gender whether such facts are true or not they perpetuate out believes about women. Feminist psychology is a branch of psychology that aims to redress the balance is perhaps surprisingly to use evidence that women may be inferior to provide women with greater support Eagly 1978 acknowledged that women may be fewer effective leaders than men, but this knowledge should be used to develop suitable training and therefore create a future with more women as leaders.

Bias in research methods If psychological theories and studies are gender biased one consequence is that research may find differences between genders it may not be the gender that differ, but the methods used to test or observe them are biased so males and females appear to be different. Another issue Rosenthal 1996 found that male experimenters appeared to perform less well on tasks feminists argue that lab experiments disadvantage women because findings created in the controlled world of the lab tell us very little about experiences of women outside of these settings a meta-analysis Eagly and Johnson 1990 noted that studies in real settings found women and men were judged as more similar in styles of leadership than in lab settings

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Reverse alpha bias Emphasises the value of women this can be seen in feminist research which shows instances where women are better for example research shows women are better at being attentive, flexible and organised such research challenges the stereotype that in any gender differences the male position must be better and changes people’s preconceptions

Avoiding a bets bias Ignoring the differences between the genders leads to equal treatment of men and women. However, treating them the same draws attention away from the special needs of women and the imbalance of power between men and women. For example, equal parental leave ignores the biological demands of pregnancy, disadvantaging women.

Assumptions need to be examined Examples of gender bias sometimes continue unchallenged. Darwin's theory of sexual selection assumes that females are choosy while males compete with other. However, DNA evidence suggests that it is advantageous for women to have sex with multiple men, putting them in competition with other males.

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culture bias

Culture can be defined as the values, beliefs and patterns of behaviour shared by a group of people. A variety of factors shape culture and these different factors are reflected in the differences between various cultures. Historically, psychology has been dominated by white, middle-class American males, who have monopolised both as researchers and participants. However, research findings and theories have been generalised, as if culture makes no real difference.

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beta and alpha biased

Alpha bias: refers to theory’s that assume there are real and enduring differences between cultural groups. For instance, we would expect differences between collectivist and individualistic culture. Individualist cultures seen to be less conformist because they are less orientated towards group norms. Takano and Osaka reviewed 15 studies that compared the US to Japan in terms of individualism and collectivism surprisingly 14/15 studies did not support the differences. Suggesting may be no real distinction.

Beta bias: refers to theories that ignore or minimise cultural differences by assuming that all people are the same and therefore it is reasonable to use same methods with all cultural groups. When using IQ tests by western psychologists assume it applies to all cultures as western see IQ as something individual in contrast to collectivists cultures such as Ugandan society see intelligence as a functional relationship depending on shred knowledge between individual and society so on IQ tests they appear less intelligent these are described as imposed etic where research is imposed on another group of people with perception behaviours are shared by all cultural groups .

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Ethnocentrism means seeing the world only from one's own cultural perspective, and believing that this one perspective is both normal and correct. Ethnocentrism is an often inadvertent lack of awareness that other ways of seeing things can be as valid as one's own, For example, definitions of abnormality vary from culture to culture. Rack (1984) claims that African-Caribbeans in Britain are sometimes diagnosed as 'mentally ill on the basis of behaviour which is perfectly normal in their subculture, and this is due to the ignorance of African-Caribbean subculture on the part of white psychiatrists. Ainsworth's Strange Situation is another example of ethnocentric research. The Strange Situation was developed to assess attachment types, and many researchers assume that the Strange Situation has the same meaning for the infants from other cultures, as it does for American children. German children, on average, demonstrate a higher rate of insecure-avoidant behaviour. However, it is not the case that German mothers are more insensitive than American mothers. Instead, they value and encourage independent behaviour, and therefore their children react differently in the Strange Situation. The Strange Situation has been described as an imposed etic, where a technique or theory is developed in one culture and then imposed on another. this is an imposed etic 

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cultural relativism

Cultural relativism insists that behaviour can be properly understood only if the cultural context is taken into consideration. Therefore, any study which draws its sample from only one cultural context (like American college students) and then generalises its findings to all people everywhere, is suspect

Alpha bias: cultural relativism can lead to alpha bias where the assumption of real differences leads psychologists to overlook universals. For example, Meads research in Papua New Guinea where she initially concluded that there were significant gender differences dur to culture but later recognised that there were universals (probably related to biology) that men in all cultures were more aggressive than women.

Beta bias: cultural relativism is often discussed in the context of defining mental disorder in the case of statistical frequency definition of abnormality behaviours that are statistically infrequent in one culture may be statistically more frequent in another. For example, symptoms of schizophrenia are claiming to hear voices. However, this is an experience that is common in some cultures. By assuming that the same rules apply universally we may diagnose some people mentally ill, but that diagnosis is relative to that culture.

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Universality When a theory is described as universal, it means that it can apply to all people, irrespective of gender and culture. However, this also means that it needs to include real differences. In relation to gender, this means developing theories that show the similarities and differences between males and females, without devaluing either gender. This may mean using a variety of research methods and considering women in the natural settings in which they function. With regard to culture, one way to achieve universality would be to employ what Berry (1969) described as a derived etic. This is where a series of emic studies take place in local settings, conducted by local researchers using local techniques. Such studies can build up a picture of human behaviour in a similar way to the ethnographic approach taken by anthropologists. This is the study of different cultures through the use of comparisons, as by making comparisons between cultures we can learn more about a target culture

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Consequences of cultural bias: Culturally biased research can have significant real-world effects by, for example, amplifying and validating damaging stereotypes. The US Army used an IQ test before WWI which was culturally biased toward the dominant white majority. Unsurprisingly, the test showed that African-Americans were at the bottom of the IQ scale and this had a negative effect on the attitudes of Americans’ toward this group of people, which highlights the negative impact that culturally biased research can have. One way to deal with cultural bias is to recognise it when it occurs. Smith and Bond found, in their 1998 survey of European textbooks on social psychology, that 66% of the studies were American, 32% European, and only 2% from the rest of the world. This suggests that much psychological research is severely unrepresentative and can be greatly improved by simply selecting different cultural groups to study.

The worldwide psychology community: Contemporary psychologists are significantly more open-minded and well-travelled than previously and have an increased understanding of other cultures at both a personal and professional level. For example, international psychology conferences increase the exchange of ideas between psychologists which has helped to reduce ethnocentrism in psychology and enabled a more nuanced understanding and appreciation of cultural relativism. This is how David Buss found his researchers in 37 different cultures

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Indigenous psychologies: heightened awareness of cultural diversity has led to the development of ‘indigenous psychologies’: theories drawing explicitly on the particular experiences of people in different cultural contexts. One example is Afrocentrism, a movement which suggests that because all black people have their roots in Africa, theories about them must recognise the African context of behaviours and attitudes. This is an example of an emic approach, which emphasises the uniqueness of every culture and looks at behaviour from the inside of a particular cultural system. To avoid cultural bias in this use indigenous researchers in each cultural setting. This is what David Buss did in mate preferences studies collected from 37 cultures in order to look at universal behaviour from local researchers. This matters because it has led to the emergence of theories that are more relevant to the lives and cultures of people not only in Africa, but also to those far removed from their African origins. The development of indigenous psychologies is often seen as a strength of cultural relativism.

Bias in research methods: cultural bias in psychology can also be dealt with simply by using studies with samples from different cultural groups this was not the situation at the end of the last century. For example, in 1998 smith and bond surveyed research in one European textbook on social psychology. They found that 66% of studies were American 32% European and 2% from the rest of the world. Sears reported that 83% of research studies used undergraduates as participants in psychology in psychology studies and 51% were psychology students. A more recent study in 2010 found that 67% were American psychology students and an American student 4000x likely to be a participant in a psychology study than no westerner. Suggesting a lot of psychology is based on middle class academic young adults often male psychology findings are not only unrepresented on a global scale but within western culture.

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