Issues and Debates

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Gender Bias

  • Universality and Bias - Bias may be an inevitable part of the research process
  • Gender Bias:Alpha Bias - Exaggerates differences between the sexes e.g. sociobiological theory
  • Gender Bias:Beta Bias - Minimises differences between the sexes e.g. Kohlberg's theory and fight/flight
  • Androcentrism - Normal behaviour is judged from the male standard e.g. female aggression is explained by PMS.
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Evaluation of Gender Bias

  • Implications of Gender Bias - May validate stereotypes and discrimination e.g. research into PMS
  • Sexism within the research process - Research questions oriented to male concerns , preference for results shwoing gender differences. Lab experiment disadvantadges womem
  • Reflexivity - Being 'up-front' about one's baises and preconceptions cna reduce gender bias (Dambrin and Lambert)
  • Essentialism - Gender differences presented as 'fixed' in nature,often politically motivated
  • Feminist Psychology - Worrell proposes that research should be collaborative and in context
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Cultural Bias

  • Universality and Bias - Mainstream psychology has generally ignored cultural differences
  • Ethnocentrism - When one's own culture is seen as the 'norm' or 'standard' e.g. Ainsworth's ideal attatchment type
  • Cultural Relativism - Berry suggested that psychology has taken an etic approach (e.g Ainswoth) and should be more emic (acknowledging cultural relativism)
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Evaluation of Cultural Bias

  • Individual- Collectivism - Distinction may be too simple. May no longer apply; Takano and Osaka found no evidence.
  • Cultural relativism versus universality - It should not be assumed that all human behaviours are culturally specific , there are some universals - such as aspects of attatchment and the facial expression of emotion
  • Unfamiliarity with research tradition - Demand characteristics are more likely in an unfamiliar situation
  • Operationalisation of variables - Some behaviours may not be expressed in the same way , e.g. displays of agression may be culturally relative
  • Challenging Implicit assumptions - Researcher's own cultural views may be challenged. Taken-for- granted assumptions may not be universal
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Free Will and Determinsim

  • Free will - Human Beings are self- determining and free to choose their thoughts and actions
  • Hard and Soft determinism - All behaviour has a cause (the scientific approach) versus some mental control over determined events
  • Biological , environmental and psychic determinism - The ANS, genes and hormones cause stress, schizophrenia and aggression. Skinner and Freud claimed that free will is an illusion
  • Scientific emphasis on casual explanations - Knowledge of the causes of events will allow prediction and control
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Evaluation of Free will and Determinism

  • Determinism - the case for ... Scientific approach is valuable. No one would 'choose' to have say Schizophrenia which casts doubt on the idea of free will
  • Determinism - the case against ... Not consistent with the legal system. Unfalsifiable: based on the idea that a cause of an event will always exist even though one may not have been found
  • Free will - the case for... Everyday experience suggests free choice. Promotes mental well being , internal locus of control (Roberts et al.)
  • Free will - the case against ... Neurological evidence from Libet and Soon et al. Suggests that awareness is pre-determined
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The Nature - Nuture debate

  • Nature - Nativists argue that human characteristics are determined by heredity andf the extent of this can be measured usintg a heritability coefficient
  • Nuture - Lemar identified different levels of the pre- and post - natal environment
  • Relative importance of heredity and environment - Nature and nuture influences cannot be logically separated
  • The interactionist approach - Attatchment (treatment and parenting)                                   Diathesis - stress model to explain schizophrenia (Tienari et al.)                                 Epigenetics: Interactions between genes and the environment may affect future generations
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Evaluation of the Nature - Nuture debate

  • Implications of nativism and empiricism - Nativism may indirectly promote eugneist philosophy . Behaviour shaping may lead to a 'big brother' society
  • Shared and unshared environments - Siblings raised together may have very different experiences and this would explain why MZ twins raised together show different concordance rates
  • Constructivism - People create the nuture that fits their nature through niche-picking and niche-building, suggesting it is impossible to separate nuture and nature (Plomin)
  • Genotype- environment interaction - Gene - environment interaction includes passive, evocative and active forms , pointing to a complex and multi - layered relationship between nature and nuture ( Scarr and Mccartney)
  • Relationship to other debates - Nature and nuture approaches are determinist and reductionist - but an interactionist position is an antidote to this
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Holism and Reductionsim

  • Holism and Reductionism - The Gestalt approach valued Holism , reductionism relates to the principle of parsimony
  • Levels of explanation in psychology - socio- cultural , psychological, physical , physiological , neurochemical
  • Biological reductionism - Explaining behaviour through physiological processes. The effect of drugs on the brain has furthered understanding of biochemical processes.
  • Environmental (stimulus-response) reductionism - Behaviourists are only concerned with learning at a physical level ( and ignore cognitive mental processes)
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Evaluation of Holism and Reductionism

  • The case for holism ...  More complete understanding because it includes social context e.g. stanford prison experiment
  • The case against holism ... Vague and speculative e.g humanistic psychology. A combination of different perspectives is difficult to put to practical use e.g in therapy
  • The case for reductionism ... Reductionism means that variables can be broken down (e.g behavioural categories or behaviourist approach) and studied precisely giving psychology more credibility
  • The case against reductionism ... Explanations at a genetic level cannot account for meaning within a social context
  • The interactionist approach - Combines level of explanation, e.g diathesis - stress model and , interactionsit approaches to treatment of schizophrenia
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Idiographic and Nomothetic approaches

  • The Idiographic Approach - people are studied as unique entities , associated with qualitative data
  • The Nomothetic Approach - General laws of behaviour , associated with the scientifc approach
  • Examples of the idiographic approach in psychology - Humanistic psychology and the psychodynamic approach (Freud's case studies)
  • Examples of the Nomothetric approach in psychology - Behaviourism and cognitive approaches e.g. animal studies within behaviourism produce general laws of behaviour
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Evaluation of the Idographic and Nomothetic Approa

  • The case for the idiographic approach ... Complete account of the individual . One case may generate new hypotheses (e.g HM) within a particular field
  • The case against the Idiographic approach ... The approach may take a narrow and restrcited view, e.g Freud's case studies. Conclusions drawn from case studies may be subjective
  • The case for the Nomothetic approach ... More scientifc -  prediction and control, e.g in the field of IQ testing. Gives psychology greater scientific credibilty
  • The case against the Nomothetic approach ... Using statistics results in the loss of the 'whole' person. Subjective experience is ignored.
  • Complementary rather than contradictory - The same issue can be considered from both perspectives , e.g gender development
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Ethical implications of research and theory

  • Ethical implications - Ethical guidelines protect individuals but research also has an effect on public opinion and policy
  • socially sensitve research - research that has potential consequences for the participants. psychologists have a social responsibility to carry this out
  • Ethical issues in socially sensitive research - Sieber and Stanley identify concerns : implications, uses/ public policy , the validity of the research
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Evaluation of ethical implications of research and

  • Benefits of socially sensitive research - Can benefit society , e.g reduce prejudice and the effects of unrelaible eyewitness testimony.
  • framing the question - phrasing of research questions may influence outcome. Investigators must keep an open mind so as not to offend minority groups
  • who benefits? - findings may be misued and/ or abused , e.g. research into subliminal messages and manipulation of the public
  • social control - in 1920's USA the feeble - minded were sterilised - based on psychological on IQ, e.g Goddard. Scientifc racism (Gould) is the outcome of socially sensitive research
  • Costs and benefits - although socially sensitve research will be subject to scrutiny by an ethics comittee , the costs , benefits and wider implications of reearch may be very difficult to predict.
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