Issues and Debates

  • Created by: as22
  • Created on: 19-02-20 10:02

Reductionism and Holism

Reductionism = breaking down complex behaviours into their constituent parts.

  • Biological: states behaviours are caused biologically such as genetics, physiology of the body and brain, or biochemistry.
  • Environmental: reduces a behaviour to a stimulus-response action as seen in Classical Conditioning.
    Based on the notion of Parsimony - Morgan (1903), suggested there was no need to explain behaviour in terms of complex processes and that explanations should be as simple as possible.

Holism = we need to understand a person as a whole, including social and cultural context. Humanistic psychology is based on this notion.
‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’

Levels of explanation:
Highest level - cultural/social exps of how social groups affect behaviour
Middle level - psychological exps
Lower level - biological/environmental exps

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Free Will and Determinism

Free will = we have full choice and control over behaviour, without biological/external influences (humanistic psychology believes this).
Determinism = behaviour is shaped by internal/external forces, so we have little control.

  • Biological: behaviour result from internal bodily processes, e.g. genetics, brain physiology and biochemistry.
  • Environmental: behaviour is environmentally caused e.g. situational factors of social influence, CC+OC in phobias (which highlights the role of past experiences too).
  • Psychic: behaviour is caused by unconscious conflicts we can’t control (e.g. innate drives, early experiences - link to psychodynamic approach).
    These 3 types represent hard determinism (behaviour fully determined; no free will). But there’s also soft determinism (behaviour generally determined but can exercise free will as humans have perception of control)

Scientific emphasis on causal exps: scientific research shows that all events have a cause. An IV is manipulated to look at the effect on the DV. By repeating the research under controlled conditions (e.g. a lab experiment) and performing statistical tests, a ‘cause and effect’ relationship can be established. This promotes psych as scientific, and finding a single cause of something enables prediction and control of behaviour. Free will gives too many possible causes = unpredictability + unscientific.

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Nature and Nurture

Nature (nativism) = genetic and hereditary characteristics influence who we are.
Nurture (empiricism) = environmental variables impact who we are, including our upbringing, social relationships, and culture. John Locke believed in the mind beginning as a blank slate, on which experiences are written on as they grow.

Nature not nurture - twin studies (higher concordance in MZ than DZ), candidate genes, neurochemistry, brain activity, evolution e.g. exps of relationships (this side of the debate fuelled the biological approach).
Nurture not nature - as MZ twins look similar, they’re more likely to be treated similarly than DZ twins by parents. This may mean that differences in behaviour between MZ and DZ twins could be down to parenting style and not genes. Also, CC/OC/SLT (this side of the debate fuelled the learning approach).

The best way is to take an interactionist approach. E.g. schiz diathesis stress model. It’s polygenic p, but the first model refers to an initial schizogene. However, schiz would only arise if it was triggered by a schizophrenogenic mother. E.g. a child might have a genetic predisposition to reach a certain level of intelligence, however, if they grow up in a deprived environment, they might never attain true potential of intelligence.

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Gender and Culture

Universality = research assumes finding equally apply to both genders/all cultures.

Cultural bias is the tendency to judge all people in terms of your own cultural assumptions.
Ethnocentrism: inappropriately generalising the values and research findings of one culture to another without bothering to test other cultures.
Cultural relativism: you need to consider the behaviour being studied, and the context it is in. Some behaviours are affected by cultural “norms” so need to be studied in different cultures, whereas some are not, e.g. what it means to be obedient, individualist vs collectivist values.

Gender bias is when a bias is made towards one gender and is applied to the other.
Androcentrism: focus on males in research.
Alpha bias: exaggerates differences between men and women.
Beta bias: minimises differences between men and women.

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Idiographic and Nomothetic approaches

Idiographic research focuses on individuals and emphasises uniqueness

  • the methodology yields qualitative data e.g. case studies/unstructured interviews/thematic analysis (but note that case studies are often not as idiographic as they seem because results are often generalised to wider individuals).
  • humanistic psychologists favour this approach because they’re concerned with individuals’ subjective experiences.
  • no general laws are possible due to uniqueness and free will.

Nomothetic research focuses on investigating large numbers of people in order to find general laws of behaviour.

  • 3 types of general laws - group classification (e.g. Schiz DSM), establishing behaviour principles (e.g. obedience exps), establishing dimensions to place and compare people (e.g. IQ).
  • the methodology yields quantitative data e.g. experiments, observations, content analysis.
  • behavioural psychologists produced general laws of behaviour e.g. CC/OC to explain learning in humans and animals.
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Ethical Implications and Social Sensitivity

Psychologists need to ask themselves before conducting research or publishing the findings what the potential implications could be. What seems to be an innocent concept could have far reaching social consequences.
Research that does is deemed socially sensitive. E.g. family dysfunction blaming family for schiz. saying children who don’t have a nuclear family set up won’t be as healthy (role of the father).
The BPS has a stringent set of ethical guidelines (regularly reviewed e.g. acceptable a few years ago is unacceptable now). If possibly sensitive research will go ahead, Ψgists should consider some of the following:

  • Brief p’s about any potential implications of the research, and ensure they have obtained informed consent from p’s once they’re aware of these.
  • Give p’s the right to withdraw at any time.
  • Protect their identity.

Sieber and Stanley (1988) found 4 aspects where ethical issues with social sensitivity may occur.
1. A poorly worded research Q, 2. Not keeping confidentiality mainly in extremes e.g. a p admitting they committed a crime. 3. Misreporting data if it’s funded by a certain institution. 4. Interpretation of findings and real world apps in policy making.

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