Issues and debates AO3

  • Created by: Bear1910
  • Created on: 11-06-22 14:42

Free will v determinism

Determinism is scientific and allows cause and effect relationships to be established, providing plausible explanations for behaviour backed up by evidence

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Free will v determinism

Determinism is reductionist and does not account for individual differences. By creating general laws of behaviour, deterministic psychology underestimates the uniqueness of human beings and their freedom to choose their own destiny

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Free will v determinism

Hard determinism suggests criminals cannot be held accountable for their actions. Deterministic explanations for behaviour reduce individual responsibility. For example, a person arrested for a violent attack may plead they were not responsible for their behaviour - it was due to their upbringing, relationship stress, or a psychiatric problem. This can have implications for the justice system

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The nomothetic approach is seen as far more scientific than the idiographic approach, as it takes an evidence based, objective approach to formulate causal laws. This enables us to make predictions about how people are likely to behave in certain situations, which can be very useful. An example of this is Zimbardo's findings about how prisoners and guards react in a prison environment

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However the nomothetic approach can only make predictions about groups, which may not apply to individuals. This limits the generalisability of results from studies using this approach, as individual uniqueness may also be important. This links to how the approach has been accused of 'losing sight of the whole person'

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A major strength is its focus on the individual. Allport argues that it is only by knowing the person as a person that we can predict what they will do in any given situation

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The approach is very time-consuming. It takes a lot of time and money to study individuals in depth. If a researcher is using the nomothetic approach once a questionnaire or experiment has been designed, data can be collected relatively quickly

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The difference between a nomothetic and an idiographic approach is not just a question of what the psychologist wants to discover but also of the methods used. Experiments, correlation, and other quantitative methods are favoured from a nomothetic point of view. Case studies, unstructured observations and other qualitative methods are favoured in term of an idiographic point of view

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There are broad differences between theoretical perspectives. Behaviourist, cognitive and biological psycholoists tend to focus on discovering laws or establishing generalisations - nomothetic. Humanists are interested in the individual as a whole - idiographic

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It may be best to take a combined approach. Millon and Davis (1996) suggest research should start with a nomothetic approach and once general laws have been established, research can then move to a more idiographic approach

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Ethical implications

By gaining a better understanding of the issues such as gender, race and sexuality we are able to acquire a greater acceptance and reduce prejudice in research. 

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Ethical implications

'Socially sensitive research' has been of benefit to society, for example in eyewitness testimony. This has made us aware that EWT can be flawed and should not be used without corroboration. It has also made us aware that EWT of children has similar reliability as that of adults

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Ethical implications

Most research is still carried out on white middle class Americans - approximately 90%. SSR is helping to readress the balance and make us more aware of other cultures and outlooks in research and how findings may vary across contexts. 

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Ethical implications

The guidelines used by psychologists to control SSR lack power and as a result are unable to prevent indefensible research being carried out. For example, research has been used to discriminate against groups in society such as the sterilisation of people in the USA between 1910 and 1920 because they were of low intelligence, criminal or suffered from psychological illness

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