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Biological Approach

Main assumptions: 

  • Behaviour and thought processes have an innate, biological basis
  • The mind and brain are the same
  • Human genes have evolved to adapt behaviour to the environment 
  • Human characteristics, e.g. - intelligence, are due to our genetic make up

Bock and Goode 1996  -  Found that when mice were reared alone, they showed a strong tendancy to attack other male mice when first exposed to other animals. They weren't taught this behaviour, they exhibited it. 
Darwin 1859, origin of species -  Natural selection evidence. 

Example of observatory evolutionary behaviour in humans - rooting reflex, present at birth, aids breastfeeding and therefor survival. 

Uses scientific, experimental procedures in its investigations, provides strong argument for nature in 'nature - nurture' debate, many useful apps e.g. drugs alleviating disorders
x Reductionist - explains all thoughts and behaviours in terms of actions of nerves or chemicals, over simplistic failing to acknowledge environmental influence, raises ethical issues - is it right to artificially manipulate our genetic make up? 


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Behaviourist approach

Main assumptions:

  • Behaviour is learned from the environment 
  • Behaviour is determined by reinforcement or punishment of past learning experiences
  • Observable behaviour, not minds, should be studied
  • Psychology should investigate the laws of learning 

Operant conditioning:
B.F.Skinner - Skinner box, rat, lever pulled releases food, rat learned pulling the lever releases the food (positive reinforcement) and repeated this good behaviour due to having a reward. 
Negative reinforcement - Removal of unpleasant experience to increase likelyhood of desired response, e.g. doing the washing up so your mom will stop moaning at you.
Classical conditioning: Pavlov - Dog salivating at the noise of a bell when food was presented. Over a number of trials, dog salivated at the noise of the bell alone. 
Case study - Watson and Raynor 1920 Little Albert - Conditioned fear in baby Albert of rats/fluffy objects by pairing loud shocking sound with the presentation of the rat/object. 

Use experimental methods of research which increase credibility, strong evidence for nurture, provided practical apps in shaping behaviour e.g. use of rewards in learning.  
X Ignores mental processes, rejects role of possible biological factors, views humans as passive learners unable to determine own development, doesn't account for spontaneous behaviour, use of animals in applying laws has been criticised - surely we are more complex than animals?  

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Social learning theory

Main assumptions:

  • Mediational processes, which lie between the stimulus and response, stimulate our behaviour
  • Observational learning has four conditions: attention, retension, motor reproduction, motivation
  • Learning can occur by observing role models in the environment 
  • Learning can be a result of direct, indirect or vicarious reinforcement

Studies: Albert Bandura - (put forward the social learning theory). Bobo doll experiment, 1960's - showed 3 to 6 year olds a video of him beating up a bobo doll with three endings: 
1) The adult in the film commented positively on the behaviour
2) The adult in the film commented negatively on the behaviour
3) The adult made no comment
After the film, children were put in a room with a bobo doll - boys showed higher aggression than girls who appeared to be more influenced by the negative comments in the film.

Takes into account cognitive processes involved in learning, use both experimental and non experimental research methods, has been effectvie in explanations of behaviour e.g. acquisition of gender roles. 
X Doesn't fully explain individual differences - what is percieved to be reinforcement to one person may not be to the other, Doesn't account for all behaviour e.g. if we learn by observing others why does someone become a criminal even when they haven't been associated with one?  

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Cognitive approach

Main assumptions:

  • Mental processes lie between stimulus and response
  • Humans are info processors 
  • Humans actively organise and manipulate info from environment
  • The mind operates in the same way as a computer - both encode, store and output data.

Studies: Information processing approach -  Encoding of info from environment ----> Transformation of info using mental processes ----> Output/behavioural response
Computational model - Still uses computer analogy to explain mental processes, but now more emphasis on what is involved when info is processed rather than when and how. 
Connectionist model -  uses neural analogy, the idea that the mind is made up of a huge array of neurones/ nodes and the connections between these nodes form an activating pattern which represents a meaningful, learnt association between environmental stimuli. 

Focusses on internal mental processes, uses scientific experimental methods, models such as info processing approach have been effectively used to explain mental processes. 
X Models have been criticised as oversimplistic, humans are viewed as machines, theories are based on artificial lab tasks which lack ecological validity. = unrepresentative of everyday behaviours 

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Psychodynamic approach

Main assumptions:

  • Unconscious processes, of which we are unaware, determine our behaviour
  • Instincts/drives motivate our behaviour and energise the mind
  • Childhood experiences determine adult personality
  • Personality has three parts: id, ego, super ego. 

Studies: Freud 1909 - Rat man - Man scared of rats due to torture story from military background. The fear resulted in obsessive compulsive behaviours. Freud concluded that these behaviours came from the love and unconscious hate the Rat man felt for his father whom he wished to torture with rats. 
This is the only study Freud carried out to support all his proposed theories: The role of the unconscious mind, Psychosexual stages of development, Structure of personality, Defene mechanisms.

Freud acknowledged the importance of childhood experiences in determining adult personality, theories offer casual explanations of underlying atypical psychological conditions, his methods of psychoanalysis are still used today. 
X Theories are considered unfalsifiable thus unscientific, case studies lack generalisability, idea that infants display sexual urges has faced huge criticism, effectiveness of psychoanalysis as a therapy is questionned.  

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The Humanistic approach

Main assumptions:

  • Humans should be viewed as a whole and not reduced to component parts
  • Humans are active agents able to control and determine own development
  • Strive towards achieving self actualisation
  • To be psychologically healthy, the real self and ideal self must be congruent

Studies: Carl Rogers 1940s and 50s - PCT
Maslow's heirarchy of needs 1943

Person is viewed as an active agent able to control and determine own development, the idea of personal responsibility/free will is promoted, the subjective experience of a person is of value and importance, PCT is used today.
X Theories are hard to falsify and lack predictive power thus unscientific, lack emperical support with rejection of scientific methods, person's ability to change and develope is over emphasised, individual emotions and consciousness are difficult to study objectively.  

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