Key Approaches



Basic Assumptions;

  • Characteristics learned from environment
  • Tabula Rasa at birth
  • Psychology should be scientific and 'objective'
  • Study humans through behaviour; mental processes (thoughts) are subjective & cannot be scientifically studied
  • Should be ignored

Key Aspects;

  • Classical Conditioning;
  • Association of a neutral stimulus with an unconnditioned response
  • Pavlov;Hungry dog to salivate at the sound of a bell.
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Behaviourist Continued...

Operant Conditioning;

  • (Skinner) Behaviour learned through consequences
  • 3 Consequences of behaviour;
    • Positive Reinforcement~ reward
    • Negative Reinforcement~ removal of something unpleasant
    • Punishment~ Extinquish behaviour.
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Behaviourist Case Study

Watson and Rayner~ Little Albert

  • When in contact with a white rat, Albert would hear the strike of two metal barsAfter a few week the rat presented alone was enough for Albert to become immediately frightened.
    • Caused Anxiety

Sinario equation:

  • Bar- Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS)
  • Anxiety- Unconditioned Response (UCR)
  • Rat- Conditioned Stimulus (CS)
  • Fear- Conditioned Response (CR)

Keep the last response the same in equation [UCR --> CR].

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Behaviourist (AO2)


  • Scientific & influenced all aspects.  E.g. Used to explain & treat phobias & modify behaviour in schools.
  • Animals can be used in research~ reduced ethical implications


  • Highly deterministic~ Human behaviour reduced to stimulus and response
  • Ignores emotions (mind) and biology (genetics) as possible explanations.


  • Cognitive & SLT: Behaviourism ignores mind, Cognitive fills gap between stimulus & response by studing mind objectively. 
  • Humanism: Behaviourism- no free will~ humanism- free will, holistic and unscientific (rejects science as a way to study human behaviour
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Social Learning Theory- SLT

  • Can be a bridge between Behaviourism and Cognitive
  • Similar to behaviourism~ behaviour learned from environment (but improves upon it)
  • Recognises Importance of 'observational learning' and form of 'Mental Awareness'
    • Understanding reward and punishment.

Basic Assumptions

  • Most behaviour is learned from observing othhers and imitaiting the observation
  • We observe those who have been identified as 'models'
    • People who are relevant e.g. same age and gender.
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Social Learning Theory Continued...


  • Either provide an example (role model) or to imitate behaviour of role model.
  • Role models must be liked, viewed as similar to individual and have some status
  • Bandura's theory of essential conditions for modelling;
  • Attention-        notices model in environment
  • Retention-       remembers observation
  • Reproduction- replicate model's behaviour.
  • Motivation-      seeks to demonstrate observed behaviour.


  • Fastest form of modelling~ copying behaviour viewed as rewarding (reinforcement)
  • Bandura- Bobbo Doll; children who observed an adult praising aggressive behaviour would also act agressively.
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SLT Case Study

Bandura and 'bobbo doll'

  • Six year old boys and girls watched a video where children of a similar age behaved aggressively towards a 'Bobbo Doll'.
  • At the end of the video, there were three endings;
  • Adult in film praised behaviour
  • Adult commented negatively on behaviour
  • Adult made no comment at all. 
  • After the video, children placed in room with a 'Bobbo Doll' and behaviour towards the doll was observed. 
    • Boys tended to show greater levels of aggression
    • Girls more influenced by negative comments made by the adult. 

Therefore;... Children learn by observing models with other mediating cognitive factors

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  • Less mechanistic view of behaviour, taking into account observation and cognitive processes e.g. attention.
  • Powerful scientific evidence to suggest aggression is imitated, especially by male children.


  • Ignores role of biology and genetics in understanding behaviour such as aggression.
  • Mainly uses laboratory experiments that have low ecological validity


  • Cognitive; Similar recognises importance of basic cognitive elements in learning                        e.g. memorising observation and judge behaviour as rewarding. 
  • Behaviourist; Similar, scientific and environmental.  However, SLT adds observations (modelling) and some cognition. 
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Basic Assumptions

  • Mental process can be studied scientifically and objectively.  Led to focus on mental processes e.g. memory, problem solving, language and attention. 
  • Cognitive or mental processes mediate between the stimulus and response.
  • Human mind works similar to a computer --> Stores, processes and outputs information.

Key Aspects

1) Information Processing Approach

Mind compared to a computer (computer analogy).  Mental processes viewed as input through senses; transformation into neutral data; storage in memory and finally output as either recognition or recall. 

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Cognitive Continued...

2) Study of Mediational (Mental) Processes

Studied internal mental processes by measuring verbal or written responses.  Objective measure of behaviour allows theories on what is going on in our minds.  One of first mental processes measured was memory.

Case Study: Forgetting Curve

  • Memories decay over time
  • Used himself as the participant, learning and recalling lists of nonsense words
  • Most forgotten immediately; memory loss slowed until a point where it leveled and stayed the same: Forgetting Curve
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Cognitive AO2



  • Scientific and based on experimental research --> mind could be studied in an objective way. 
  • Still relevant in modern psychology and various successful applications, e.g. treatment of mental disorders, child cognitive development and improving eyewitness testimony (cognitive interview).


  • Computer analogy criticised of being mechanistic  (machine reductionism) and not enough attention to mental processes such as emotion.
  • Computer analogy doesnt work e.g. theory of memoery have to include forgetting; computers dont forget!
  • Many Laboratory Experiments~ artificial (low ecological validity)
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Cognitive Comparisons


  • Behaviourism: Behaviourism ignores mental processes, cognitive- mediational processes provides bridge between stimulus and response (difference)
  • Both are scientific and reductionist.
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Basic Assumptions

  • Everyone is unique so should focus on subjective thoughts and feelings
  • Ideographic Approach~ rejects scientific methods
  • People have free will- behaviour not determined by unconscious forces or environment. 
  • People responsible for their own actions and personal growth
  • People studied from holistic perspective not breaking behaviour into smaller elemnts
  • Dissatisfied with pessimism and determinism of other approaches and therefore seen as the 'Third Force' in psychology
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Humanism Key Aspects

Key Aspects

Self Actualisation

Carl Rogers

  • Self Actualisation- need to achieve full potential or ideal self (what you want to be)
  • Bigger the difference in ideal self and self concept the more incongruence
  • Incongruence can cause anxiety and depression
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Humanism Key Aspects Continued...

Self Actualisation

Client Centred Therapy (termed counselling)

  • Aims to reduce incongruence and allow client to be a fully functioning person
  • Achieved by providing unconditional positive regard (client loved and valued)

Abraham Maslow

  • Seek self actualisation through meeting personal needs~ organised as the Hierarchy of Needs
  • As each 4 deficiency needs (physical, safety, love and self esteem) are satisfied (one stage at a time) are met personal growth and self actualisation is achieved
    • Person fullfilled and satisfied with their life
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Humanism AO2



  • More optimistic than behaviourism and psychodynamic as it rejects determinism and sees behaviour in a more positive light
  • Client centred therapy is effective in treating mild psychological disorders- led to formation of counselling


  • Unscientific- many concepts are vague and untested
  • Culturally biased to Western societies- individual achievement valued above the group (can be seen as selfish)
  • Maslow implies that many never achieve self actualisation (poverty, war zones etc. unable to love without safety/shelter)
  • Many environmental barries after love and belonging
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Humanism Comparisons


  • Proposes freewill so constrasts with all other approaches which are deterministic


  • Both unscientific with many vague concepts
  • Humanism more optimistic
  • Humanism believes behaviour is not determined by unconscious forces unlike psychodynamic


  • Humanism believes behaviour is not determined by environmental factors unlike behaviourism.
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Basic Assumptions:

  • Large part of mental life operates at unconscious level
    • We have thoughts and ideas we are not directly aware of
  • Early childhood experiences, especially those from birth to 3 years old make up a large part of these unconscious thoughts and can influence adult behaviour
    • Unresloved conflicts within the Tripartite personality; parents and psychosexual stages
  • Freewill is an illusion, all behaviour is determined either by unconscious thoughts, biological drives or environmental factors
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Psychodynamic- Key Aspects

Key Aspects

Tripartite Personality

  • ID- Unconscious, primative and biological part of personality.  Primary driving force or sexual instinct that demands immediate satisfaction.  Innate & governed by pleasure principle
  • Ego- Attempts to satisfy ID demands within what society finds acceptable.  Constant balancing between ID and Super Ego.  Forms at 2 and resut of contact (conflict) with parents
  • Super Ego- Represents conscience (guilt) and usually formed by values and moral standards of parents. Can cause anxiety and depression if Super Ego over powers.
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Defence Mechanisms

Defence Mechanisms

  • Used by ego to stop disturbing and unpleasant unconsciousthoughts being conscious.  Most important Repression- unconscious movitvated forgetting
  • Denial- Refusing to see unpleasant aspects of reality
  • Displacement- Mind redirects emotions from dangerous object to a safe object~ redirecting emotions to a safer outlet
  • Rationalisation- Constructing logical justification for decision originally arrived through different mental processes
  • Sublimation- Refocusing or channelling impulses to socially accepted behaviour
  • Reaction formation- Behaving opposite to unconscious feelings.
  • Projection- Assigning own unacceptable impulse onto another person e.g. suggesting that the person is scared when they are
  • Intellectualisation- remove emotional content of an event to cope with an event
  • Repression- Conscious, motivated forgetting
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psychodynamic Continued...

Three Levels of the Mind

  • Conscious~ directly aware of our thoughts and experiences
  • Preconscious~ Thoughts, feelings and experiences not directly aware of but easily accessed
  • Unconscious~ Place for traumatic memories actively pushed to unconscious by repression.

Psychosexual Stages- Development takes place over 5 places

  • Oral- 0-18 months, pleasure centres around mouth, Mum's breast object of desire- feeding reduces negative feelings of hunger.
  • Anal- 18-36 months, pleasure gained from retention and expulsion of faeces.  Toilet training~ please parents use toilet or defy parents by withholding faeces.
  • Phallic- 3-6 years, sexual instinct focused on genital area.   Oedipus Complex- Boy desires mother and sees father as competition and fears father due to fear of castration.  Electra
  • Complex- Girl desires penis but then moves on to desire having baby with father.  Blames & jealous of her mother
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Psychodynamic- Psychosexual Stages Continued...

  • Latent- 6-Puberty, sexual drive present but dormant, sexual energy focused towards peer friendships, school.
  • Genital- Puberty+, Sexual interests mature & directed to gaining heterosexual pleasure~ sexual intercourse
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Psychodynamic AO2

Study-Rat Man

  • Saw Freud roughly for a year
  • Obsessive & fearful thoughts about rats that resulted in obsessive behaviours
  • Fearful 'rat torture' would happen to father or woman he admired, engaged in obsessive-compulsive behaviours
  • Freud said behaviour resulted from love & unconscious hate felt to father~ torture with rats
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviours ratman overcome feelings of guilt and reduce his anxieties.



  • Freud pioneer in early childhood experiences effected adult personality~ highly influential and formed basis of further developmental theories
  • Led to development of psychoanalysis as treatment of psychological disorders.
  • Free association: Patients encouraged to talk freely about concerns and dreams so therapist can analyse unconscious conflict
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Psychodynamic AO2 Continued...


  • Limited focus on Rat Man's background (no reference to mother) and more plausible explanations available
  • Unscientific and many concepts difficult to study objectively e.g. unconscious
  • Many criticisms associated with Oedipal Conflict (bias, lack of evidence, sexism etc)
  • Pessimistic with emphasis on detrminism and that the personality is formed from conflict, some of which are never resolved. 
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Psychology concerned with how physical structures, (especially genes and central nervous system) influence behaviour.

Basic Assumptions;

  • Behaviour strongly influenced by genetic make-up and the physical structure of the nervous system, particularly the brain.
  • Chemical processes in the brain are responsible for psychological functioning.
  • Imbalance of these chemicals can cause abnormal behaviour and mental disorders
  • Mind and the Brain are the same thing!
  • Humans evolved through Darwinian evolution
  • Humans have much in common with other animals, especially those closest to us e.g. Apes
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Biological- Key Aspects

Genetic Basis of behaviour

  • How genes determine physical characteristics and behaviour
  • Genetics- Physical characteristics and behaviour is due to DNA
  • Hereditary- Physical characteristics and behaviour which are inherited from parents
  • N.B: All hereditary traits are genetic but not all gebetic traits are hereditary
  • Genotype- Individual's genetic make-up             
  • Pheneotype- Characteristics that are determined by genetics and the environment
  • Genotype + Environment = Phenotype
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Biological AO2

Case Study- Bock and Goode

  • Mice Reared alone shared a strong tendancy to attack other male mice when first exposed.
  • Mice not taught to be aggressive from their parents; they just exhibited the behaviour.
  • Study therefore implies a natural or genetic tendency to biological aggression



  • Scientific and based on established scientific principles e.g. medicine
  • Study of the brain has lead to development of drugs that have been used to trear many disorders from depression to Parkinson's.
  • Twin and adoption studies used successfully to determine the contribution of genetics and the environment in understanding behaviour.
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Biological- AO2 Continued...


  • Monozygotic twins are more likely to be treated the same so differences measured may be environmental.Highly reductionist and tends to lose sight of human thought and behaviour
  • Some identical twins don't develop Schizophrenia (Gottesman) so suggests an environmental cause but the Biological Approach ignores environmental influence.


  • Behaviourism- similar~ scientific and reductionistFreud's ID is a biological drive
    • Different~ behaviourism is completely environmental
  • Cognitive- Similar~ also looks at brain fuction and structure as cause to behaviour.
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