Nomothetic vs Idiogrpahic Approaches


Idiographic Knowledge

  • Case studies, unstructured interviews, self-report measures.
  • Studying the person as a whole, as a unique entitiy.
  • Qualitative data.
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Nomothetic Knowledge

  • Aims to produce general laws and assumptions of human behaviour.
  • Experiments, more scientific.
  • Studying a large group of people to establish in which ways they are similar.
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Idiographic Strength

P: Produces in-depth qualitative data.

E: The idiogrphic approach produces data that provides a more complete account of the behaviour and experiences of the individual. (HM)

C: However, this approach is less scientific as it is not based on controlled and operationalised experiments.

L: On the other hand, these studies can be used to generate hypotheses for other studies and taks the whole person and their experiences into account which contributes to a fuller understanding of behaviour.

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Idiographic Limitation

P: Some argue that this approach is narrow and resticted by the individual focus of the studies.

E: Meaningful generalisations cannot be made from only a handful of case studies as the is no evidence that the findings apply to the general population. (Oedipus complex).

C: However, these studies still allow hypotheses to be created for other studies that can determine if the findings can be generalised or not.

L: On the other hand, these methods are considered less scientific as the findings rely on intereperetation from the researchers and are based only on one individual or event so are unlikely to be generalisable to common patterns of behaviour in the general population.

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Nomothetic Strength

P: Nomothetic methods are considered to be more scientific than other methods.

E: These methods could be seen as placing psychology on the same level of scientific validity as other nature sciences, such as biology and chemistry, as they are conducted on large samples using standarised procedures, data sets (often quantitative) and control measures. (IQ testing)

C: However, many believe that psychology is supposed to study the abnormalities in human behaviour and beliefs so finding similarities in patterns of behaviour does not help with finding why people act abnormally or how to help them.

L: But these methods do bring psychology on the same level as othe sciences, giving it more credibility and allowing the findings to be considered more trustworthy.

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Nomothetic Limitation

P: Nomothetic approaches have been accused of losing the whole person.

E: Nomothetic approaches are very reductionist as many argue that they do not give a full picture of behaviour as it ignores the experiences of the individual which may influence behaviour as well as ignoring the way in which the situation itself influences the behaviour. (Schizophrenia %).

C: However, these experiements are considered more reliable as they control these variables as much as possible and are not attempting to explain how these factors influence behaviour only find how behaviour is similar or changes.

L: This does not remedy the fact that these methods treat people more as numbers rather than whole entities, perhaps loosing an understanding of human experiences in the process.

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