Individual Differences Approach (4)
A weakness of the individual differences approach is a reliance on dispositional explanations at the expense of situational explanations. That is the individual differences approach explains individual differences as resulting from a person’s own characteristics or disposition and has a tendency to ignore external factors such as the situation a person is in. For example many of Eve’s difficulties could also be explained by the expectations of being a wife in the US in the 1950s. The study by Rosenhan does highlight the weakness of this dispositional approach by showing how the behaviour of the pseudopatients was misinterpreted as being a consequence of their supposed illness when it was in fact a result of the hospital environment.
A further issue related to the individual differences approach is the ethical issues raised with labelling people as being different. The tendency to label people as being different, abnormal and so on can have a negative effect on individuals. Rosenhan was particularly critical about both the reliability of labelling and the negative effects such labelling has on the person. Furthermore such labels particularly negative ones can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy in which expectations about a person (or a group of people) can come true simply because of those expectations.