Psychodynamic approach


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Psychodyamic assumptions

Unconscious processes, of which we are unaware and have no control over, determine our behaviour. This refers to the iceberg analogy and the only way to access the unconscious mind is dream analysis.

Free will is a delusion; we are not entirely aware of what we are thinking and we act in ways that have little to do with our conscious thoughts.

Instincts and drives, especially Eros and Thanatos, motivate our behaviour and energise the mind.

Early childhood experiences, especially the relationships with our parents determine our adult personalities and behaviour.

Personality is made up of three elements in the mind; the ID. Ego and superego. These three parts all developed at different times and play different roles within our personality.


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Psychodynamic Strengths

Highlights the importance of childhood experiences as early experiences can have an impact on adult life lead to many psychologist investigating children and we now have a better understanding of children and their development.

The psychodynamic approach had a massive impact of psychology as it is day due to it being the first approach to develop a therapy for mental health problems, which are still used in psychiatry. This has led to the development of other psychological therapies.

Has been supported by qualitative research such as Little Hans, Ratman. The use of this research method is supported by the humanist approach.

Highlighted that not all mental illnesses have an organic cause because unconscious mental activity can be influenced and that behaviour and that defence mechanisms are plausible explanations for everyday behaviour and experience.

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Psychodynamic Limitations

The psychodynamic approach is deterministic because adult behaviour is determined by childhood experiences instincts and unconscious mind. It ignores free will.

It is unscientific because it uses case studies and because a lot of the concepts like the unconscious are untestable and can not be disapproved.

It is difficult to generalise findings because the theory and the evidence is based on a small unrepresentative sample (all the patients were neurotic).

Has been highly criticised by many because it has negative view of human nature, it is male orientated and focuses too much on sexual aspect

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Humanism Asumptions

Human beings must be viewed as a whole and not be reduced to component parts.

Human beings are active agents, they have freewill, which is that ability to control and determine their own paths in life.

Each person is unique and must be values as such, so their subjective experience must be taken into account when trying to understand them.

Humans strive towards self actualisation, as we are intentional. We seek meaning, value ns creativity in life in order to be fulfilled.

To be psychologically healthy, the perceived self concept and ideal self must be congruent.








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Humanism Strengths

Highlighted the importance of personal responsibility because of free will and personal choice. This is strength because it balances out the determinism of other approaches.

The humanistic approach had a massive impact of the treatment of psychological problems experienced by adult due to client controlled therapy; put the individual in control and this has influenced counselling in the country.

Highlights the importance of non scientific investigation into human behaviour because this is strength because qualitative methods are higher in validity and greater in depth.

Maslow’s hierarchy has many practical applications such as identifies the needs of workers in business and work setting.

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Humanism Limitations

The humanistic approach is hard to falsify because concepts of self control cannot be tested.

It is unscientific because it uses case studies which are subjective, cannot be replicated and provide no prediction of human behaviour so it is therefore classed as unscientific.

It is difficult to generalise findings because the evidence to support the therapy and method used by the approached are subjective case studies, diary entries, etc.

Humanistic psychologist place too much emphasis on a persons ability to change because this is a weakness because it assumes that people want to change or that they have the ability to change, this may not be the case, for example they ignore cultural restraints.

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Social Learning Theory Assumptions

§  Behaviour is learnt through observation and imitation.

§  Modelling is copying behaviour of people with whom we identify.

§  Identification with someone involves a desire to be like them and therefore leads to a desire to imitate them.

§  Reinforcement can be vicarious, we learn through observation of the consequences for other of their actions.

§  Medicating cognitive factors are involved these occur between stimulus and response like memory and thinking. We do not observe and automatically imitate but think about several factors before we imitate.

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Social Learning Theory Strengths

§  The social learning theory takes into account factors ignored by extreme behaviourism this provides us with a better explanation of human behaviour.

§  The social learning theory has many practical applications such as treating phobias with role models. Showing aggressive children appropriate behaviour e.g. Prefects at school.

§  It provides strong arguments for combination of research methods to investigate human behaviour as Bandura’s use of experimental method and the use of observation means that we get a better understanding of human behaviour.

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Social Learning Theory Limitations

§  It is reductionist because it reduces complex human behaviour down to observation and imitation, other factor are important, biological influence for gender.

§  It is difficult to generalise results from controlled laboratory observations because they lack validity as the Bobo doll experiment is highly artificial. Participants may not act in a natural way, or as they would do in an everyday life (demand characteristics). The doll is designed to be enjoyable to hit.

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Behaviourst assumptions

The behaviourist approach believes that all behaviour is learnt from the environment, and it is extreme on the nurture side.

Behaviour is learnt through stimulus response association or as a result of reinforcement.

Psychology is scientific and should be studied using empirical methods, to ensure it is objective.

Psychology should be the study of observable behaviour and not internal, mental processes as these cannot be directly observed or measured.

It is valid to generalise from animal behaviour and that this will generate laws of learning.

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Behaviourst Strengths

§  The behaviourist approach is scientific because of the use of rigorous experimental methods of research; this therefore enhances the creditability of psychology as a scientific discipline.

§  The behaviourist approach has practical applications such as techniques to shape behaviour e.g. treatment for phobias- systematic desensitisation or the use of reward in education.

§  It provides strong arguments for the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate because it provides evidence to show that our environment has a huge impact on our behaviour.

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Behaviourist Limitations

§  The behaviourist approach is deterministic because it views humans as passive learners who are at the mercy of their environment and are not able to influence and control their own development, it denies free will. Humanists would argue against this.

§  It is reductionist and over simplistic because the principle of learning do not account for spontaneous behaviour that has not been observed or reinforced within their environment.

§  It is difficult to generalise results from animal learning to human behaviour because we are more complex than animals and we have language and emotions influencing our behaviour.

§  The behaviour approach ignores other factors that may influence our behaviour, such as the mental processes involved in learning for example memory / attention. Biological factor involve learning, unconscious factors involve learning.


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Biological assumptions

  • §  Human behaviour is strongly influenced by our genetic make up and our genetic inheritance.
  • §  The central nervous system is essential for thought and behaviour to take place. Structure of the brain can explain behaviour and thought.
  • §  Chemical processes in the brain are responsible for psychological functions in the brain. An imbalance of these chemicals can cause certain disorders.
  • §  The brain and the mind are the same. Some argue the brain is physical and the mind is mental. Biological psychologists disagree and state that mental states are due to physical functions.
  • §  Humans have evolved biologically, through Darwinian Theory and have much in common with other animals.
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Biologists strengths

§  The biological approach is scientific, as it uses empirical methods which are experimental procedures in its investigations and has generated a large body of objective evidence.

§  It provides strong arguments for the nature side or the nature- nurture debates gender. Highlights the contribution of the biological explanation of human behaviour.

§  The approach has had many practical applications, knowing how biology is involved in psychological disorders enables researchers to find suitable treatments.

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Biologists Weaknesses

§  The biological approach is reductionist as it reduces all aspects of human behaviour to physical processes and the activity of our neurones and is therefore over simplistic; it has difficulty in explaining the most distinctive aspect of human behaviour- consciousness and self awareness.

§  It ignores the influence of the environment it is extreme on the nature side or the nature / nurture debate, there is evidence that parents, peers influence our behaviour8

§  The biological approach is deterministic as it ignores an individual’s free will as all thoughts, feelings and behaviour is due to your biological make-up.

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