Psychological Approaches


Behaviourist Approach


  • Observable and measurable
  • Controlled lab studies to maintain control and objectivity
  • processes that govern learning is the same in humans and non humans
  • classical conditioning- pavlovs dogs salivating when a bell was rung
  • operant conditioning-operating on their environment, skinners pigeons
  • Types of consequences- positive, negative and punishment


  • Strength- scientific credibility- replicable, observable, control.
  • Strength- real life application; token economy system in prisons and wards.
  • Limitation- Mechanistic View- 'machine like responders', cognitive approach suggest more active role in individuals learning, more emphasis on emotions
  • LimitationDeterminism; ignores influence of free will, skinner suggested it was an 'illusion'.
  • Limitation- Ethical issues with animal research; stressful and aversive conditions. Validity?
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Social Learning Theory


  • Agrees with behaviourist approach that learning occurs through experience
  • Learning also occurs through observation and imitation.
  • Vicarious reinforcement- behaviour seen to be rewarded is more likely to be copied
  • Mediational processes- attention , retention, motor reproduction and motivation
  • Identification with role models is important- more likely to imitate behaviour of role model
  • Bandura's reseach- Bobo doll

AO3 -

  • Strength-  Cognitive factors- store info on the behaviour- make judgements on actions.
  • Limitation- evidence is provided by lab studies- demand characteristics of children.
  • Limitation- biological factors- boys have higher levels of testosterone which links to aggression
  • Strength- can account for cultural differences- explains how cultural norms are transmitted
  • Strength- less determinist than the behaviourist approach, reciprocal determinism, free will.
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Cognitive Approach


  • scientific study of mental processes-contrasts behaviourism
  • role of inference- 'private' cannot be observed, make assumptions
  • Theoretical models- information processing, sequence of stages (MSM)
  • Computer models- Imitate the human mind- running programmes
  • Schema- Packages of information, act as a mental framework.


  • Strength- Uses scientific and objective methods- biology & cognitive psychology
  • Strength- Application to real-life- artificial intelligence (robots)
  • Strength- Less determinist- soft determinism, contrasts behaviourism, more flexible
  • Limitation- Machine reductionism- ignores important aspects, like emotions.
  • Limitation- lacks external validity- based on inference, use of artifical stimuli.
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Biological Approach


  • Everything psychological is at first biological- biological structures; genes,nerves etc
  • Genetic and neurochemical basis- inherited same was as physical characteristics- eye
  • Mind and body are one- contrasts the cognitive approach
  • Twin studies- MZ have a higher concordance rate.
  • Genotype-genetic make up and phenotype- ways genes are expressed


  • Strength- Scientific methods of investigation- precise, scanning techniques (fMRI's), drug trials
  • Strength- Real life application- Psychoactive drugs- treat mental disorders, revolutionised Treat.
  • Limitation- Concl. on Neurotransmitters- Assumptions, claims to have a cure when it is an asso.
  • Limitation- Determinism- governed by internal biological causes, no control over- odds at L.S
  • Limitation- Methodological Problem- separating nature and nurture, twins exposed to same environmental conditions (Confounding variable)
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Psychodynamic Approach


  • mind is made up of; conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious
  • Tripartite structure of personality; Id,ego and superego
  • Psychosexual stages; Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital
  • Oedipus Complex- Boys have an incestuous feeling towards mother. Electra Complex
  • Defence Mechanisms- Repression, denial, displacement


  • Strength- Explanatory power- explains wide range of behaviours, draws on childhood.Dominant
  • Strength- Practical Applications- Therapy- Psychoanalysis, access to the unconscious mind.
  • Limitation- Case Study Method- Little Hans, not possible to make universal claims, subjective
  • Limitation- Untestable Concepts- Does not meet criteria of falsification, cannot be disproved
  • Limitation- Psychic determinsm- behaviour is determined by unconsicous conflict in childhood, suggest we have no free will.
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Humanistic Approach


  • Concept of free will is central- rejects scientific attempts to establsih human behaviour
  • Maslow's hierachy- four defiency levels have to be met before reaching self-actualisation
  • Focus on self- 'I' and 'me'
  • Aim of therapy- establish congreuence between self and ideal self (personal growth)
  • Conditions of worth may prevent personal growth- Lack of unconditional positive regard
  • Rogers client -centred therapy; genuineness, empathy and unconditional positive regard


  • Strength- Anti-reductionist, makes it more meaningful, advocate holism, may have more validity
  • Strength- Positive image of the human condition- optimistic in comaprison to freud- 'slaves
  • Limitation- Limited application- Rogerian therapy, lacks sound evidence, loose set of Abstract C
  • Limitation- Untestable concepts- self actualisation is difficult to test. Roger introduced Q-sort
  • Limitation- may be guilty of western cultural bias- associated with individualist cultures.
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Origins of psychology

Origins of psychology

First psychology lab- Opened in Leipzig, Germany in 1879, with the aim to describe the nature of human consciouness, in a carefully controlled and scientific environment

Introspection-First systematic experimental attempt to study the mind by breaking up conscious awareness in the basic structures of thoughts, images and sensations- Structuralism

Standardised procedures-standardised instructions were given to all ppts- replicable 

Significance-his work was significant as it marked the separation of modern scientfic psychology from its broder philisophical roots

Strength- Wundt's methods are scientific- controlled lab environment, standardised procedures

Limitation- some aspects are not scientific- self-reporting techniques were used to report 'private' mental processes, data is subjective, wouldnt meet the criteria of scientific enquiry

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Emergence of psychology as a science

1900's- Early behaviourists rejected introspection- John B Watson argued that introspection was subjective, in that it varied from person to person

1930s- behaviourist scientific approach dominated psychology- BF skinner brought the language and rigour of the natural sciences into psychology. The behaviorists focus on learning and the use of carefully controlled lab studies.

1950's- Cognitive approach used scientific procedures to study mental processes. Following the congitive revolution of the 1960's the study of mental processes was seen as legitimate within psychology 

1990's- The biological approach introduced technological advances. Biological psychologists have taken advanatge of recent advances in technology including scnning techniques


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