Psychological Approaches (as/a2)

  • Created by: hdaint
  • Created on: 20-09-16 14:18


  • Created by wundt (the father of psychology), he was the first person to open a psychology lab and lead psychology to be accepted as a science.
  • He wanted to study the mind by breaking down human behaviours into their basic elements.
  • He trained participants to be self aware enough to be able to report their inner mental processes when subjected to certain stimuli.
  • Inaccurate
  • Relied on unobservable processes
  • Difficult to replicate.
  • Can't be used to understand all behaviour eg. language
  • Can't uncover unconcious thoughts and behaviours
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Psychology as a science

Science - An idea is observed, a problem is idnetified and an expereimental investigation is carried out.

An experimental investigation must be:

  • Replicable- When conducted by other researchers the results should be similar to make sure the results can be universally accepted.
  • Objective- Makes sure researchers do not let bias or preconceived ideas influence their research
  • Falsifiable- The reserach should be testible.

The development of theories have to follow a format to make sure it's scientific:

A theory is formulated --> A prediction (hypothesis) is developed to be tested --> an experiment is conducted to test the theory --> the theory is tested again.

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Behaviourist Approach (classical Conditioning

All behaviour is (learnt as we are tabula rasa) and we learn through association.

Pavlov's dog- 

UCS (food) -> UCR (salivation)

NS (bell) -> No response

NS (bell) + UCS (food) -> UCR (salivation)

CS (bell) -> CR (salivation)


  • Valid and reliable (recreations), real world application (systematic desensitisation)
  • Reductionist (stimulus-response units, no free will), can't explain all disorders, animal studies (not generalisable)
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Behaviourist approach (operant conditioning)

Learning through consiquences.

3 ways of learning:

  • Positive reinforcement- the giving of something positive to strengthen behaviour
  • Negative reinforcement- the taking away of something negative to strenghten behaviour
  • Punishment- the giving of something negative to weaken/stamp out behaviour

Skinner's box

A rat was placed in a special box. If it accidentaly pressed a trigger is would get food (+ve reinforcement), it would then carry on pressing the lever conciously to get more. When the food stopped coming the rat would stop pressing the trigger (extinction). Skinner then made a loud noise. Once the rat pulled the trigger it stopeed. If the trigger led to an electric shock the rat was less likely to press it.

  • Controlled (shows cause and effect)
  • Animals (not generalisable), focuses on observable behaviour (no cognitive processes)
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Social Learning Theory

We learn vicariously (through our role models) and the consiquences they face 

3 factors which determine imitation: 1) The characteristics of their role model (the observer must be able to identify with them), 2) The confidence of the observer in their ability to imitate (intrinsic reinforcement), 3) The observed consequences of the behaviour (viracious reinforcement)

Internal processes influence imitation (meditational processes). 4 things must be present:

  • Attention: It must grab the indivivuals attention
  • Retention: The remembering of the behaviour
  • Reproduction: The observer has to believe that they can have the ability to produce the behaviour
  • Motivation: There must be motivation behind the behaviour (the rewards must outweigh the costs)
  • Takes thought processes into account - more holistic
  • Ecological validity (cause + effect), Doesn't explain all behaviour (no role model?)
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Cognitive Approach

The study of internal mental processes. Although the processes are unobservable we have to make inferences by observing behaviour.

Schemas- The cognitive framework that helps organise and interpret existing information. They help us take sortcuts when interpreting information and help fill in the gaps so we know how to act and what to expect in a stituation.

Computer theoretical models - Simple illustative displays which use research to try to find out how mental processes may work. They suggests that humans are just complex information processors.

Cognitive neuroscience- Involves studying the living brain to find out which brain areas/structures and involved in different mental processes eg. PET Scans.

  • Useful applications like how we form biases (schemas), Shows thet dysfunctional behaviour links to irrational thought processes, helps creat treatment (eg. CBT for OCD and depression)
  • Relies on computer models, ignores human error/illness, Over simplifies us we are just info processers, Studies like ecolofical validity eg. Peterson and Peterson
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Biological/biopsychology approach

Attempts to explain behaviour through biology (Genetics, neurochemistry and hormones).

The brain and nervous systems: 4 lobes in brain: frontal lobe/motor cortex (motor skills, higher cognition, expressive language.), occipital lobe/visual cortex (interpreting stimuli), parietal lobe/somatosensory cortex (processing sensory info), temoral lobe/auditory cortex (intrprets sounds and language.

Peripheral nervous system: Two parts: somatic (controls muscles) and Autonomic (regulates automatic processes but there are two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (controls the fight or flight response), the parasympathetic nervous system (regulates the body after the fight or flight response))

Neurotransmitters: Carry info between neurones to pass chemical messages from one pert of the body to the brain.neurotransmitters effect the body differntly eg. too much dopamine = schizophrenia, too little dopamine = Parkinsons disease.

Genetics: We want to see whether behaviour is inherited in the same way as physical characteristics. Genotype = Genetics, phenotype = genetics + behaviour.

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Biological/Biopsychology Approach Evaluation

  • Uses scientific methods and controlled lab studies so it's valid, easily replicable and objective. Supports nature debate and backs it up with evidence. Makes predictions regarding behaviour which can contribute to the development of drugs to prevent abnormal behaviour from ever occuring
  • It's reductionist as it reduces human behaviour to it's smallest part meaning free will and ability of concious thought is overlooked. Unethical for those who could be predisposed to abnormal behaviour (eg. criminals) as they could be stigmatised, it also allows them to blame their biology for criminal offences to avoid taking responsibility.
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Psychodynamic Approach

Our behaviour is determined by our unconcious which can be divided into 3 levels and is influences by our childhood expereinces.

Personality: Id (The instinct part of personality which we are born with and is driven by primitive drives like sex, thirst and hunger) Ego (Our concious mind which developsaround 2-3 years old and is there to balance the Id whist satisfying its needs) and the Superego (The moral part of the personality which takes over the role of a perent by telling us what is morally acceptable. It consists of the conscience (what we should not do) and the ego ideal (what we should do). The conscience makes us feel guilty and the ego ideal makes us feel proud.

Psychosexual stages of development: At each stage of development we have an erogenous zones (area of libido (sexual energies)focus). Oral stage (0-1) focus = mouth, Anal (1-3) focus = anus, Phallic (3-6) focus = genitals, Latency (6-puberty) focus = none, Genital (puberty-maturity) focus = none. (Old Age Pentioners Like Guinness).

Defence Mechanisms: Used when we are unable to deal with a situation. They distort reality, are temporary and can be psychologically damaging if overused. Repressions (forget painful memories), Denial (refusal to accept reality), Displacement (redirecting hostile feels towards something different).

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Psychodynamic Evaluation.

  • The stages have real life application 0-1 put things in their mouths, has application like psycho analysis which is an effective treatment.
  • Gender biased- abused by mother- negative view on women, Unfalsifiable- uncosious so it can't be tested, based on a case study so it's not scientific.
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Humanistic Approach

The study of a person as a whole taking into account freewill (the idea that humans make their own choices and aren't determined by external factors. Humans are active agents).

Maslows hierachy of needs: Behaviour is driven by needs which we need to fulfill to reach self actualisation. The hierachy starts with our basic, physiological needs (eg. breathing, food and water and sex) 

Rogers: Says that everyone wants self-actualisation and that if the environment we are in is good it is easier to acheive. Self-actualisation occurs when our ideal self and our actual self are congruent. 

Conditions of Worth: Our issues start in childhood- if we don't receive unconditional love as a child we will lack self esteem and therefore never reach enlightenment.

Counselling (client-centered therapy): It aims to reduce the gap between the actual self and the ideal self by making the client feel comfortable and gives them unconditional postive regard to boost self asteem and allow the client to move towards self actualisation.

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Humanistic Approach Evaluation

  • Holistic so it considers the whole, positive approach so it has a nice view of humans.
  • Limited application- its too subjective and personal to generalise, Cultural bias- doesnt suit all cultures eg collectivist so they become abnormal, it's hard to test as there is no scientific, empiricle proof.
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