Psychological Approaches and Perspectives

An overview of the assumptions, strengths and weaknesses of each of the approaches and perspectives in OCR A2 Psychology.

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Emily
  • Created on: 05-04-12 15:51

Social Psychology: Assumptions

The Social approach attempts to explain out behaviour through an understanding of social processes, human interactions and group behaviour. Areas of particular interest include interpersonal attraction and relationships, prejudice and discrimination and group dynamics.


  • Humans are social animals and human behaviour can be best understood in terms of interpersonal relationships.
  • All behaciour occurs in a social context, even when nobody else is physically present.
  • A major influence on people's behaviour, thought processes and emotions are other people and the society they have created. Situational factors must be taken into account.
1 of 5

Social Psychology: Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Attempt to use real-life situations when studying behaviour through field experiments with high ecological validity and low demand characteristics, e.g. Piliavin.
  • Wide variety of practical applications, e.g. Zimbardo and Reicher and Haslam.


  • Ethics of subjecting people to stressful situations or procedures in an attempt to understand social processes, e.g. Milgram, Zimbardo.
  • Social psychologists do not always have high control of variables as they study human interactions which cannot be controlled in the same way as other variables. It is difficult to devise a valid, reliable measure of human interactions, e.g. Piliavin.
2 of 5

Cognitive Psychology: Assumptions

The Cognitive approach studies our mental processes or cognitions such as memory, perception, thinking and language.


  • The study of internal mental processes is important in understanding behaviour- cognitive processes actively organise and manipulate the information we receive. Huams do not just passively respond to the environment.
  • Humans, like computers, are information processors- regardless of our hardware brains or circuits) both receive, interpret and respond to information. These processes can be modelled and tested scientifically.
  • Information received from our senses is processed by the brain and this processing directs how we behave or at least justifies how we behave the way we do.


3 of 5

Cognitive Psychology: Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Use of scientific equipment and lab experiments means high control and ability to establish cause and effect. Standardised experiments are easy to test for reliability, e.g. Loftus & Palmer, Baron-Cohen.
  • Many useful practical applications. Understanding cognitive processes allows us to help people improve things like memory and language. Understanding cognitive problems can lead to teaching and treatment, e.g. Baron-Cohen.


  • Inner processes are not observable; validity can be questioned, not always objective or reliable, e.g. Savage-Rumbaugh.
  • Can be seen as a reductionist view of human behaviour, ignoring social, cultural and emotional factors.
4 of 5

Developmental Psychology: Assumptions

The Developmental approach is concerned with the psychological changes that occur throughout a person's lifespan, in particular, how we change cognitively and socially. It covers a wide range of topics including thinking, conceptual understanding and problem-solving and developing relationships and the acquisiton of moral understanding.


  • Cogntive, emotional and behavioural development is an ongoing process.
  • Events in early-life can have a long-termeffect on the course of our development.
  • People of the same age share much in common, in terms of cognitive abilities, the issues they face and so on.
  • Cognitive abilities and processes are not static- they
5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Approaches resources »