What are psychological approaches?
Over the past 100 years or so, competing ideas from psychologists all over the world have been gradually merged in to a set of GENERAL approaches based on SHARED ideas.
Requirements for AS
You need to be able to:
- Describe the main assumptions of each approach
-Outline how each approach explains specific psychological phenomena.
- Outline the methods used for research within each approach.
- Identify aspects of this approach within psychological studies.
The Behaviorist Perspective
General Assumptions of the Behaviourist perspective:
- Our environment is important is it provides, tiggers, reinforcements and punishment for our behaviour, and so alter the types of behaviour we carry out. E.g. giving a child a sticker to reinforce good behaviour.
- The only thing behaviourists consider important is that our behaviour can be OBSERVEd. Observable behaviour includes such things as heart rate and galvanic skin respones, e.g. when someone sweats they reveal that they are nervous.-It does not matter how a behaviour is learned, pleasant things will always increase the change of that behaviour being repeated and the opposite for BAD BEHAVIOUR.
Behaviourist Core Studies:
- Bandura et al conducted an observational experiment where children observed male and female behaviour when they were acting aggressive towards a Bobo doll. Children were then told that they couldn't play with certain dolls in order to create frustration. Afterwards, it was evident that the behaviour of the role model had been learned through observation, researchers witnessed direct limitations of the role models behaviour.
Other Core Studies with behaviourist elements-
- Milgrams study of obedience
- Griffith's study of the cognitive biases held by regular fruit machine gamblers
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Behaviorist Approa
- Very scientific - uses lab experiments which are WELL CONTROLLED with high internal validity.
-It has shown that much behaviour is learned through reinforcement, extinction and punishment and so has PRACTICAL APPLICATION.
-Collect qualitative behaviour e.g. Bandura study which gives an in depth explanation of behaviour, QUALITATIVE DATA.
- Most of experimental work has been done on animals and generalised to humans - NOT A REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE.
- Many lab experiments lack ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY.
- QUALITATIVE DATA is hard to analyse and so conclusions may not be reliable.
- Lab experiments can be INTIMATING and response bias/ DEMAND CHARACTERISTICS may occur.
Physiological Approach Assumptions:
-Behaviour is a consequence of our natural biological functions. These functions are how our nerves and hormones interact to produce our behaviour. e.g. there are areas in our brain that can control our movement.
-If there is a change in our biological functioning, then there will be a change in our behaviour e.g. taking drugs.
- We often have very little conscious control over our behaviour.
- Much of human behaviour has a physiological cause which can be genetically or environmentally altered.
-Physchologists should study the brain, nervous system and other biological systems e.g. hormones acting on the brain.
Core Studies of the Physiological Approach:
- Sperry - split brain study.
- Dement and Kleitman - Dreams and sleeping.
- Piliavin - analysis of why people help a stranger (mentions stress as a reason why people help)
Strengths + Weaknesses of Physiological Approach
- Use of complex machinery allows for accurate and precise measurements - HIGH CONTROLS.
- Scientific approach lends credance to study of psychology and establishes it as a respectable science.
- Impact of biology on behaviour can lead to treatment and intervention of suffering - HIGH PRACTICAL APPLICATION.
- Understanding how an abnormal brain works can shed light on normal brain functioning - HIGH PRACTICAL APPLICATION.
-Mostly LAB EXPERIMENTS and so have HIGH INTERNAL VALIDITY.
- QUASI EXPERIMENTS - high in ecological validity.
-Research may focus on rare conditions that have little impact on every day lives for most people (LOW PA).
- Complex machinery operated by humans and therefore measurements are subject to HUMAN ERROR.
-Correlations are frequently achieved which CANNOT DETERMINE CAUSE AND EFFECT.
- Can be REDUCTIONIST and not take in to account other explanations for behaviours or extraneous variables.
Individual Differences Approach
General assumptions of the Individual Differences Approach:
- Focuses on the way in which people differ.
-Assumes that what makes us invidivual also makes us behave as individuals, e.g. intelligence, personality, gender.
- Recognises the possible miss use of psychological evidence as a form of social control.
- Understands the usefulness of identifying the causes of 'disfunctional' behaviours and helping people over come these in order to function in society.
Core studies of the Individual Differences Approach:
- Thigpen and Cleckley - study of MPD.
- Rosenhan - Study where 12 mental institutions were tested on their ability to diagnose mental illnesses correctly.
- Griffiths - Gambling addictions and possible cognitive differences between gamblers and none-gamblers.
-Mostly LAB experiments.
- Sometimes Case Studies.
- Collect both qualitative and quantitative data - triangular method.
Strengths + Weaknesses of Individual Differences
- Important elements of peoples behaviour are analysed which are often over looked by other approaches.
- Addresses issue of BIAS in psychology.
- Helps to understand where the concept of normality comes from - high PA.
- High in VALIDITY (always a real life situation).
- High in INTERNAL VALIDITY as most are lab experiments.
-Cannot make generalisations about people (SMALL INDIVIDUAL CASE STUDIES).
- May be used to emphasise differences which can lead to discrimination (LOW PA).
- ETHICS of some of the studies are questionable.
- Lack reliability because of focus on individual causes - OBSERVER BIAS.
The Cognitive Approach
General Assumptions of the Cognitive Approach:
- It is our thinking, our cognitions that determine our behaviour.
-We can work out what our congitions are by controlling what we are exposed to and measuring our response. e.g. short term memory games.
- Our brains are like computers and information presented to us is processed and our behaviour is a consequence of that process.
- Although mental processes take place in the brain, the mind is not a physical entity and understanding how the brain works does not always tell us how cognitions are working.
- Loftus and Palmer - testing the ability to remember events to give an eye witness testimony.
-Savage Rumbaugh - Apes - animals may have cognitive abilities.
- Baron-Cohen et al - Testing theory of mind of HFA.
Other studies with cognitive elements:
- Samuel and Bryant
- Piliavin et al.
Strengths + Weaknesses of the Cognitive Approach
- Gives mostly QUANTITATIVE data which is easy to analyse and compare.
- It is useful for helping us find out how the mind works - knowledge that can be applied to education systems etc - PA.
- Highly scientific approach, LAB EXPERIMENT, HIGH CONTROLS, HIGH ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY and so more RELIABLE.
- Experimental design allows for establishing CAUSE AND EFFECT.
- It is REDUCTIONIST - doesn't take in to account other variables or factors.
- Lacks ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY - mostly lab experiments, CONTROLS.
- Makes assumptions about 'normal' functioning (LOW PA).
- Lab Experiment.
- Independant measures.
- High control over IV and DV.
The Social Approach
Main Assumptions of the Social Approach:
- The way we interact with others affects the way we think / feel / behave. e.g. social influence.
- Interested in how we make sense of ourselves, how we judge ourselves, self perception and identity.
- It also considers how we relate to others and so includes areas such as conflict, co operation and relationships.
Core studies of Social Approach:
-Piliavin et al.
- Reicher and Haslam
- Field experiment
- Quantitative data
Strengths + Weaknesses of Social Approach
- Psychologists need to understand how far other people influence our behaviour - PA.
- Social psychology helps us understand how we behave in groups - PA.
- Helps explain some of the extraordinary behaviour we see from humans - PA.
- Field Experiments - HIGH ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY.
-Lab Experiments - HIGH CONTROLS.
- Quantitative data - ANALYSE AND COMPARE.
- Usually unethical (INFORMED CONSENT)
- Mostly research which may not realistically show how others influence us.
- DETERMINISTIC as it doesn't recognise other influences.
- Lab experiments - LOW ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY.
- Interested in how and why we develop as we do.
-Assumes that development is an ongoing process.
-Changes occur over a persons life time as a result of inherited factors or life time experiences (nature vs nerture).
- Longitudinal case studies
- Freud - Little Hans shows his theory of psychosexual development.
- Samuel and Bryant - Focuses on cognitive development
- Bandura et al - Behaviourist approach focus is on behaviour itself and not mental processes behind it.
Strengths + Weaknesses of Developmental Approach
- Longitudinal studies are data rich and allow you to watch changes in behaviour over a period of time (HIGH PA, HIGH ECOLOGICAL VALIDITY).
- Allows us to explain apparently 'abnormal' behaviour in children (PA).
- Allows us to examine development from a number of different perspectives (PA).
-Collects qualitative data.
- Researchers can become more subjective (BIAS)
- Hard to replicate and time consuming - UNRELIABLE.
- Unethical - mostly involves children.
- Need to study how people change throughout their lives which may not be possible and subjects may be lost from the study (UNRELIABLE).
- Qualitative can be interpreted differently by different people - INTERPRETATION.