Reductionism Vs Holism

  • Created by: Erin
  • Created on: 18-05-13 19:34


  • Reductionism is the view that complex phenomena can be understood by reducing them to seperate similar parts
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  • Suggests all living things (animals and humans) are not whole beings that work automatically
  • They are not seen 'holistically'
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Psychological reductionism

  • Psychological explanations are replaced by physiological explanations e.g. brain operations, genetics
  • Provide simple explanations that can be tested scientifically
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Biological reductionism

  • Explains human behaviour in terms of similar animals
  • Assumes that there is a continuity of behvaiour between animals and humans e.g. Savage Rumbaugh
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Reductionism and levels of explanation

Some argue that the 'best science' focuses on the deepest levels e.g. reductionisn is a problem


  • scientific, easily tested and concise explanations
  • successful interventions


  • many lose features of the phenomenon of interests
  • most behaviour may have a social may not correspond to biological processes
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  • Why have seperate parts when you can put them together and make them work
  • Human behaviour is highly complex
  • Focusing on the whole individual irather than the scientific characteristics
  • Looks at why people do things rather than what they do

Holism is useful because it shows us why people do what they do

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