The Eclectic Approach

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The Eclectic Approach

'An eclectic thinker is one who selectively adopts ideas from different sources and combines them in the development of a new theory'

  • In the case of psychology, taking aspects, methods or ideas from each of the 5 perspectives (biological, cognitive, behaviourism, humanism and psychodynamic) may provide a richer fuller and more accurate picture of human nature
  • This definition refers not only to taking ideas and insights from different perspectives, but also putting them together to produce a new theory
  • This new theory should replace two or more perspectives but psychology has not yet progressed to combine ideas and create a whole new perspective
  • The value of adopting an eclective approach in psychology is that human thought and behaviour does not readily lend itself to understanding from one perspective
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The eclectic approach is particularly useful when explaining the causes of mental disorders as research has suggested that there isn't just one root cause.

Diathesis Stress Model- Schizophrenia

  • This suggests that individuals have a biological predisposition to schizophrenia but an environmental stressor (family dysfunction, cannabis, extreme stress) is needed to trigger the symptoms
  • Supported by abnormal brain structures--> people can go their whole life with enlarged ventricles but never develop schizophrenia


  • Concordance rates are 46% MZ for unipolar suggesting there are other factors other than genetics contributing to the cause of depression e.g. observational learning, peer pressure, APD
  • Supported by the fact that antidepressant medication that works by increasing synaptic activity of the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline, have only around 65% efficacy
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Types of Eclecticism

  • Theoretical eclecticism- The combination of different theories and approaches
  • Methodological eclecticism- The combination of different research methods
  • Epistemological eclecticism- The combination of different debates e.g. nature/nurture
  • Applied eclecticism- Combining approaches in applied psychology e.g. treatments
  • Selective eclecticism- Combining approaches or keeping them seperate, depending on the situation
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  • Useful and appropriate in many cases e.g. treatment of depression
  • In therapy, the treatment should be tailored to the individual, therefore an eclectic approach to any therapy is often the most appropriate
  • There is often an overlap between the approaches, with the complexity of human behaviour rarely bein explained by only one approach
  • Adhering to only one approach can narrow our understanding of behaviour and limit research to further our knowledge (using only a biological reductioninst view or only using experiemental methods from behaviorism)
  • Eclecticism can mean considering areas other than psychology e.g. sociology, which can help our understanding of behaviour
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  • Some approaches just can't be combined as this would result in their fundamental difference being ignored e.g. humanism and behaviourism
  • Prevents psychology from being regarded as scientific, as it suggests there is no paradigm (Feyerabend claimed this was a necessity), instead it lends itself to more of a common sense approach
  • Whilst being useful in treatment and therapies, the eclectic approach can mean a therapist fails to be an expert in any particular approach but instead have a shallow understanding of all of them
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