WJEC Psychology A2 Controversies

Essay plans for the controversies questions


Free Will / Determinism

Intro: External or internal factors acting upon the individual. Determinism: beyond control, Free will: choose their own course of action in response to events around them.

Behaviourist: Scientific (observed, recorded, measured), behaviour determined by past experiences and controlled by external forces. Skinner's operant conditioning suggests behaviour is inevitable and predictable, however findings come from research on rats. He believed humans could be conditioned in this way however, human behaviour is more complex. Also, this means people cannot be held responsible for actions. Does provide explanation for criminal behaviour (reinforcement and punshment), token economy.

Humanist: Rogers: we are in control of our environment. Can be held responsible, however doesn't think of social and cultural factors.

Biological: Human behaviour is determined by internal factors such as hormones, genetics, brain structures etc. XYY chromosome- elevated aggression, however doesn't consider females or the environment.

Conclusion: Free will is inconsistant with science, science is route of all knowledge, ability to predict and control behaviour. Cognitive gives a balance (soft determinism), highly constrained situations appear to give detemined behaviour & vice versa.

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Gender Bias

Intro: Representation of men and women based on stereotypes, some theories favour one gender, some have bias sampling, some under or over emphasise differences. Freud suggested women less moral than men due to less trauma in Electra complex. Alpha (real differences) and Beta (minimises differences) bias, androcentrism (research, theories conducted by men)

Alpha: Hoffman found female children to be better at resisting temptation (go back to Freud's morality of females). Evolution gives reasons for differences in roles of men and women (however, culture changes). Most journals in psychology only publish significant findings therefore much research shows differences.

Beta: Often studies don't analyse genders separately. Kohlberg's theory of moral development based on studies on young boys, then applied to both genders. Asch only used men but Eagly found women were even more conformant than men, however she argued it was due to interpersonal goals.

Androcentrism: Male behaviour is normal and female behaviour is different. Tarvis said that male researchers see from a different perspective eg. 'women value their efforts less than men' rephrased- 'men overvalue the work they do'

Conclusion: Tarvis said society, politics, business and media show gender bias, feminist psychologists say give less emphasis on biological differences, focus on social + cultural factors.

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Genetics / Environment

Intro: Nativists assume all behaviour is due to genetics, Empiricists assume all behaviour is due to the environment, interactionists believe its a combination. Biological approach is nativist, behaviourist is empiricist and cognitive and psychodynamic is interactionist.

Evolutionary: Bennett-Levy and Marteau- phobias of animals helps survival, however could be conditioning. Buss- human mating is due to success at reproduction, however could be society and culture. Also, the matching hypothesis and social exchange theory disregard this. Gibson and Walk- majority of babies didn't walk off the visual cliff, however all babies could crawl, therefore it could have already been learnt. Intelligence has been shown to be genetic by Bouchard and McGue (twin studies), also environmental from the Flynn effect. Aggression has also been shown to be genetic with twin studies (Coccaro), however may be learnt through observation, vicarious reinforcement or SLT. Genes can alter the environment (reactive, passive and active influences).

Conclusion: Interactionist approaches are most likely to be more reliable due to much contradictory evidence in the arguement.

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Scientific Benefit / Ethical Cost

Gross- humans and animals feel pain (physical and emotional) and inflicting this on others is morally unacceptable. Double obligation dilemma- obligation to both science and the participant.

Deception + Informed consent: Could cause stress from embarrassment or anxiety. Giving true aims of the study would invalidate results, by causing demand characteristics and issues with ecological validity. However, sometimes the outcome outweighs the cost eg Rosenhan, Loftus. Often participants aren't bothered by being decieved eg Asch (students were enthusiastic) and Milgram (paid). Debriefing helps to overcome deception.

Harm to participants: Milgram argued that with only studies creating positive emotions, we would have a lop sided view of psychology. However scientific benefit wouldn't be apparent from the outset of the experiment and participants wouldn't care about scientific benefit when they were distressed.

Other types of research method: Observations: Natural behaviour, less demand characteristics, issues with privacy and confidentiality. Field experiments: Higher ecological validity due to natural environment. But right to withdraw is an issue, Langer and Rodin's participants were denied control in their own lives. Case Studies: Higher validity, only way to study phenomena such as brain damage (HM) or neglect (Genie). Right to withdraw and privacy can be issues. Animals: Choosing between human and animal suffering, without animal testing there would be few advances in medicine. However, animals have no protection from harm. Conclusion: Aronson: cost benefit analysis, however, Baumrind suggests that psychology's benefit is not as great as medical's, therfore the same methods should not be used.

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Psychology as a Science

Intro: Science has: controlled observations, objectivity, prediction testing, falsifiablity, paradigm and replicablilty. The behaviourist approach demonstrates these concepts.

Some levels of psychology are scientific: Other sciences are reductionist which is considered desirable as it allows for testable predictions. Able to establish cause and effect, control extraneous variables and therefore more reliable. This also makes them falsifiable (Bandura disproved by Joy and Chalton). Pschodynamic and humanist approaches are unfalsifiable. However, ecological validity, demand characteristics and nomothetic bias occurs with scientific methodology. Psychology lacks objectivity: Popper argued that you can't observe without being objective- always have some idea of what they are looking for. We see the world from our own viewpoint or biases (humans studying humans). Studying behaviour relies on interpretation not fact.

Psychology shares the goals of science: science has 3 aims: prediction, understanding and control. Humanist approach doesn't make predictions, behaviourist only predicts, no explanation, Milgram's study predicts and explains but we cannot control. Miller- pseudoscience- an approach that claims to be scientific but doesn't adhere to key principles of scientific process. Goals of science may not be appropriate: Humanist Manslow suggested that the uniqueness of the individual doesn't fit into what we know of science and we must be more idiographic. Psychological disorders such as schizophrenia cannot be treated effectively with science as distress and suffering is disregarded. Social constructionism- there is no objective reality because psychology is a product of cultural and historical circumstances. Conclusion: Kuhn

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