Approaches revision notes


Approaches revision

Origins of psychology – Wundt

Started controlled empirical scientific research. opened the first psychological lab in Leipzig Germany 1870s studying internal mental processes. Used introspection (self-examination), analysing your own conscious experience to standard stimuli (metronome), reporting present experience such as sensations, emotional reaction, and metal images. Systematic approach, same stimulus, surroundings, and instructions, the participants were highly trained. Breaking thought about an object down into separate elements was an attempt to uncover the structure of the mind. This approach was called structuralism.


o   Work paved the way for later scientifically controlled research in psychology.
o   Criticised by later behaviourist learning theorists who thought internal mental processes could not be studied scientifically by introspection, they focused only on observable stimuli and behaviours, seeing the mind as a  ‘black box’ not open to objective scientific investigation.
o   The study of internal mental process was later continued by cognitive psychologists who build models of how systems such as memory worked, however they use experimentation, not introspection.

The behaviourist approach

Developed in attempt to make psychology more scientific by using highly controlled experiments, criticised earlier attempts to study internal mental processes, seeing the mind as a ‘black box’.

·       Classical conditioning – (learning by association) learning happens when a NS is consistently paired with an UCS so eventually the NS becomes a CS producing the response caused by the UCS.

·       Pavlov – demonstrated this with dogs who would associate the sound of a bell or metronome (NS®CS) with food (UCS), and drool (R).

Stimulus generalisation – conditioned response happens with similar stimulant (e.g. little Albert was classically conditioned to fear a white rat and became afraid of a dog, a fur coat, and a Santa mask).

·       Operant conditioning – (learning by trial and error) learning from connection between behaviours and consequences.

·       Skinner – demonstrated in rats who learnt from trial and error that pulling on a lever would release a food pellet. The lever pulling behaviour became more frequent and deliberate overtime. The rats also learnt to press the lever to stop the floor of the cage being electrocuted for 30 seconds.

Types of reinforcement – positive (adding stimulus to increase their behaviour), negative (removing stimulus to increase behaviour), punishment (adding stimulus to decrease behaviour), extinction (stopping reinforcement will result in behaviour stopping overtime).


o   Little Albert study – showed fear could be learned response, suggesting not instinctual. Led to development of behavioural explanation and counter conditioning treatments for phobias.
o   Behavioural theories have been used to control human behaviour (token economies) this can be seen as unethical.
o   Environmentally deterministic – Behaviours result from learning from the environment, not free will. Hard determinism, no role for free will in behaviourist theories.
o   Use objective scientific experimental methods – systematically manipulating variables, focus on observable behaviour demonstrates cause and effect.
o   Reductionist – focuses on lower levels of explanation (e.g. stimulus response associations…


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