Psychology: Approaches

  • Created by: GhostRat
  • Created on: 25-02-19 18:31


Early Philosophical Roots & Key Terms

Descartes: Cartesian dualism:mind and body are independent from each other: → mind could be studies as an object in its own right, ‘i think therefore i am’

Locke: Empiricism: all experiences come through the senses , knowledge/instincts are not inherited → basis of the behaviourist approach (studying the external events)

Darwin: Evolutionary theory: behaviour is changed over time to become stronger with adaptive genes → survival of the fittest → roots of the biological approach

Psychology: scientific study of the human mind and its functions → especially those influencing behaviour in a given context

Science: a means of acquiring knowledge through systematic & objective observation

Introspection: first systematic, experimental attempt to study the mind by breaking up the conscious awareness into basic structures of thoughts, images & sensations

Wundt & Introspection:

Lab: `1879, Leipzig Germany → Wundt wanted to document & describe the nature of the human conscious.. Wundt got his co-workers to record their own conscious thoughts and break them down into their constituent parts → structuralism

Controlled methods: All introspections used the same stimulus (ticking metronome) + same standardised instructions → allowed replication.

The Emergence of Psychology as a Science

Watson & The Early Behaviourists; beginning of the 20th cen, scientific status of introspection was questioned.. Especially by John B Watson. Main issue was that the data was subjective (varied from person 2 person) → difficult to establish general principles: Watson = psychology should not be private thoughts but phenomena that could be observed and measured

Scientific approach: Watson → Skinner brought lab experiments to psychology.Many modern psychologists still rely on the experimental method. The study of cognitive approaches/ mental is now seen as legit and highly scientific despite them being private: cognitive psychologists can make inferences from lab tests. Biological approach → experimental data, to investigate physiological processes as they happen: brain scanning techniques: fmRI EEG



  • Only interested in behaviour that can be observed and measured

  • Control & objectivity through lab experiments

  • Basic processes of learning are the same in all species: animals can replace humans in studies

  • All behaviour is learned

  • Two main forms of learning: classical & operant

Classical & Pavlov:

  • Learning through association

  • Dogs saliva, bell & food

  • Neutral stimulus, unconditioned & conditioned responses

Operant & Skinner:

  • Learning is an active process, three consequences of behaviour:

    • Positive reinforcement: recieving a reward

    • Negative reinforcement: avoiding something unpleasant

    • Punishment: unpleasant consequence (avoiding it = NR)

  • P+N reinforcement increases the likelihood of repetition whereas punishment decreases it

  • Experiment = Skinner’s box


Scientific credibility :) brought the language & methods of natural sciences into psychology, focuses on high controlled lab settings and objectivity. Gave the subject credibility (replication) → status

Real-life application :) Principles of conditioning can be applied to real life behaviours & problems → OC = token economy systems in prisons & psychiatric wards. Good behaviour = rewarded and subsequently reinforced

Mechanistic view of behaviour :( from a behaviourist POV animals & humans


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