Approaches, perspectives, methods, issues and debates in Psychology



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Approaches, perspectives, methods, issues and debates in Psychology

This section of the specification requires students to consider all aspects of the AS and A2 course, not just the methodological issues raised in the research methods section. This provides the opportunity to have wider debates about psychology and to use all the knowledge you have gained during your studies.


Activity:

Discuss the following in small groups




  • What is the most surprising piece of knowledge you have gained during this course?




  • Has studying Psychology changed the way you ‘see the world’?




  • If you were to become a Psychologist, what would you most want to research?




  • What is the most useful thing psychology has taught you?

The exam questions will follow a similar format and expect you to be able to do the following:




  • Outline an approach, perspective, method, issue or debate.




  • Describe two pieces of research that highlight an approach, perspective, method, issue or debate.




  • Discuss the strengths and limitations of an approach, perspective, method, issue or debate.




  • Discuss how one approach, perspective, method, issue or debate compares with another.




  • Discuss the usefulness of the psychology you have covered in the question.

How the approaches, perspectives, methods, issues and debates all fit together.



Approaches

The approaches in this specification reflect the areas in which psychological research is carried out. These were the areas covered in the AS course





Social

Key Assumptions: Social approaches are concerned with how the individual relates to others. A wide range of research methods and techniques are used to study social interactions. Typically this area focuses on how individuals behave in groups and how these may influence decision-making.


Strengths

Weaknesses

The research is often clearly related to real-life situations. The context of social psychology research makes the findings interesting to many people. A wide range of evidence has been obtained.


Dangerous to make wide ranging generalisations across all social groups. It can reduce the importance of the individual. Has been dominated by old ‘classic’ studies.



Physiological

Key Assumptions: Studies the biological basis of human behaviour. This may involve discovering localised function in the brain. This can be done by working with brain-damaged patients but more recently involves neuro-imaging techniques. Often focuses on the chemical basis for human behaviour e.g. serotonin and depression. May also consider the genetic basis for behaviour.


Strengths

Weaknesses

Has provided a large body of evidence about the location and chemical basis of behaviour. Clinicians are now able to treat mental disorders with chemicals or by surgery.

Can be regarded as reductionist and therefore does not take into account the whole person. Findings may not show cause and effect: are serotonin levels a cause or effect of depression?




Individual differences

Key Assumptions: This approach recognises that the human condition is extremely diverse and questions the need to provide generalisations about behaviour. Studies are often focused on gender, cultural diversity, personality and pathological behaviour. Research uses a wide variety of methodologies.


Strengths

Weaknesses

Recognises the diverse nature of human behaviour and does not focus on a mythical ‘average’ individual. Evidence comes from many sources. Very useful with applications to everyday life.

Could be following a dream. We are all unique individuals, so ultimately maybe only individuals should be studied. It can highlight differences rather than celebrating diversity.





Developmental

Key Assumptions: An approach to understanding the human condition that covers the whole lifespan. Researchers use a wide range of methods and techniques. The focus is on how behaviours are initiated and then develop. Typical areas of study include; emotional and moral development; how thinking develops and how children learn to communicate.


Strengths

Weaknesses

This approach considers the whole lifespan and therefore behaviours are seen in context. There is a large and varied body of evidence that has provided interesting insights.

Often focuses on the development of the child to the detriment of adolescents or adults. Wide-ranging research can produce conflicting viewpoints. Often dominated by old ‘classic’ research.




Cognitive

Key Assumptions: This regards mental processes to be important and these are internal, not external, events. What is studied are the processes that come between an external stimulus and the behavioural response. Research is often experimental or linked to developing models of how the mind may work. Recent work is influenced by neuro-imaging.


Strengths

Weaknesses

This is a useful area of study and cognitive psychologists work in a wide range of fields: developmental, social and clinical. The experimental basis provides rigorous findings.

Research is often not ecologically valid. Can be reductionist as it tries to turn complex processes into simple models. It is heavily influenced by computer analogies that provide logical models of the mind, but the mind may not be logical.



Perspectives

The two perspectives in this specification are the behaviourist and psychodynamic perspectives. Many people may also call these approaches, but in this context they are used to represent two extremes of thinking about the human condition


Behaviourism - Also known as learning theory

Behaviourists insist that psychology should be the study of behaviour, rather than the inner workings of the mind. Unlike mental processes, behaviour can be directly observed. The behaviour model, therefore, has a scientific approach, as it is based on observation and measurement within a laboratory. Behaviourism was first formulated around the beginning of the 20th century. According to this model all behaviour, both normal and abnormal is learnt by a process know as conditioning. There are three main ways in which we learn behaviour: - Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning and Social Learning Theory.




  1. Classical Conditioning

Classical or Pavlovian conditioning involves learning new behaviour through association between two stimuli. The concept of Classical Conditioning was first formulated by Ivan Pavlov, who was investigating the salivatory reflex in dogs. The salivatory reflex is a response, which occurs automatically when food is placed on the dog’s tongue. He noticed that dogs salivated in response to anything associated with the feeding routine (e.g. dish, person). By ringing a bell prior to feeding Pavlov could condition (train) the dogs to salivate just in response to the bell.


Key Terms: -
Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) = food touching the tongue

Unconditioned Response (UCR) = Salivation

Conditioned Stimulus (CS) = Bell

Conditioned Response (CR) = Salivation


At the start f the experiment, the CS does not cause a reflex response by itself. After many pairing (the exact number depends on how quickly the animal learns), with the UCS eventually the dog salivates just in response to the bell. This is called learning through association.
Task: - Using the key terms draw a diagram to illustrate Classical Conditioning in Pavlov’s Dogs. The first stage has been completed for you.


  1. UCS (food) = UCR (Salivation)







Application of Classical Conditioning to abnormal behaviour
Most learnt behaviours are useful. However, sometimes-maladaptive behaviours are learnt. Watson & Rayner (1920) applied the principles of Classical Conditioning to humans. They succeeded in inducing a fear of white rats (phobia) in an 11-month-old child. Watson & Rayner discovered that ‘Little Albert’, in common with most small children, displayed a fear response when he heard a loud noise. They made a loud noise by hitting a steel bar with a hammer behind him. This loud noise was the UCS in the experiment and fear was the UCR. Originally, Albert showed no fear of the white rat (CS) and played quite happily with it. However, after several pairing of the loud noise (UCS) and the white rat (CS), he displayed fear (UCR) in response to just the white rat. Little Albert had learnt to fear and avoid white rats without the loud noise being present. He had been conditioned to associate white rats with fear. However, Little Albert generalised this fear to other white fluffy things including Dr. Watson wearing a white beard!
Task: - Draw a classical conditioning diagram for little Albert.
1)

2)

3)

  1. Operant Conditioning

This was developed by B F Skinner (1904-1990). In operant conditioning behaviour is shaped through reinforcement.


Positive reinforcement – encourages behaviour to be repeated, by using rewards (e.g. training your dog with chocolate drops).
Negative reinforcement – behaviour with negative outcomes tends not to be repeated (e.g. a child who burns itself of the oven learns not to touch the oven).
Punishment – decreases the likelihood that behaviour is repeated. However, punishment has been found to ineffective as a negative reinforcement. This is because it is not a direct consequence of the behaviour. Children who are punished often simply find ways to avoid detection and the punishment rather than modify their behaviour.
This model can explain way people persist with maladaptive behaviour. For example, the naughty child may continue with bad behaviour, despite of punishment, because he/she is actually being positively reinforced with attention. Many parents and teachers ignore good behaviour. To effectively shape a child’s behaviour it would be preferable to ignore bad behaviour, where practical, and praise good behaviour.
Skinner (1935) designed an experiment to demonstrate the principles of operant conditioning. A rat or pigeon was placed in a box (Skinner box)



How does the Skinner box demonstrate operant conditioning?
Schedules of reinforcement
In the case of the Skinner box, if a food reinforcer is not dispensed for every single lever press, but to a predetermined schedule then different response patters will emerge. Skinner experimented by using different ratio schedules e.g. 1:5 a food pellet was dispensed every 5th lever press. He discovered that unpredictable reinforcement was more successful for conditioning behaviour than continuous reinforcement.
Why do you think this is? (Hint: Gambling)



  1. Social Learning Theory

A later development of behaviourism was Social Learning Theory (SLT). The term was introduced by Bandura in the 1960s. He was studying aggression in children after they had been exposed to aggressive role models. In SLT learning is through indirect observation. Individuals observe role models and the consequences of their actions. If the consequences are positive (or at least not punished) they imitate the behaviour. For example, if children observe a naughty child, not being punished, and in fact benefiting from their action through teacher attention, they are likely to copy.



Evaluation of Behaviourism


Strengths

Weaknesses









Psychodynamic Perspective – Freud


Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), is viewed as the founder of the psychodynamic approach. He began his career as a doctor of medicine, but soon realised that some of his patient’s symptoms such as paralysis and severe headaches had no physical cause. Freud proposed that the physical symptoms were actually caused by deep-rooted psychological conflict within the unconscious mind. This idea that the unconscious mind could influence behaviour formed the basis of the psychodynamic approach.


Assumptions of the psychodynamic approach


  • The psychodynamic approach states that unconscious forces in our mind, determine our thoughts, feelings and behaviour (the term dynamic refers to the ongoing movement of these forces).

  • Our behaviour as adults is strongly influenced by our childhood experiences.

  • Abnormal behaviour is the result of mental conflict.

  • The mind can be divided into three levels of consciousness, which can be illustrated by the iceberg analogy. The unconscious mind, which is hidden below the surface, has the most influence on our personality.

Iceberg Analogy



Freud’s theories


  1. The structure of personality

Freud viewed the adult personality as having three basic components – Id, Ego and Superego.


Id – This is the instinct part of the personality and we are born with it. It is the source of our unconscious desires and impulses. It demands instant gratification of its needs, which consist of hunger, thirst and sex. It is the primitive part of our personality and as it seeks to obtain pleasure, it is said to operate on the pleasure principle.
Ego – The ego represents are conscious mind. It develops around the age of 2-3 years. Its purpose is to balance the Id in society. The child realises that the demands of the Id cannot always be met. The ego is logical and rational and seeks to satisfy the Id in socially acceptable ways. It operates according to the reality principle.
Superego – This is formed around the age of 5-6 years and contains our moral values, therefore it operates on the morality principle. The superego is our internalised same-sex parent, so for females morality comes from the mother and for males, the father. The superego ensures that the ego does not use unacceptable means to satisfy the demands of the Id. It is around the age of 5-6 years that parents start to demand that the child acts in more socially acceptable ways. The superego gradually takes over this parental role and tells us inside our own head how we should behave. It consists of two parts, the conscience and ego ideal. The conscience tells us what we should not do, right and wrong. Whilst the ego ideal tells us what we should do. The conscience makes us feel guilty; the ego ideal makes us feel proud.
Task: - Answer the following questions.


  1. Which of the three components of the personality are we born with?




  1. Which is the last component to develop?




  1. Which operates as the pleasure principle, and why?




  1. Which operates as the reality principle, and why?




  1. Which operates as the morality principle, and why?




  1. What does this theory suggest about boys brought up without a male role model?




  1. Psychosexual stage of development

This theory is very controversial because Freud suggests that sexual energy is present right from birth, an idea that many people are uncomfortable with. However, Freud is talking about unconscious desires, children are not necessarily aware of these needs and desires.
Freud thought that different parts of our bodies become particularly sensitive as we grow. Freud called these erogenous zones. He believed that we pass through 5 different stages of development, and within each stage our sexual energy, libido, is focused on a particular body organ. Freud called these stages psychosexual stages of development.
Oral stage 0-1 year – The mouth is the focus of sensation and pleasurable experiences; this is the organ of pleasure. This is the least contentious of the stages, there is biological evidence that babies do have more nerve endings in this area and from a survival point of view it makes perfect sense to derive pleasure from suckling. Freud suggested that an individual could become fixated in this stage if they were either under or over fed as a baby.
Anal stage 1-3 years – The organ of pleasure is now the anus. The child derives pleasure from retention (holding) or expulsion (letting go) of faeces. In this stage the child becomes aware of the demands of reality, as the parent begins to impose potty training on the child. For the first time the child has restrictions imposed on its behaviour. It is in this stage that the Ego develops. Too strict or too lax potty training can result in the child becoming fixated in this stage. The child may also come to realise that they can exercise power over the parents by the retention or expulsion of faeces. There are two possible outcomes to this fixation, either an anally retentive or an anally expulsive personality.

Phallic stage 3-6 years
The organ of pleasure is now the genitals, as the child becomes fully aware of gender differences; it becomes obsessed with its own genitals. According to Freud, this is the most important stage of development and is where the Oedipus complex occurs.
Oedipus complex this occurs during the phallic stage of psychosexual development. It originates from the Greek tragedy of King Oedipus who unwittingly married his mother and killed his father. Freud suggested that children in the phallic stage begin to have unconscious sexual desires for their opposite sex parent. This makes them resentful of the same sex parent, as they see them as a competitor for their parent’s love.
Boys, unconsciously desire their mothers, but realise their father is bigger and stronger, so they can’t compete. When they realise that girls don’t have a penis, they think they have been castrated and fear that their father will castrate them too, if their desire for their mother is uncovered. This is known as castration anxiety. In order to resolve this anxiety, boys identify with their father and internalise his morals and standards, which becomes the superego. Boys think that if they become more masculine their father will like them and not want to castrate them!
The Electra Complex was not clearly defined by Freud. As he was a product of his time, he concentrated on boys in his theories and added girls on, as almost, an after thought. Freud viewed femininity as failed masculinity and is therefore very unpopular with feminists. Freud argued that girls believe they do not have a penis because their mother must have already castrated them. They turn to their fathers for love in the hope of regaining their penis. Girls suffer Penis Envy for the rest of their lives. The only way a woman can resolve her penis envy is by having a male baby, taking a male lover or having a career, basically try to become more like a man as a way of compensating for the lack of penis.
Latency Stage 6 years – Puberty In this stage sexual desires remain dormant. Children want nothing to do with the opposite sex, as social and intellectual development occurs.
Genital Stage Puberty – maturity This stage marks the beginning of mature adult sexuality. The calm of latency is disrupted as the Id makes powerful demands in the form of heterosexual desires. The opposite sex is now needed to satisfy the libido.
Phrase to help you remember these stages: - Old Age Pensioners Love Gin.
Fixation – Each child needs to pass successfully through these stages, yet conflict can occur in each stage (except latency). If the child receives too much or too little stimulation the libido might become fixated in this stage. This would seriously affect the development of the adult personality. Fixation in the genital stage is normal (NB this means Freud viewed homosexuality as abnormal!).
Task: -

Below are some of the personality traits that Freud predicted as a result of fixation. For each one, try to identify someone famous, who appears to be fixated in this stage,



Stage

Personality Trait

Famous Person

Oral

Dependent, trusting, excessive interest in drinking, eating, smoking, bites nails, argumentative, envious.




Anal

Anally retentive (harsh potty training) – Orderly, clean, miserly, obstinate and cruel.

Anally expulsive – Untidy, generous and impulsive.






Phallic

Vain, reckless, self-centred, ambitious, exploits others.





Fill in the gaps


Stage

Age

Distinguishing feature

Oral

0-1







1-3

Pleasure is derived from the controlling and expulsion of faeces.

Phallic

3-6







6-puberty







Puberty - maturity

Onset of adult sexuality


Define the following key terms and identity the stage at which they occur.
Penis Envy

Oedipus complex

Castration Anxiety

Fixation


Electra complex
Evaluation


Strengths

Limitations







Methods

These have been covered at AS in the work we did for the Psychological Investigations exam and also in A2 in the Research Methods work.


Issues

Again this has been covered in Psychological Investigations and Research Methods work and focuses on the issues that Psycho lists must consider when planning research such as ethics and qualitative versus quantitative approaches.


Debates

These are the more wide ranging discussions that psychologists must get involved in to appreciate the problems that need to be addressed when researching human behaviour.





Debate

Discussion


Determinism vs. Free will

Do humans have a free choice to behave as they wish, or is their behaviour determined for them?

Reductionism vs. holism

Should psychologists study and understand the whole person or concentrate on the smallest unit that is responsible for behaviour?

Nature vs. nurture

Which has more impact on our development, our genes or our environment?

Ethnocentrism

Is psychological research based too heavily on certain ethic groups?

Psychology as a science

Is psychology a science and should it follow the rules of science?

Individual vs. situational explanations

What makes people so what they do: themselves or the situation they are in?

The usefulness of psychological research

Can psychology be applied to our everyday lives?


Activity:

Complete the following table. In each box, select one key study or theory from the psychology options we have studied and summarise the strengths and weaknesses for this perspective.




Perspective

Forensic Psychology

Health and clinical Psychology

AS Level

Behaviourist


Study
Strengths

Weaknesses



Study
Strengths

Weaknesses



Study
Strengths

Weaknesses



Psychodynamic


Study
Strengths
Weaknesses

Study
Strengths
Weaknesses

Study
Strengths
Weaknesses


Activity:

Complete the following table. In each box, select one key study or theory from the psychology options we have studied and summarise the strengths and weaknesses for this approach.




Approach

Forensic Psychology

Health and Clinical Psychology

AS Level

Physiological


Study
Strengths

Weaknesses




Study
Strengths

Weaknesses



Study
Strengths

Weaknesses




Cognitive



Study

Strengths

Weaknesses


Study

Strengths

Weaknesses


Study

Strengths

Weaknesses


Individual Differences


Study
Strengths

Weaknesses




Study
Strengths

Weaknesses



Study
Strengths

Weaknesses



Developmental



Study
Strengths
Weaknesses


Study
Strengths
Weaknesses

Study
Strengths
Weaknesses

Social


Study
Strengths
Weaknesses



Study
Strengths
Weaknesses

Study
Strengths
Weaknesses

Debates in Psychology



Determinism vs. Free will
Determinism

This is the principle that all human behaviour results from either internal or external causes. Therefore the role of psychologists is to study human behaviour and to find out these causes as once they are known it would be possible to explain present behaviour and predict future behaviour. Behaviourists would argue that all behaviour results from interactions with the external world and the possibility of punishment or reward. Psychodynamic theorists suggest unconscious processes are the cause of human behaviour. Both of these theories are heavily deterministic as they suggest that all behaviours have an identifiable cause.


Activity:

Consider these questions:

Is it possible to predict and control human behaviour?

Can determinism be disproved?


If behaviour is determined, how should we deal with those people who are regarded as antisocial? Think about criminals, bullies, liars and cheats. Should we punish them or try and alter their behaviour?
Free will

This suggests that human behaviour can be chosen at will. This means that we actively decide what we wish to do. The behaviourists would argue that this ‘choice’ is in fact a response that has been learned from interacting with the external environment. Psychodynamic theorists would suggest that these decisions are just responses to internal unconscious processes. Believers in free will would argue that behaviour does not have a cause and all in

Individuals are free to make choices about their behaviour.
How can Determinism vs Free Will debate be used to explain
Milgram’s findings


Piliavin’s findings

Activity:

Think about any simple and obvious behaviour and discuss whether this is a free will decision or whether other processes have determined your actions.


In small groups discuss whether humans have free will and if so, how should we deal with misbehaviour?
Can you think of an occasion when you would prefer to believe that your actions were determined rather than due to your own free will?


Synoptic Questions
Is aggressive behaviour something that individuals can control or are they victims of unconscious processes?
How do you think most people view criminal behaviour? As something individuals choose to do or something they are ‘pre-programmed’ to do?
Raine (2002) provided evidence that certain brain activities can be related to criminal behaviour. If criminal behaviour can be seen to be determined by brain activity, how may this affect how society deals with criminals?

Reductionism vs. holism
Reductionism

Reductionism argues that all psychological phenomena can be reduced to their simpler constituent parts and the ultimate goal of research is to identify what these smallest parts may be. Reductionist theories tend to support deterministic viewpoints as human behaviour is seen to be due to a single factor and once this is known it can be used to explain and predict all human behaviour. Complex behaviours are broken down into processes of the mind and these can then be reduced to neurological activity in the brain; this is due to chemicals found within the brain. We can then try and understand how these chemicals work.


Activity:

Do you think reductionism is a useful way to explain complex human behaviour? Give reasons for your answer


Do you think reductionist ideas can account for creative activities?
Holism

Often referred to as Gestalt psychology. This argues that behaviours cannot be understood in terms of the components that make them up. This is commonly described as ‘the whole being greater than the sum of the parts’. What this suggests for psychologists is that humans are capable of much more than would be expected form chemicals, neurones, brain structures and models of the mind. A holistic view of human behaviour would argue that the complexity of human behaviour is so great that a reductionist understanding is not capable of considering even very simple human behaviours. If we were to consider the behaviourist idea of learning by relating stimuli to responses and the reinforcement that these receive, it could be argued that there is far more to take into account than this simple interaction.


How Can Reductionism be Applied to
Sperry, Dement & Kleitman and Maguire’s studies?
Milgram
Bandura
Brunner

Activities;

Holistic arguments can often fail to identify any single cause for human behaviour. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?


Discuss in small groups all the possible causes for someone committing a crime. Do you think any one of these would be sufficient to motivate someone towards crime? If not, how many and which ones are needed to ‘make’ someone behave like this?
Can you think of any occasions where working as a team was more effective than giving each person a separate task?
Synoptic Questions
Clinical psychologists can make diagnoses using the ICD or the DSM-IV. Discuss whether these provide a reductionist or holistic approach to diagnoses
Canter & Heritage (1990) attempted to identify whether there were similar behaviour patterns in similar offences. This suggests that they considered it possible to link particular behaviours to certain offences. How useful do you think this approach is? If behaviour patterns are found to be linked to criminal behaviour, do you think that these may cause such behaviour? How do you account for detectives using ‘gut instinct’? Does this involve then using reductionist or holistic understandings of people’s behaviour?

Nature vs. Nurture
Nature

This is a determinist view as it suggests that all behaviour is determined by hereditary factors. These factors are the genetic make up that individuals are born with and all possible behaviours can be said to be present from the moment of conception. Our genes are thought to provide the blueprint of all our behaviours, some of which are present at birth. Others are thought to be pre-programmed and emerge as the individual matures. The development of language is an example of this as children appear to be predisposed to make sounds and understand grammar. This does not happen at birth but language skills develop rapidly after a certain period of time. When language does develop, it follows the same sequence in all children, which suggests an inbuilt genetic mechanism is responsible.


Activities:

How many behaviours can you think of that follow a similar developmental sequence? Now try the opposite, how many behaviours can you think of that do not follow a clear development sequence? What do you answers make you think about the nature debate?


Extreme nature theories are not very common in psychology. Review the key studies in the AS and A2 courses and try to identify those that have a nature viewpoint.
Nurture

This is also a determinist stance as it proposes that all behaviour is the result of interactions with the environment. Behaviourist theories are nurture theories as they argue that behaviour is shaped by interactions with the environment. Within this debate the individual is regarded as being born as an empty vessel waiting to be filled up by the experiences they gain from environmental interactions. There can be no limit to what individuals achieve, as this is due to the quality of the external influences and not their genes. /this view was popular in the early 1900s as it provides an optimistic view that anyone can achieve anything as they are not constrained by their inherited capacities. The quality of the environment is crucial.


Activity:

Discuss in small groups if you have had any experiences where being in the right environment has enabled you to develop or learn a new skill.


How can the nature- nurture debate be applied to
Bandura
Maguire
Savage-Rumbaugh
Brunner

Synoptic Questions

The origins of criminal behaviour are studied in

Forensic psychology. Brunner et al (1993) attempted to discover whether criminal behaviour can be related to genetic disorders and Yochelson & Samenow (1973) also researched the origins of criminal behaviour and how this may be changed. Compare these two studies and discuss in small groups what may cause criminal behaviour and what if anything can be done to prevent it.
The explanations for mental health disorders provided by Gottesman and Shields (1976) and Watson and Raynor (1920) are an example of the nature-nurture debate. Which study supports which debate and what insight does each provide?
Ethnocentrism

This is a slightly different debate from the ones covered so far. The main focus is the research process and not the broader debates surrounding psychology. Ethnocentrism refers to the possibility of a bias in research towards one ethnic group. If this bias becomes established, the values of this group can become the accepted ones and those who do not share these can be regarded as different. Difference or diversity is not a problem unless this is seen to place others in groups that are regarded as not normal. The essential problem with ethnocentric research is that it provides the views of one dominant ethnic group to the detriment of others.


Most of the research we have covered has a western bias – it focuses on American or European research reports. This may have the effect of making western values more influential than they should be
How can some of the core studies from AS Level be criticised for being ethnocentric?

How can Holmes and Rahe’s study be criticised for being ethnocentric?
Synoptic Questions
Eberhardt et al (2006) indicate how ethnicity can have an impact on the judgements made when sentencing criminals. What they suggest is that when decisions are made individuals are influenced by ethnicity even though they may not be consciously aware of this. How might ethnicity influence judgements?
The Mental Health Act Commission’s Count Me in Census (2005) identified that in certain cultures, men are significantly overrepresented in the mental health system. For example, they found that rates of admission of both genders from the white British and Indian groups were lower than average whereas the admission rates for people from the black and white/black mixed groups had rates of up to three or more times higher than average.
Discuss why these differences have been found. Are they part of the research process or do they reflect wider psychological issues?


Debates
Is Psychology a Science?
Psychology is a relatively new subject discipline and it has struggled to be taken as seriously as subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics. If psychology was to be regarded as a science, then it could have a higher status.
Activity:

Which studies in Psychology that you have covered could be considered more ‘scientific’ than others? What makes them more ‘scientific’?


The word ‘science’ is used to group together a whole range of subjects that share features about how they explain the world and how they can be investigated. In general the scientific approach can be said to have the following features in common:
Objectivity: science subjects should be free from subjective (personal) views and should attempt to report things as they are, not how people feel they should be. Objectivity is an interesting feature for psychologists as psychology is the study of human behaviour and is carried out by humans.
Activity:

Is it possible to carry out objective research on subjective experiences?

Is a scientific way of thinking suitable to investigate the experiences of individuals?
Falsifiability: theories should be able to be disproved, as without this anybody could say anything. If a theory can be disproved it clearly does not work and alternatively if a theory can be proved it does work. Falsifiability is also not as straightforward as first thought. There are many theories that are used that have either been disproved or are not falsifiable and yet many psychologists still find them helpful ,eg, some of Freud’s theories.
Replicability: this is an important aspect of scientific research. Only the findings of methods that can be replicated by others are accepted, as it would be unwise to accept findings if no one is quite sure how they were obtained. Replicability is easier with simple, more reductionist investigations as these have fewer variables. But of course, having fewer variables makes the situation being researched less ecologically valid.

How can the Is Psychology a science? debate be applied to
Dement & Kleitman, Sperry and Maguire’s research
Janis & Feshback’s research

Synoptic Questions
Wheatley (2007) reports on the effectiveness of acupuncture in helping to beat drug addiction. The findings seem to suggest that there is a positive effect, and yet acupuncture itself has little support from the scientific community. Is it possible to have a scientific finding from a technique that itself lacks empirical support? If an intervention seems to work, does it need to be scientifically validated?
Discuss in small groups whether psychological research needs to be scientific. What are the advantages and disadvantages of psychology being a science?

Individual or situational explanations.
Individual explanations of behaviour are those that are centred on the person, whereas situational explanations focus on the situation that the individual is in. Situational or individual explanations are often used in educational settings as they provide a useful focus for helping to improve students’ engagement with learning. If a student regularly underachieves in a subject area there could be two broad reasons for this:


  1. Individual – The student has little ability in this area.

  2. Situational – The method of teaching does not suit the student.

Just as there are no single answers in the different debates, there aren’t many examples of behaviour that can be explained using just individual or situational explanations.



How can Situational vs Individual Explanations of Behaviour be applied to:
Milgram

Reicher & Haslam

Zimbardo’s work on deindividuation
Activity: Complete the table below and add two examples of your own from the options we have covered.



Theme

Individual explanation

Situational explanation

Developing criminal behaviour









Having a healthy lifestyle


























Methods





Experiment

Case study

Interview

Questionnaire

Correlation

Strengths















Weaknesses
















Type of data/Data Analysis















Uses














Exam questions.


1a) Using your knowledge of psychology, outline the design of a basic experiment. (4)


  1. Describe how the experimental method was used in any two pieces of

Psychological research that you have studied. (8)
c) Using examples compare the use of experiments with any one other method used in psychology. (12)
d) Explain the advantages of using the experimental method. (8)
e) Discuss how laboratory based research can be useful in our understanding of everyday life. (8)

2a) Using your knowledge of psychology, briefly outline the physiological approach. (4)


b) Describe two pieces of psychological research that use the physiological approach. (8)
c) Using examples of research that you have studied, discuss the strengths and limitations of explaining behaviour using the physiological approach. (12)
d) Compare the physiological approach with any one other approach in psychology. (8)
e) Discuss how the physiological approach can help our understanding of everyday life. (8)

3a) Using your knowledge of psychology, briefly outline the nature-nurture debate. (4)


b) Describe research which illustrates the nature-nurture debate (8)
c) Evaluate evidence which supports the nurture side of the debate in psychology. (12)
d) Reductionism can be seen as a central issue that is raised by the nature-nurture debate. Explain why, using examples from any behaviourist studies/theories. (8)
e) Discuss how research on the nature-nurture debate is useful in our understanding of everyday life. (8)





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