Great Debates

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					   A spectrum of two concepts.

   A disagreement about a range of issues.

   The different positions lead to different
       Holism                  Reductionism
 Emphasis on the          Breaking down
  whole person.             complex issues into
                            simpler parts
   Gestalt Psychology.
                             Biological
   Interactionist            Reductionism.
                             Hierarchy of
   Human behaviour is

   It should be looked
    at as a whole rather
    than in parts.
 1915-1945.
 Gestalt – German, meaning ‘whole
 “The whole of behaviour and experience
  is more than the sum of its parts”.
 Kohler (1925) demonstrated insight
  learning in chimpanzee’s.
 Explains human
  behaviour in terms of
  links or interactions
  between different
  levels of
 Takes biological,
  psychological, social,
  etc factors into
  account to build a
  better understanding.
 Provides a complete picture.
 Does not ignore the complexity of
 The person is seen as an entity to be
  considered in its own right.
 Seeks to integrate different components
  in order to understand the person as a
 Does not lend itself to scientific inquiry
  and empirical testing.
 Tends to neglect the importance of
  biological explanations specifically the
  role of genes.
 More hypothetical than lower-level
  reductionist explanations and theories
  lack the predictive power of a scientific
   Complex
    phenomena can
    be explained by
    breaking them
    down into separate
 Attempts to explain
  all behaviour in
  terms of biology.
 Assumes continuity
  of behaviour
  between animals
  and humans.
 Less precise, more
  general sciences at    Sociology
  the top.
 More narrowly          Psychology
  focused and
  precise sciences at     Biology
  the bottom.
 Watson: “There is      Chemistry
  only one science,
  Physics: the rest is
  just social work”.      Physics
 Has brought with it both analytic and
  scientific ways of attempting to
  understand and explain behaviour.
 Scientific investigation allows for
  empirical investigation.
 Demonstrates how biology is for
  understanding and explaining
 May lead to an over simplistic view of
  behaviour – the complexity is missed.
 Many theories have been developed
  but no attempt has been made to
  combine the theories.
 Some physicists argue it suffers from an
  infinite regress – parts can be reduced
 Schizophrenia – in terms of
  neurotransmitters and genes
  (Reductionist) – in terms of socio-cultural
  explanations (higher level; more holistic).
 Humanistic – a person can only be
  understood as a whole (Holistic).
       Idiographic                 Nomothetic
 Focus on the individual    Attempts to establish
  and recognition of          laws and
  uniqueness.                 generalisations about
 Private, subjective and     people.
  conscious                  Three kinds of laws.
  experiences.               Objective knowledge
 Qualitative methods of      through scientific
  investigation.              methods.
                             Quantitative methods
                              of investigation.
   Suggests everyone is
    unique and
    therefore every one
    should be studied in
    an individual way.
   No general laws are
    possible because of
    chance, free will and
    the uniqueness of
 Tends to include quantitative data,
  investigating individuals in a personal
  and detailed way.
 Methods of research include: case study,
  unstructured interviews, self-reports,
  autobiographies and personal
 Provides a more complete or global
  understanding of the individual.
 Satisfies key aim of science – description
  and understanding of behaviour.
 Findings can serve as a source of ideas
  or hypotheses for later study.
 The focuses mean the individual feels
  valued and unique.
 Difficult to generalise from detailed
  subjective knowledge about one person.
 Often regarded as non-scientific as
  subjective experience cannot be
  empirically tested.
 Largely neglects biological, especially
  genetic, influences.
 Focuses on similarities between people.
 Attempts to establish laws and
  generalisations about people.
 Laws can be categorised into three
  kinds: classifying people into groups;
  establishing principles and establishing
   Classifying people into groups:
    › Such as the DSMIV for classifying people with
      mood disorders.
   Establishing principles:
    › Such as the behaviourist laws of learning.
   Establishing dimensions:
    › Such as Eysenck’s personality inventory
      which allows for comparisons between
 Uses scientific and quantitative data.
 Usually uses experiments and
 Group averages are statistically
  analysed to create predictions about
  people in general.
 Regarded as scientific as it is: precise
  measurement; prediction and control of
  behaviour; investigations of large groups;
  objective and controlled methods
  allowing replication and generalisation.
 Has helped psychology as a whole
  become scientific by developing laws
  and theories which can be empirically
 Combines biological and social aspects.
 Predictions can be made about groups
  but these may not apply to individuals.
 Approach has been accused of losing
  sight of the ‘whole person’.
 Gives a superficial understanding –
  people may act the same but for
  different reasons.
 Extensive use of controlled laboratory
  experiments creates a lack of
  generalisation to everyday life.
 Both have a role but relative value of
  each depends on the purpose of the
 Two approaches can be
  complementary – idiographic can
  further develop a nomothetic law.
 Both can contribute to scientific
  approach – idiographic suited to
  description; nomothetic to predictions.
 Child development – Bowlby’s maternal
  deprivation theory (Nomothetic).
 Memory – case studies on how memory
  is affected by brain damage
  (Idiographic complemented
  nomothetic, furthering general laws).
 Humanistic – emphasises individual
 Psychodynamic – use of case studies
          Free Will               Determinism
   The ability to make      All behaviour is
    decisions and             caused by prior
    choose behaviours         events.
    freely.                  Internal and
   How is it tested?         external.
                             Hard and soft
                             Biological, psychic
                              and environmental
   Dictionary – A
    hypothetical and
    often reified internal
    agency that
    independently of
    externally imposed
 Cannot meet the rigours of scientific
  testing due to the lack of an operational
 Abstract and hypothetical concepts
  have to be turned into measureable and
  observable operations.
 Allows individual differences and the
  uniqueness of a person.
 Observable that some people choose to
  act in a way different to others.
 Difficult to measure/prove.
 Difficult to accept an explanation of
  behaviour if we follow free will.
 Not scientific.
 Nearly always there are some sort of
  forces in making a decision.
   All behaviour is
    caused by
    underlying factors.
 Internal Determinism    External Determinism
 Internal causes of     Behaviour occurs
  behaviour are seen      because there is a
  as causes of            cause in the
  behaviour.              environment.
 Such as biological
  factors and mental
     Hard Determinism            Soft Determinism
   Behaviour is caused        Behaviour is
    by events outside           determined or
    one’s personal              caused by a
    control.                    person’s own
   See’s free will as an       character, wishes or
    illusion as behaviour       conscious desires.
    is always predictable      A compromise – free
    and therefore               will plays a part but
    determined.                 there are always
                                other forces.
 Includes the controlling role of different
  parts of the brain, hormonal system and
  genetics on behaviour.
 Some studies have indicated a genetic
  predisposition towards some behaviours.
 Represented by Freud’s psychodynamic
 Human behaviour, thoughts and feelings
  are caused by the life and death
  instincts and by repressed conflicts,
  wishes and memories in the unconscious
 Because it is unconscious people believe
  they are free.
 Behaviour is caused by factors within the
  external environment.
 The power of the situation (as
  demonstrated by Asch and Milgram)
  and how social factors can have a
  strong effect on behaviour.
 Free will is seen as an illusion.
 More scientific as it can be measured.
 Has a compromise for free will and
  explains why it seems as if it is free will
  when in reality it is not.
 Can be applied to many areas of
 Helps Psychology be seen as a science
  as it means all behaviour is predictable
  and can be controled.
 Some behaviour is unpredictable and
  does not follow the
 Takes away individuals choices and
 Obedience – Milgrim’s participants felt
  that had to obey him (Deterministic).
 Offending behaviour – most theories
  include some elements of determinism.
 Humanistic – people direct their own
  lives and goals (Free will).
 Cognitive – people select what they
  want (Soft determinism).
           Nature                    Nurture
   The effect of genes.      The effect of the
   Methods of                 environment.
    investigating effect      Types of
    of Nature.                 environmental
                              Levels of
                              Methods of
                               investigating effect
                               of Nurture.
Nature - Introduction

   Concerned with how
    genes influence
   Genes are passed to
    offspring from the
   Genotype.
Nature – Methods of
 Twin Studies – Using MZ twins; if they have
  a high concordance nature must play a
 Adoption studies – If the offspring act the
  same as their biological parents rather
  than adoptive parents nature must play
  a part.
 Largely scientific.
Nature – Strengths

 Can be seen in many studies that Nature
  has a large part.
 Experiments have influenced useful
  applications for treatments.
 Scientifically tested.
Nature - Limitations

 Neglects the role of the environment.
 Often hard to find twins or adoption
  studies to relate to the topic of interest.
Nurture - Introduction

   Concerned with the
    role of the
   The environment
    shapes all of a
    persons personality
    and behaviours.
   Phenotype.
Nurture – Types of
 Environmental Influence
 External and individual.
 Post-natal.
 Acting on a passive individual.
Nurture – Levels of Environment
                                  Sociocultural-historical level

   Lerner (1986).                Physical Environmental Level

   The influence of the            Individual Psychological Level

    environment can be                 Inner Biological Level

    narrow, such as pre-
    natal, or more
    general, such as       Mother’s Psychological state During Pregnancy

    sociocultural                Mother’s Psychological State

    environment.               Postbirth Experiences

                                  Where and when born
Nurture – Methods of
 Twin studies – Using MZ twins reared
  apart; if there is low concordance
  nurture may play a large part.
 Adoption studies – If there is a high
  concordance between adoptive
  parents and low concordance between
  biological parents nurture may play a
  large part.
Nurture – Strengths

 Takes the environment into
 Has created useful treatments such as
  behaviour therapy.
Nurture - Limitations

 Neglects the biological impact on
 Often hard to find twins or adoption
  studies that satisfy the needs of a
  relevant topic of interest.
Nature/Nurture Relating to
   Biological – all behaviour is due to innate
    forces (Nature).
   Behaviourist – all behaviour is due to
    environmental forces (Nurture).
   Gender – Batista Boys; hormones overtook
    upbringing (Nature).
   Schizophrenia – Family and twin studies show
    high concordance rates (Nature).
   Child Development – Harlow’s Monkeys; they
    attached because of external forces (Nurture).

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