A spectrum of two concepts.
A disagreement about a range of issues.
The different positions lead to different
Emphasis on the Breaking down
whole person. complex issues into
Human behaviour is
It should be looked
at as a whole rather
than in parts.
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.
behaviour in terms of
links or interactions
etc factors into
account to build a
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
be explained by
down into separate
Attempts to explain
all behaviour in
terms of biology.
Less precise, more
general sciences at Sociology
More narrowly Psychology
precise sciences at Biology
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
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).
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
Suggests everyone is
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
Largely neglects biological, especially
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
› Such as the behaviourist laws of learning.
› 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
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
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
Dictionary – A
often reified internal
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
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.
Nearly always there are some sort of
forces in making a decision.
All behaviour is
Internal Determinism External Determinism
Internal causes of Behaviour occurs
behaviour are seen because there is a
as causes of cause in the
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
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
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).
The effect of genes. The effect of the
Methods of environment.
investigating effect Types of
of Nature. environmental
Nature - Introduction
Concerned with how
Genes are passed to
offspring from the
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
Nature – Strengths
Can be seen in many studies that Nature
has a large part.
Experiments have influenced useful
applications for treatments.
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
shapes all of a
Nurture – Types of
External and individual.
Acting on a passive individual.
Nurture – Levels of Environment
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
Nurture – Strengths
Takes the environment into
Has created useful treatments such as
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
Behaviourist – all behaviour is due to
environmental forces (Nurture).
Gender – Batista Boys; hormones overtook
Schizophrenia – Family and twin studies show
high concordance rates (Nature).
Child Development – Harlow’s Monkeys; they
attached because of external forces (Nurture).