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Debates in Psychology

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					Debates in Psychology
 Reductionism Versus Holism
 Freewill Versus Determinism
          Adapted from
   www.completepsychology.co.uk
           Topics to Consider
•   Reductionist and holistic levels of
    analysis
    • forms of reductionism
    • a hierarchy of explanation
•   Free will and determinism
    • either/or, or somewhere in-between?
               Overview

   Disagreement about a range of
    issues
   Different positions lead to different
    approaches to psychology
   Important to understand these issues
    to be able to evaluate theories in
    psychology
    Debate 1 Reductionism versus
              Holism
   Reductionism is the
    view that complex
    phenomena can be
    best understood by
    reducing them to
    separate simpler
    parts


                  Descartes held that non-human animals
                  could be reductively explained as automata
                  — De homines 1622.
                Reductionism
   Reductionism is the view that complex
    phenomena can be best understood by
    reducing them to separate simpler parts
      Types of Reductionism
 physiological reductionism
 biological reductionism
Physiological Reductionism
                Psychological
                 explanations are
                 replaced by physiological
                 explanations in terms of
                 brain operation,
                 genetics, or both
                Provides simple
                 explanations than can
                 often be tested
                 scientifically
       Biological Reductionism
   Explain human
    behaviour in terms of
    simpler animals
   Assumes continuity
    of behavior between
    animals and humans
      Reductionism & Levels of
            Explanation
   Some argue that the
    “best science”
    focuses on the
    deepest levels
   Watson: „There is
    only one science,
    physics: the rest is
    just social work.‟
                      Evaluation
   Advantages of
    reductionism:
     Scientific, easily tested
       and concise
       explanations
     successful
       interventions e.g.
       treatment of bipolar
       disorder
                      Evaluation
   Disadvantages of
    reductionism:
     may lose features of the
       phenomenon of interest
       („can‟t see the wood for
       the trees‟)
     most behaviours - e.g.,
       violence - have a social
       meaning that may not
       correspond to
       biological processes
                      Holism
   Human behaviour is
    highly complex and
    higher levels of
    analysis give a more
    complete and realistic
    view of behaviour
   “the whole is greater
    than the sum of its
    parts”
                        Holism
   Answering the question as
    to why we are aggressive
    has more practical value
    than understanding the
    physiological
    underpinning of the
    behaviour.
                  Evaluation
   Adopting many
    levels of analysis a
    challenge
   Danger that
    biological aspects
    of behaviour are
    neglected
Debate 2 Free Will and
    Determinism
    Free Will and Determinism
   Do we have free will, or is all our
    behaviour determined by identifiable
    causes?
   Much of psychology assumes
    determinism, since to be scientific
    (finding cause and effect) means
    identifying determining causes
   However, determinism conflicts with
    our subjective experience of choice
        Definitions of Free Will
   Choice:
     people have free will if they have a
      genuine choice of behaviour
     Assumes that influences on behaviour can
      be rejected at will
        Defining Determinism

   Comes in a range of forms, depending on
    what‟s seen as determining behaviour
     e.g. behaviourism, psychodynamics,
      evolutionary psychology
   Determinism means all behaviour has
    theoretically identifiable causes and can
    be predicted
         Soft Determinism
   A compromise position first proposed
    by William James 1890
   Behaviour is seen as determined to
    an extent, but in the absence of
    compulsion, people have a degree of
    choice and freedom
   The question then becomes „How
    much is determined?‟
                 Evaluation
   Belief in free will matches subjective
    experience and our sense of moral
    responsibility
   However, difficult to find an scientific
    explanation of behaviour if we don‟t accept
    determinism
   Perhaps different phenomena differ in the
    extent to which they‟re determined
     e.g. language use vs. instinctive responses

				
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