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1. A2 Psychology, Module 5 Debates in Psychology These Core Notes relate to Module 5, Section B. This is a compulsory section. 2009 Working with you to succeed in…
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  • 1. A2 Psychology, Module 5 Debates in Psychology These Core Notes relate to Module 5, Section B. This is a compulsory section. 2009 Working with you to succeed in Psychology
  • 2. The nature-nurture debate The nature – nurture debate is concerned with the extent to which our genes and our environment contribute to producing human psychological characteristics. Nature Nurture Genes Environment So what do we really mean by ‘nature’? We mean inheritance. The genetic material that is passed from parents to offspring causes psychological characteristics to be developed. Example topic that refers to genes (nature) as a cause of behaviour… What do we really mean by ‘nurture’? • Influence that occur outside the individual • Post natal influences • Influences that affect the individual who is passively shaped by them
  • 3. Do you think this last point is an accurate account of nurture? The environment could also be divided into biological environment and psychological environment. • The biological environment affects our physical development and would include such things as malnutrition and drug abuse by the pregnant mum. • The psychological environment includes a person’s experiences such as the quality of the relationship between child and parents and socio- economic status. A more sensible way to think of the debate is to think of nature and nurture, not as separate, but as interacting. Nature and Nurture Interacting In what ways do nature and nurture interact? e.g. Reactive ‘gene – environment’ correlations ( or ‘How people affect their environment’). e.g. a genetic tendency for aggression in a child therefore shapes the child to interact with their environment in an aggressive way and they then may experience an aggressive environment – i.e. Tarquin is aggro to everyone, so everyone is aggro back at Tarquin.
  • 4. Evaluation (Most often evaluation points for this debate will be about a specific topic that you apply the debate to. Think of some general evaluation points too, though). Nature +/- Nurture +/- ACTIVITY Describe and discuss the nature-nurture debate in Psychology. In your answer, refer to one topic you have studied (12 marks). Outline the main ideas of the nature-nurture debate… ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________
  • 5. The topic we’ll use is schizophrenia What evidence is there for Nature? What evidence is there for Nurture? Can we conclude that schizophrenia is due to ‘Nature’? NO!!! 1. The concordance rate in all MZ studies are always less than ________%. Therefore there must be other f_________ involved e.g. _________________________________________________________ _____ 2. By focusing on genetics, one can be criticised for adopting a r_____________ approach. This is when we try and explain as aspect of human behaviour by only looking at _____ single factor, in this case genes. Can we conclude that schizophrenia is due to ‘Nurture’? NO! 1. The behavioural explanation seems very incomplete. If others do start reinforcing bizarre behaviour by attention, where does the bizarre behaviour come from in the first place?
  • 6. 2. The _______________________ mother explanation is not a good one. Analysis of mothers of people with schizophrenia revealed that they wee often shy and anxious not domineering and senders of mixed messages at all. Perhaps it is better to adopt the _____________ - stress model which states that when considering why certain people develop mood disorders, it is important that we not only consider their ___________________ vulnerability to a disorder (diathesis) but we must also consider _____________________ stressors. Therefore, if a person is biologically predisposed to develop the disorder if they have a ‘good’ _____________________ they will not do so. This is a more e________________ explanation of behaviour.
  • 7. Free will and determinism The free will and determinism debate is concerned with whether we choose our behaviour or whether it is determined by factors beyond our control. Using the rating scale below, indicate to what extent you think the following are under your own control or determined by factors outside your control. 1=Totally Free Will, 10=Totally determined by factors beyond your control. 1. The grades you’ll get for your A levels 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 2. The university place you will be accepted for 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3. The career you will pursue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4. Whether or not you will marry or have a long term relationship 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5. Who you will marry or have a long term relationship with 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6. Whether or not you will be a good parent 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 control 7. Whether or not you will lose your temper this week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8. Whether or not you will be happy today 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  • 8. Those who adopt the ‘free will’ position believe that we can make choices and determine our own behaviour, although we clearly have to exercise this free will within the constraints imposed by our physical, sociological and political environment (Gross 2001). Free Will Or Determinism? However, others believe that we passively respond to external and/or internal events and stimuli which cause our behaviour ‘in a regular, orderly manner which (in principle) is totally predictable’ (Gross 2001). So determinists think that thoughts and behaviours are no different from other things in that ’everything....is the effect of some cause or causes’ i.e. ’causally determined’ (Taylor 1963, cited in Gross). 2 Types of Determinism Biological determinism is the Environmental determinism is viewpoint that genes, hormones, associated with the behavioural neurotransmitters and the brain all approach. Skinner and Watson thought determine behaviour. For example that all behaviour was controlled by he familiar study below, suggests reinforcement and punishment from that aggression may be caused by the external environment. hormones. Notice that this is basically the nature-nurture debate
  • 9. Outline a study which supports the idea that a behaviour you have studied (perhaps gender or atypical behaviour) is determined by environmental factors and make brief notes on it below, Outline a study which supports the idea that a behaviour you have studied (perhaps gender or atypical behaviour) is determined by biological factors and make brief notes on it below. TASK Identify and outline one environmental deterministic theory of gender role acquisition and one biological deterministic theory using your gender handout and the table below, Environmental determinism Biological determinism
  • 10. Evaluation (Most often evaluation points for this debate will be about a specific topic that you apply the debate to. These are some general evaluation points, though). Free Will +/- Determinism +/- + When we make decisions about how + Scientific to behave we seem to be making free + The dopamine hypothesis of choices between alternatives. schizophrenia supports the idea that Although this is subjective our thoughts/personality are information, personal experience is determined important in psychology*. - Scientific theories should be - Not scientific. falsifiable but determinism is - (*On the other hand!) most of the unfalsifiable because evidence for free will is subjective. determinists always assume Objective neuroscientific research that a cause exists even if it suggests that we do not choose to has not been identified act consciously e.g. Libet 1999 investigated free will experimentally and found that electrical processes which initiate ‘voluntary’ movements actually occur before we make a decision to move! Rogers’ client-centred therapy implies that human beings have free will because it A compromise between free will and determinism? results in • clients choosing to see themselves The ‘soft determinism’ of James can be seen as a differently, i.e. to change their self compromise between the extremes of free will and concept determinism. James thought that the type of cause that determines our behaviour was important. If our behaviour’s • clients choosing to see their immediate cause was our ‘conscious mental life’ then it was circumstances differently and to react to their experiences essentially rational and voluntary, that is, the result of free differently will. • clients becoming more free Rogers eventually adopted a form of soft determinism in • clients being able to voluntarily that he felt that a healthy, fully functioning person avoid ‘evil behaviour’ despite cruel ‘spontaneously, freely and voluntarily chooses and wills that and aggressive impulses which is absolutely determined’. In other words we can feel that we have free will and experience freedom whilst our behaviour is being determined so there is no real contradiction between free will and determinism (Gross 2001).
  • 11. Free will has been the subject of human speculation for centuries. We all feel that our behaviour is under our own control. However, we are also aware that others influence us. ----------- refers to how far has individual behaviour been caused by internal (biological) or external (environmental) influences outside our control. Determinism holds that in order to understand any event, we must learn what ------ it and the cause can then be identified through appropriate research. Scientific psychology attempts to make connections between causes and effects; in doing this it presents a ----------- view of behaviour. The alternative (not the opposite) is to suggest that individuals have ---- ----. This latter position makes the ---------- study of behaviour difficult because it proposes that behaviour is not determined in any lawful way. The middle ground is represented by ---- determinism, first proposed by William James. ------------ determinism refers to the belief that behaviour is ---------- by environmental factors for example rats learning to press a lever in a Skinner Box or dogs learning an association in Pavlov’s study. Psychic determinism was proposed by Freud. He thought ----------- motives resulting from instinctual forces controlled behaviour. Biological determinism is the belief that behaviour is the result of biological causes such as genes and hormones. --------- and existentialists best represent the free will position. Jean Paul Sartre, who was an existentialist philosopher, went as far as saying that we are ‘condemned to be free’. In his view, freedom was a burden because we must each be totally ----------- for our behaviour and we must each respect each other’s views. The humanistic approach sees human beings as free and able to ------ what they want to do. Rogers and Maslow support the idea that humans are free. They believe that humans constantly strive for growth, make their own choices and --------- the direction of their lives. This is reflected in Masow’s hierarchy of needs and Rogers’ approach to client-centred therapy. environmental caused determinist responsible free will scientific soft determinism determined Humanists unconscious choose influence
  • 12. Holism and Reductionism The holism and reductionism debate in psychology refers to whether it is more appropriate to study behaviour by breaking it down into small components or to study many interacting and complex aspects of behaviour as a whole. Holism (sometimes known as interactionism) Holism in Psychology is the idea that it is not meaningful to try to understand the whole person by looking at individual component parts of the person and the way they interact. Such components include the brain, neurones and genes together with cognitive processes such as attention and memory and also personality traits. This is because, according to Gestalt Psychologists ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. There are a number of different levels of explanation in Psychology (see table). TASK Apply these levels to the study of mood disorders. Level of explanation Holistic Societal, political, sociological Social psychological Psychological Physical and physiological systems Physiological units Basic physiological Reductionist components
  • 13. Briefly outline a holistic (interactionist) theory which tries to explain atypical behaviour. Give advantages of this theory. Reductionism Reductionism is defined by Hayes as ‘An approach to understanding behaviour which focuses on one single level of explanation and ignores others. It is the opposite of holism or interactionism’ (Hayes 1994). Find a study which took a reductionist approach to investigating a behaviour you have studied (perhaps gender or atypical behaviour) and make brief notes on it below Looking for single, simple explanations is a feature of classical science. The biological perspective attempts ‘to explain psychological concepts and principles’ solely ‘in terms of their biological counterparts’ (Atkinson et al 1993). Ultimately, the aim of the reductionists is to account for all phenomena ‘in terms of microphysics’ (Gross 1996). So any attempt to explain something in terms of its components is reductionist.
  • 14. Briefly outline a reductionist theory which tries to explain a behaviour you have studied (perhaps gender or atypical behaviour). Give two criticisms of the theory. Evaluation (Most often evaluation points for this debate will be about a specific topic that you apply the debate to. These are some general evaluation points, though). Holism +/- Reductionism +/- + An interactionist approach brings +Focus in detail on a particular aspect of together different levels of explanation behaviour and thus provided a more realistic and complete understanding of behaviour. + Crick (1994) said ‘ you, your joys and The whole is greater than the sum of its your sorrows , your memories and your parts. ambitions, your sense of personality and free will, are in fact no more than the + Functional explanations for behaviour, behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve e.g. looking at why males and females cells and their associated molecules” adopt ‘specialised’ gender roles, are often more useful than looking in detail - If we only look at one factor at time, as at hormone levels. These explanations often happens in the laboratory, we can are necessarily non-reductuionist. miss the complexity of influences on any one behaviour - Difficult to investigate and integrate explanations from different levels - how - Power of genes may be exaggerated. the social, psychological and physiological May miss the importance of causes of depression interact is highly environmental influences that ‘bring out’ complex. the effects of genes.
  • 15. TASK Work through the unit on Reductionism at www.nln.ac.uk/materials Complete the table below to show how the perspectives/topics you have studied are reductionist or holistic on these topics: Holism Vs Reductionism Holism Reductionism Biological Perspective • Gender • Mood disorders and schizophrenia • Criminology Humanistic Perspective Behavioural Perspective • Gender • Mood disorders and schizophrenia • Criminology Psychoanalytic Perspective • Development of Personality • Development of Personality • Gender • Gender
  • 16. Answer these questions on holism and reductionism. 1. Which perspective is the most reductionist? Why? 2. Look at the ‘levels of explanation’ table. Why do you think it might be fair to say that the humanistic perspective is not as holistic as it likes to think? 3. Attempt to give a holistic and then a reductionist explanation of why you might fancy someone. Which explanation (if any) is the most useful? 4. Explain what’s meant by ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. 5. My cousin’s brother’s hairdresser’s friend, Tarquin – he’s got a mate who is a physicist. Does he deal in holistic or reductionist explanations?
  • 17. Idiographic versus Nomothetic approaches The idiographic and nomothetic debate is about whether Psychology should study individuals or develop laws which apply to people in general. Nomothetic approach Idiographic approach • Focuses on individual and • Focuses on similarities between uniqueness people • Seeks to understand • Aims to establish general laws s__________ and private and principles experiences • Is concerned with group norms • Would suggest individuals cannot • Uses ‘s________’ methods, be compared (they are on their seeking objectivity, own scale!) measurability and replicability. • It is qualitative in nature • It is quantitative in nature • Prefers a holistic approach • Is associated with the • Is associated with the ________________________ _________ perspective _______________ perspectives Methods/techniques used in A technique used in the idiographic the nomothetic approach? approach. The Q-sort. Used by Rogers for self concept research. A set of cards with self-evaluative statements on them is sorted into ‘most like me’ and ‘least like me’ piles plus piles between these. Statements would include ‘I am ambitious’ and ‘I am friendly’. This gives an individualised picture of the person.
  • 18. Outline an idiographic study (perhaps of gender or atypical behaviour) and make brief notes on it below… Outline a nomothetic study (perhaps of gender or atypical behaviour) and make brief notes on it below… Obviously, a researcher’s belief about whether they are looking to establish laws or find understanding would affect their choice of method used to gather data. Draw a continuum with ‘idiographic’ at one end and ‘nomothetic’ at the other. Place all the research methods along the continuum to reflect their style. Do the same for the perspectives.
  • 19. Evaluation (Most often evaluation points for this debate will be about a specific topic that you apply the debate to. Here are some general evaluation points, though). Idiographic +/- Nomothetic +/- + Rich, detailed info… + Scientific + Sometimes not possible to do + Advantages of expts… experiments (e.g. brain-damaged pateients) - Ignores individual differences - Anti-scientific, subjective, limited in range Allport 1960 says that science aims to find understanding, control and prediction. These three elements of science need the nomothetic and idiographic approaches, one without the other does not fulfill the aims of science. Some questions surrounding this debate 1. Does it make sense to talk about a totally unique person? 2. If all science is nomothetic and Psychology aims to understand the individual then can Psychology be a science? 3. Is looking at what makes us different the same as looking at what makes us the same i.e. is the idiographic approach a first step in the nomothetic approach? 4. Are idiographic and nomothetic approaches really mutually exclusive?
  • 20. The ---------- approach emphasises general aspects of human nature, which apply to all human beings, with occasional exceptions. General ---- of human behaviour are involved. These laws will allow researchers to make ----------- of how people are likely to behave in certain circumstances. Behaviourism is an example of this approach, where an attempt is made to apply general principles to every organism (human and ---------). Cognitive and biopsychology also look for (different) general principles. The ----------- approach involves exploration of single cases in depth and is concerned with exploring individuality and differences
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