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1. A Sample of DEBATES Essays Critically consider arguments for free-will in psychology (30 marks) One argument for free-will comes from the psychological argument, which…
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  • 1. A Sample of DEBATES Essays Critically consider arguments for free-will in psychology (30 marks) One argument for free-will comes from the psychological argument, which suggests that people have a subjective sense of free-will and all people are able to make their own free choices about their behaviour. Evidence for this comes from Dr. Johnson in the 18th Century who sustained the idea that ‘we know our will is free, and there’s an end on ‘t’. (A01) However, a counterargument towards the psychological argument is that simply feeling that you are free does not mean that this is true. Skinner claimed that free will was an illusion – we think we are free, but this is because we are not aware of how our behaviour is determined by reinforcement. Freud also thought that free will was an illusion, because he felt that the causes of our behaviour is unconscious and therefore still predictable. (A02 ) In contrast, Valentine (1982) claims that this subjective sense of free will is tenable (reasonable). It is something that can be studied and thus shown to be true, e.g., attitudes towards free will have been found to increase with age and are also more common in individualistic cultures such as the USA and UK where personal responsibility receives greater emphasis. (A02 ) Another argument for free will in psychology derives from the ethical argument. This states that if an individual’s behaviour is determined by forces beyond their control, then the individual cannot be held responsible for their actions. For example, Stephen Mobley who killed a pizza shop manager in 1981, claimed he did this because he was born to kill, as evidenced by a family history of violence. However, our laws insist that adults do have individual responsibility for their actions and so have free will, and thus Mobley was sentenced to death as he was accountable for his actions. Also, Van Dunsen et al. (1983) looked at biology and crime. He used 14, 427 people adopted by unrelated families. The theory is if the parent’s have a predisposition to crime then their children will. It was found that as the ‘criminality’ of the biological parent increases from having no convictions on court record to three or more convictions, the proportion of adopted sons who are subsequently convicted themselves steadily increases from about 13% to 25%. (A01) In contrast, it may be possible to have a moral fashion without having moral responsibility. For example, behaviourists suggest that moral behaviour is largely through punishment or the threat of punishment. There is no individual responsibility because good or bad behaviour is determined by external forces. Thus, there would be no need for a concept of moral responsibility, as suggested by the free will debate. If an individual behaved in an anti-social way, it would not, according to this view, matter whether or not they were responsible; they should still be punished to prevent it happening again. (A02 ) There is however, research which supports the free will argument which comes from humanistic psychologists such as Roger’s (1959) who proposed a personality theory based on the concept of self-determination (Free will) and self actualisation. He suggested that taking responsibility for oneself is the route to healthy self development. This is demonstrated in Rogers’ client-centred therapy where the therapist is the facilitator for the client to help them make sense of their current situation and future. This allowed the client to develop a sense of control over their future and decide on what is best for themselves. (A01) There are however, a number of arguments against free-will, one of which is the difficulty in specifying free will. The notion of free will implies that there is something doing the ‘willing’, something that is mental rather than physical. Furthermore how do the mental and physical states interact? E.g., how it is that thinking about moving one’s foot results in the nervous and muscular activity required. ‘Materialists’ believe that only physical states exist, whereas ‘dualists’ believe that there are separate mental and physical states. From a materialist perspective, we may gain insight into the location of
  • 2. free will by considering mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia where patients lack voluntary control or the ability to initiate activity. (A02) A second argument against free-will is that it is not consistent with the scientific approach. Events being determined by something in the past is fundamental to scientific psychology. In psychology we measure behaviour before and after an experiment to explore cause/effect relationships, e.g., looking at stress and the immune system, whereby exam stress was thought to cause low white blood cells. However, if human behaviour is governed by free will, then there is no causality to be discovered. (A02) In contrast, there’s the idea that science no longer upholds the view that the world is predictable; it is best described as ‘probabilistic’ (Dennett, 2003). Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’ (1927) suggests that particles can no longer be predicted. Thus, if scientists cannot predict particle movement, then human behaviour cannot be predicted. (A02) A further argument for free-will comes from science’s lack of success. Psychological research which may have discovered cause and effect relationships in the laboratory may not be applied to the real world and thus lacked ecological validity. For example, Loftus carried out research in the laboratory where she looked at leading questions, and changing the verbs in sentences. However, the results were unreliable! Yuille and Cutshall carried out similar research yet found reliable results in real life situations. (A01) However, a weakness with this statement is that scientific investigations of human behaviour have produced valid knowledge which can be applied to the real world. E.g., research into stress and the immune system have shown the link between physical and psychological factors intertwining can affect an individual. (A02) A further argument for free-will is that people are not predictable. Mischel’s theory of personality proposed that people do not have a consistent personality, which would challenge the claim that personality is predictable. He claimed that people’s behaviour varies from one situation to another. E.g., you might be shy in class, but when you’re with your friends you can be loud and outgoing. (A01) However, Fleeson (2001) supports the view that people are consistent across situations, thus supporting the notion of causality in human behaviour and determinism. (A02) A further argument for free-will is that determinism is not falsifiable. Theories should generate hypotheses that can be tested to see if there are true or false. If this is not possible, then you cannot ‘prove’ a theory’s validity. The question of whether all behaviour can be explained within a determinist framework receives the reply that as yet is not possible. (A01) However, Valentine (1982) suggests that in fact determinism is falsifiable because it has been falsified by the uncertainty principle! Thus the proof that determinism is not true demonstrates that at least it can be falsified. (A02) Most psychologists now accept that the real debate is about how much of human behaviour is due to free will and how much is due to determinism. This is called soft determinism, and it suggests that biological and environmental factors determine behaviour, but there is an element of free will involved as well – but the question remains – how much of each is involved? (A01) Word count: 1000
  • 3. Critically consider arguments against free-will in psychology (30 marks) There are a number of arguments against free-will, one of which is the difficulty in specifying free will. The notion of free will implies that there is something doing the ‘willing’, something that is mental rather than physical. Furthermore how do the mental and physical states interact? E.g., how it is that thinking about moving one’s foot results in the nervous and muscular activity required. (A01) ‘Materialists’ believe that only physical states exist, whereas ‘dualists’ believe that there are separate mental and physical states. From a materialist perspective, we may gain insight into the location of free will by considering mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia where patients lack voluntary control or the ability to initiate activity. (A02) A second argument against free-will is that it is not consistent with the scientific approach. Events being determined by something in the past is fundamental to scientific psychology. In psychology we measure behaviour before and after an experiment to explore cause/effect relationships, e.g., looking at stress and the immune system, whereby exam stress was thought to cause low white blood cells. However, if human behaviour is governed by free will, then there is no causality to be discovered. (A01) In contrast, there’s the idea that science no longer upholds the view that the world is predictable; it is best described as ‘probabilistic’ (Dennett, 2003). Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’ (1927) suggests that particles can no longer be predicted. Thus, if scientists cannot predict particle movement, then human behaviour cannot be predicted. (A02) Research evidence against free-will comes from research from behaviourists into attachment. With classical conditioning the person feeding an infant comes to produce a conditioned response (pleasure) through being associated with food (an unconditioned stimulus). With the latter, the person feeding the infant becomes a secondary reinforcer because s/he is supplying food, which is in turn a primary reinforcer, reducing an unpleasant hunger drive and thus rewarding. (A01) In contrast, One argument for free-will comes from the psychological argument, which suggests that people have a subjective sense of free-will and all people are able to make their own free choices about their behaviour. Evidence for this comes from Dr. Johnson in the 18th Century who sustained the idea that ‘we know our will is free, and there’s an end on ‘t’. (A02) However, a counterargument towards the psychological argument is that simply feeling that you are free does not mean that this is true. Skinner claimed that free will was an illusion – we think we are free, but this is because we are not aware of how our behaviour is determined by reinforcement. Freud also thought that free will was an illusion, because he felt that the causes of our behaviour is unconscious and therefore still predictable. (A02 ) In contrast, Valentine (1982) claims that this subjective sense of free will is tenable (reasonable). It is something that can be studied and thus shown to be true, e.g., attitudes towards free will have been found to increase with age and are also more common in individualistic cultures such as the USA and UK where personal responsibility receives greater emphasis. (A02 ) Another argument for free will in psychology derives from the ethical argument. This states that if an individual’s behaviour is determined by forces beyond their control, then the individual cannot be held responsible for their actions. For example, Stephen Mobley who killed a pizza shop manager in 1981, claimed he did this because he was born to kill, as evidenced by a family history of violence. However, our laws insist that adults do have individual responsibility for their actions and so have free will, and thus Mobley was sentenced to death as he was accountable for his actions. Also, Van Dunsen et al. (1983) looked at biology and crime. He used 14, 427 people adopted by unrelated families. The theory is if the parent’s have a predisposition to crime then their children will. It was found that as the ‘criminality’ of the biological parent increases from having no convictions on court record to three or more convictions, the proportion of adopted sons who are subsequently convicted themselves steadily increases from about 13% to 25%. (A02)
  • 4. In contrast, it may be possible to have a moral fashion without having moral responsibility. For example, behaviourists suggest that moral behaviour is largely through punishment or the threat of punishment. There is no individual responsibility because good or bad behaviour is determined by external forces. Thus, there would be no need for a concept of moral responsibility, as suggested by the free will debate. If an individual behaved in an anti-social way, it would not, according to this view, matter whether or not they were responsible; they should still be punished to prevent it happening again. (A02 ) A further argument against free-will comes from the success of science in investigating human behaviour. Scientific investigations of human behaviour have produced valid knowledge which can be applied to the real world. E.g., research into stress and the immune system have shown the link between physical and psychological factors intertwining can affect an individual. (A01) In contrast, Psychological research which may have discovered cause and effect relationships in the laboratory may not be applied to the real world and thus lacked ecological validity. For example, Loftus carried out research in the laboratory where she looked at leading questions, and changing the verbs in sentences. However, the results were unreliable! Yuille and Cutshall carried out similar research yet found reliable results in real life situations. (A02) A further argument against free-will is that human behaviour is predictable. The psychological world, like the physical world is predictable. People believe in their own predictability of others. We know ourselves to be mean with money and expect to behave in a similar way in the future. Or if someone has previously been generous they will be generous in the future. (A01) A weakness of this argument comes from Mischel’s theory of personality proposed that people do not have a consistent personality, which would challenge the claim that personality is predictable. He claimed that people’s behaviour varies from one situation to another. E.g., you might be shy in class, but when you’re with your friends you can be loud and outgoing. However, Fleeson (2001) supports the view that people are consistent across situations, thus supporting the notion of causality in human behaviour and determinism. (A02) Most psychologists now accept that the real debate is about how much of human behaviour is due to free will and how much is due to determinism. This is called soft determinism, and it suggests that biological and environmental factors determine behaviour, but there is an element of free will involved as well – but the question remains – how much of each is involved? (A01) Word count: 1000
  • 5. With reference to two or more psychological theories, discuss the free will versus determinism debate (30 marks) The humanistic approach embraces free will! Roger’s (1959) proposed a personality theory based on the concepts of self-determination (free will) and self actualisation. He suggested that taking responsibility for oneself is the route to healthy self development. Individuals who remain controlled by other people or other things cannot take responsibility for their behaviour so cannot begin to change it. Only when an individual takes self-responsibility is personal growth possible, resulting in psychological health. E.g., Jahoda’s view of ideal mental health suggests that abnormal behaviour occurs because individuals do not fulfil their full potential. Thus, he stated that human behaviour is driven by biological needs, but once these have been satisfied, other needs such as self actualisation become important. Also, Carl Rogers’ client-centred therapy (counselling) saw the therapist as a facilitator for the client to help them make sense of their current situation and future. This allowed the client to develop a sense of control over their future and to decide what is best for themselves. This suggests that healthy psychological development depends on owning your behaviour. One strength of the Humanistic theory is that it is supported by research into stress. The harmful effects of stress are reduced if a person feels in control of events around them. For example, Kim et al. (1997) found that children who felt in control showed fewer signs of stress when their parents divorced. The biological approach: takes the view that behaviour is determined by internal, biological systems. This is physiological/biological determinism. Up to a point biological determinism is a valid argument. Clearly, biological factors provide explanations of behaviour, but not a complete picture. The biological approach consist of brain structures and neurotransmitters. The General Adaptation Syndrome for example, proposes that humans respond to stressors in 3 stages as a result of hormonal secretions. This implies that the stress response is determined at a purely biological level. This may be applicable to animals, but humans have self awareness and involve their cognitions when responding to a stressor (e.g. I'd better get out of here!). Evidence has also shown that no complex behaviour can be explained solely by biological factors. The diathesis stress model of mental disorder explains this by showing that biological factors set a vulnerability, but it is the interaction of this predisposition with environmental factors which can trigger the disorder. One strength of the biological approach is that it takes on the nature approach, which is supported by scientific, causal research. This allows predictions to be made from a controlled laboratory environment where there is control over the IV and DV. This suggests that causal relationships can be achieved using scientific methods to test the biological approach. A weakness of the biological approach is that it is reductionist. For example, anorexia cannot solely be caused by faulty genes (HTR1D) or low levels of serotonin, there are to be other factors such as free will involved. This suggests that the biological approach is oversimplistic when considering behaviour. The behavioural approach proposes that all behaviour is learned and can be explained solely in terms of external (environmental) factors. Skinner said that freedom was an illusion, because we are unaware of the environmental causes of behaviour. E.g., According to behaviourists, attachment is determined by classical and operant conditioning. With the former, the person feeding an infant comes to produce a conditioned response (pleasure) through being associated with food (an unconditioned stimulus). With the latter, the person feeding the infant becomes a secondary reinforcer because s/he is supplying food, which is in turn a primary reinforcer, reducing an unpleasant hunger drive and thus rewarding. The idea of environmental determinism is shown in the behaviourist explanation of anorexia, which proposes that body image is shaped by the media. A person is then positively reinforced for losing weight. Mischel however, suggested a reciprocal deterministic view. This proposes that the interaction between the individual and the environment is important, as people are both a product and a producer of their environment. An individual selects their social environment due to personal characteristics.
  • 6. This choice determines who the individual spends time with, and which behaviours are reinforced. So learned behaviour is to some extent regulated by choice. One strength of the behaviourist approach is that it has practical applications. For example, the assumptions of behaviourist have been applied to treat abnormal behaviour, e.g., systematic desensitisation and token economy. This suggests that using the behaviourist principles to reduce the behaviour down to a stimulus response then practitioners can improve the qua
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