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1. A2 Synoptic Evaluation: Approaches 1 The Biological approach believes human behaviour is due to our genetics and/or physiology. We become ill, medically and/or…
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  • 1. A2 Synoptic Evaluation: Approaches 1 The Biological approach believes human behaviour is due to our genetics and/or physiology. We become ill, medically and/or psychologically, because of physiological or genetic damage, disease, or accident. It is the only approach in psychology that examines thoughts, feelings, and behaviours from a medical/biological, and thus physical point of view.  It provides clear predictions, for example, about the effects of neurotransmitters, or the behaviours of people who are genetically related. This means the explanations can be tested and ‘proven’.  Most biological explanations are reductionist and don’t provide enough information to fully explain human behaviour. Individuals may be predisposed to certain behaviours but these behaviours may not be displayed unless they are triggered by factors in the environmental. This is known as the ‘Diathesis Stress model’ of human behaviour. 2 The Psychodynamic approach proposes that our behaviour is influenced not just by our conscious experience but by experiences and processes buried in our unconscious. Our personality is made up of three components; ID (Pleasure complex as it is a reservoir of basic inherited instincts such as sex and aggression). SUPEREGO (represents our moral conscience which develops during childhood. EGO tries to protect us from anxieties using defence mechanism such as repression into the unconscious. The combination of biological urges and our experiences during childhood is what gives us the personality we have. Our experiences during the Psychosexual stages of development (Oral, anal, phallic, latent & genital) and whether we are sufficiently gratified or fixated during the stages determines our personality. The Unconscious – this part of the mind holds anxiety provoking thoughts and events, which have been repressed by our Defence mechanisms, such as Repression, denial or regression. These are useful psychic energies as they help push unwanted information into our unconscious. What is in our unconscious still affects our behaviour and if these defence mechanisms are used too much this causes mental illnesses.  It recognises the importance of the unconscious factors and the complexity of human behaviour and motivations, something ignored by the behaviourist approach.  Freud’s theory cannot be falsified, i.e. a person may admit to negative feelings about their father or may deny such feelings – but such denial could be taken to indicate that they are simply repressing such feelings. a2synopticevaluationsura
  • 2. 3 The Behavioural approach assumes all behaviours are learnt (operant conditioning – rewards/punishments, classical conditioning - association, or vicarious reinforcement – observing others and seeing the outcome +/-) and that our experiences and environment make us who we are.  Like the biological perspective the behaviourist also provides clear predictions that can. This means that explanations can be tested and ‘proven’.  The approach only provides a partial account of human behaviour, that which can be objectively viewed. Important factors like emotions, expectations, higher-level motivation are not considered or explained. Accepting a behaviourist explanation could prevent further research from other perspective that could uncover important factors. 4 The Cognitive approach in psychology is a relatively modern approach to human behaviour that focuses on how we think, with the belief that such thought processes affect the way in which we behave.  This approach lends itself to studying human behaviour in a scientific manner. Research contains clear IVs, DVs and testable hypotheses and human behaviour can be tested in controlled environments.  Overly mechanistic, the stringent research style can fail to consider social, motivational and emotional factors. Research evidence and explanations may be based on research evidence that lack ecological validity. 5 The Evolutionary approach explains behaviour in terms of the selective pressures that shape behaviour. Most behaviours that we see/display are believed to have developed during our EEA (environment of evolutionary adaptation) to help us survive. Observed behaviour is likely to have developed because it is adaptive. It has been naturally selected, i.e. individuals who are best adapted survive and reproduce. Behaviours may even be sexually selected, i.e. individuals who are most successful at gaining access to mates leave behind more offspring.  This approach can explain behaviours that appear dysfunctional, such as anorexia, or behaviours that make little sense in a modern context, such as our biological stress response when finding out we are overdrawn at the bank.  Cultural influences when understanding human behaviour are not acknowledged in this approach, for example, evolutionary influences lead men to select physically attractive women but the exact details of what constitutes physical attractiveness is partly determined by culture. a2synopticevaluationsura
  • 3. A2 Synoptic Evaluation: Issues and debates An important part of the specification for Unit 3, Topics in Psychology, requires you to develop an appreciation of issues and debates in Psychology. In studying Psychology you have across various specific theories, approaches and research studies. At A2 level you will be expected to show an understanding why an issue is important for a particular topic, and why it might influence our thinking about a particular approaches and studies.  Psychology as a science Science is a particular approach to studying the world that emphasises objectivity i.e. the experimenter is clearly separated from what they are studying. Objectivity: psychologists are people doing experiments usually on other people. The psychologist may have beliefs and expectations which in turn may influence the findings of an experiment. Alternatively the participant may react to the presence of the experimenter in unexpected ways.  Reductionism in Psychology In psychological terms, Reductionism is the belief that our behaviour can be explained entirely by one factor or group of factors. For example, a common criticism of Evolutionary Psychology is that it doesn’t consider our conscious thoughts or external influences; it only explains our behaviour in terms of genetic or biological factors that relate to survival. Similarly, the Behavioural approach only considers external stimuli and not mental processes or emotional experiences.  Free will and determinism In this sense most approaches in psychology are ‘deterministic’. If we can explain someone’s behaviour fully then there is no room for free will. We assume that individuals take responsibility for their own actions and therefore have the free will to choose whether to do wrong or right. However, if behaviour is only due to factors outside the person’s control, then they don’t have free will and cannot be responsible for their own actions.  Nature and nurture The central question is the extent to which our behaviour is determined by our genes we inherit from our parents versus the influence of environmental factors such as home school and friends. The extreme position is that behaviour entirely determined by genes or conversely by our environment. Topics which are hotly debated under the nature vs. nurture argument: IQ, Attachments, Aggression  Ethical issues Virtually all psychological studies involve ethical issues such as deception, privacy, psychological and physical harm. It is therefore important that BPS has strict guidelines that psychologist should follow when conducting research to protect participants from any harm. Remember D.I.P!! And the issues when conducting socially sensitive research. a2synopticevaluationsura
  • 4.  The use of non human animals in psychological research Psychology has a long tradition of using non human animals in a variety of ways. The basic principles of behaviourism were largely based on Skinner work with rats and pigeons. However a major criticism of using animals in research is whether their behaviour can fully explain the behaviour or experiences of humans.  Gender bias This form of bias in psychological theories and studies is not the same as gender differences. In committing this form of biasness there are a range of consequences including: o Scientifically misleading o Upholding stereotypical assumptions o Validating sex discrimination o Avoiding gender bias does not mean pretending that men and women are the same • Alpha bias – Theories that acknowledge real differences between men and women. These can be promoting or devaluing either sex i.e. Freud’s theory of psychosexual development view that women in many respects are ‘failed men’. Pop psychology-‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ • Beta bias – Theories that ignore or minimise and difference between men and women. For instance a study which only uses male participant’s findings then applied to females’ as well. The attachment topic predominantly ignores the role of fathers in a child’s attachment development. • Androcentrism o Similar idea to ethnocentrism o Taking male thinking/behavior as normal, regarding female thinking/behavior as deviant, inferior, abnormal, ‘other’ when it is different.  Cultural bias Psychology is predominantly a white, Euro-American enterprise • In some texts, >90% of studies have US RPs • Samples predominantly white middle class Emics are the constructs particular to a specific culture, i.e. an example of cultural relativism – a behavior/thought that is specific to a particular culture. Etics are constructs that are universal to all people so therefore cultural differences can be ignored. An example could be western based psychiatric diagnosis to non western ethnic groups. Ethnocentrism This occurs when a researcher assumes that their own culturally specific practices or ideas are ‘natural’ or ‘right’. Good examples of ethnocentrism include early theories of relationship formation, such as social exchange theory which are heavily influenced on Western capitalist ideas of personal possessions and worth. a2synopticevaluationsura
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