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Psychology Assumptions Essays

Outline two assumption of the biological approach. [4] One assumption of the biological approach is that the behaviour can be explained in terms of different areas of the brain. This is because many different areas of the human brain have been identified as certain functions. The cerebral cortex is divided into four lobes. The most important is the frontal cortex/lobe, as this is responsible for fine motor movement and thinking. Another lobe is the occipital lobe which is responsible for processing sensory information.
For example, if someone was about to be poked in the eye, the occipital lobe will sense and send the information to the brain through the central nervous system(CNS) telling it to react by closing your eyes immediately. Another assumption is that behaviour can be explained in terms of the neurotransmitters. They are different types of nerves (neurone) in our system which carries information throughout our body and brain. They do so through synapses, this is where the message is relayed by chemical messages.
For example, when you take painkillers the morphine will follow the bodies’ normal pain relievers. The nerve cell communicates with each other from across the synapse using the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters). The serotonin (NT) will then take effect which will change our mood and feeling. Describe Selye’s GAS model. [8] Hans Selye research, such as the study of ‘the facing page’ led him to conclude that when animals are exposed to stressful situation, they display a universal response to all stressor. He called this general adaptation syndrome (GAS).
To prove his theory, Selye’s came up with three stages that’s leads to illness, thus leading stress to illness- stress can result in a decrease of physiological resource, which lowers the organism’s resistant to infection. First stage Selye’s proposed, was the alarm reaction. This is when the stressor recognised and response is made to the alarm. The hypothalamus in the brain triggers the production of adrenaline from the adrenal glands. This causes ‘adrenaline rush’ this leads to readiness for ‘flight or fight’. Stage two is the Resistance.
This is when the body starts to adapt to the environment, but at the same time resources are gradually depleting. The body seems as if it’s coping, but in physiologically things are deteriorating. And stage three is the Exhaustion stage. This is when the body system can no longer maintain it regular functions. And the stressor is unable to continue to deal with the stress, and this exhaustion can result in death if the stress continues. Hans concluded that these stages show how psychological problems can lead to biological illnesses.
Describe how the biological approach is applied to either psychosurgery or chemotherapy. [12] Chemotherapy: the biological approach believes all behaviour is psychological in nature. One of the main assumptions of the biological approach is that our behaviour can be explained by chemical messengers in the brain, known as neurotransmitters. Chemotherapy is a therapy based on this approach, and, based on this assumption aim altering neurotransmitter activity. Chemotherapy is the term used to describe the use of psychoactive drugs to treat mental disorders.
Antidepressant drug for example, work on the neurotransmitter serotonin, as it is believed that depression is due to insufficient amount of this. These drugs generally work by reducing the rate at which certain neurotransmitters are re-absorbed into the nerve ending. For example, SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work by blocking the mechanism that re-absorbs the serotonin into the synapse. The result of this is that more serotonin is left in the synapse, alleviating the feeling of depression (hopefully). Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat disorders such as schizophrenia.
Chlorpromazine for example, is used to combat the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. This drug blocks the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The ‘dopamine hypotheses’ propose that increased levels of dopamine produce symptoms of schizophrenia. Other popular forms of chemotherapy include the treatment of anxiety disorder, commonly used to treat these who suffer from stress and panic attacks. Beta blocker for example, reduce anxiety by acting on the CNS, reducing levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline, or by binding to receptors of the heart, resulting in slower heart beat and fall in blood pressure.
This, in turn, should result in the person feeling calmer and less stress. Chemotherapy has proved successful as a means of treating a range of psychological disorder, and is widely available. Viguera et al (2000) reported that over 60% of patients with bipolar disorder improve when taking lithium. Evaluate two strength of the biological approach. [6] One, strength of the biological approach is that they are scientific, therefore it clearly outlines the variables that can be measured or examined, and this allows psychologist to carry out scientific research, to examine these variables.
For example psychosurgery involves functionally removing parts of the brain. These procedures, requires early research that has linked areas of the brain to certain behaviour such as aggression. Another, strength of the biological approach, is that it is deterministic. One strength of being deterministic is that if we know what predetermines our behaviour we are more likely to be able to treat people with abnormal behaviour. Psychologists seek, for example to understand the functioning of neurotransmitters so they can predict the effects of neurotransmitters on normal to abnormal behaviour.
Evaluate two weaknesses of the biological approach. [6] One, weakness of the biological approach is that it is reductionist. It is a weakness because in the process of understanding how the system works, they may lose a real understanding of the thing we are investigating, for example the biological approach suggests that an illness such as schizophrenia is basically a complex physical-chemical system that has gone wrong. Another, weakness of the biological approach is that it focuses more on nature rather than nurture.
Mental illnesses have many causes, yet the biological approach only focus on the biological causes, this then ignores the life experiences, and psychological factors such as how people think and feel. For example, the biological approach to explaining schizophrenia is concerned with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters rather than with how patients feel about their illness. The biological approach to treatment is therefore concerned with adjusting the abnormal biological systems rather than with talking to patients about how they feel.
Explain and evaluate the methodology used by the biological approach. [12] The biological approach would make use of non-invasive methods such as brain scan; these include EEG, CAT, MRI and PET scan. EEG measures brain activities by placing electrodes onto the scalp, and are useful for investigating things like hemisphere function and stages of sleep. However, they do not provide us with images of the brain as do CAT and MRI scans. CAT scans can show us an x-ray of the brain, and are used to look at brain structure, for example exact damage in brain damaged patients.
MRI scans do not involve injecting a radioactive dye into the patient as do CAT scans, and are therefore good if person has to be scanned several times in a short period. The most recent scanning device is known as PET – positron emission tomography. This type of scan differs from the others as it shows the chemical composition (metabolism) of the brain rather than just its structure. Therefore this is a more sophisticated scanning device, which can reveal information that the others cannot (such as whether a tumour is benign or not). Raine et al. tudied criminal behaviours using PET scans; these were used to establish whether there were brain abnormalities in a sample of murderers. Advantages of these methods are that they are non- invasive in general, they do not cause permanent damage to the patient, yet they allow us to investigate the concept of localisation of function- the idea that certain areas of the brain are responsible for certain behaviours. PET scans are effectively used to diagnose the early stages of neurological illnesses such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
However, the radioactive exposure in PET imaging means that there is only a limited amount of times a patients can undergo this procedures. PET imaging is also extremely expensive, and for this reason is offered only in a limited number of medical centres in the world. Twin studies are also of values to bio psychologist in investigating the assumption that behaviour is due to our genetic make-up. MZ twins share 100% of their genes, and so if behaviour is a product of our genes both twins should demonstrate the same behaviour. E. g.
Bouchard and McGue looked at identical and non- identical twins when investigating whether intelligence could be due to nature. While twin studies provide useful information for the nature-nurture debate, and are able to help psychologist decipher whether certain disorders are genetic, they are not without criticism. Looking at concordance rates provides correlational data, and so cause/effect relationships cannot be established. E. g. if twin have grown up in the same environment then they would have been exposed to the same social ‘triggers’ which could account for the similarities in their behaviour.
This leads to another problem with comparing concordance rates in sets of twins, and that is that usually twins have grown up in exactly the same environment ( or if not very similar ones), and so the effect of biological versus environmental factors are difficult to untangle. Behaviourist approach Outline two assumption of the behaviourist approach. [4] One assumption of the behaviourist approach (BA) is that we learn through classical conditioning. This is based on the principle of association. Pavlov showed (through his research with dogs) that if two stimuli are presented at the same time (e. . food and sound of a bell), and this happens repeatedly, then they become associated with each other. Through this process, we can learn new responses to environmental stimuli, as the behaviourist approach says all behaviour is learned. The BA says that we also learn through the consequences of our actions. This is known as the operant conditioning. We learn through reinforcement and punishment (one increase the likelihood the behaviour will happen again, and the other decreases it every happening again). Reinforcement can be positive or negative.
Positive reinforcement is where we receive a reward for our behaviour, negative reinforcement is where we manage to avoid something unpleasant happening. Describe the social learning theory of aggression SLT [8] The SLT of aggression would consider how children could learn aggression both directly and indirectly. E. g. a child may be given attention for throwing a tantrum, and this is positively reinforcing for them, as it acts as reward (learn aggression directly). SLT mainly would focus on how children would learn aggression from seeing other (indirect learning).
For example, a child may observe their older sibling having a tantrum and receiving sweets from their mum to pacify them. Due to vicarious reinforcement, the younger child will think that if they behave like this too, they will also receive sweets. This is known as observational learning or modelling. Such observational learning and vicarious reinforcement means that a child learns about reinforcements they are likely to receive if they repeat the behaviour (expectancy and future outcomes). Such expectancies are mental concepts and will change if the child repeats the behaviour.
The child will be directly rewarded which will increase or decrease future expectancies depending on whether such action are reinforced or punished. Studies carried out by Bandura illustrate hoe children will imitate the behaviour of others, and model their behaviour on them. In other study, it was found that children were more likely to behave aggressively if they had seen an adult being rewarded for their aggression. The study supports the SLT of aggression, as it shows that children will learn through vicarious reinforcement, i. e. eeing others being rewarded for their behaviour. The SLT of aggression, like SLT in general focuses on how we think about our own and other people’s behaviour, and consider consequences of aggressive acts. If therefore adds a cognitive element to the traditional behaviourist view. Describe how the behaviourist approach has been applied to either aversion therapy or systematic desensitisation. [12] The systematic desensitisation therapy follows the concept of counter-conditioning, and is typically used to treat anxiety such as a phobia.
The aim of the therapy is to acquire a new stimulus-response link (not being affair of your phobia, to responding to the phobia with relaxation). This therapy follows one of the behaviourist approach main assumption that patient learn to be fearful through classical conditioning e. g. an individual with arachnophobia will link spiders with a bad experience, and therefore be fearful spiders. This therapy would link the spider with a more enjoyable experience, such as relaxation. So when the individual would see a spider, they would respond by relaxing.
Systematic desensitisation therapy involves two stages: Listing the things that would normally arouse anxiety, from the least to the most terrifying thing e. g. the first stage might be asking someone with a phobia of clowns to look at a picture of the clown or what a movie. This is known has in vivo desensitisation. Another stage is to just have the patient being with the feared stimuli. This is called the flooding. This is used for people who are adapting obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
This teaches the client how to relax, because anxiety cannot occur at the same time as relaxation. Research carried out has found that systematic desensitisation is successful for a range of anxiety disorder. McGrath et al (1990) claim that about 75% of patients with phobias respond to systematic desensitisation. After both stages, the client would have to imagine that he was doing stage one with the therapist describing in detail what was happening, and the client trying to relax and imagine the situation and reassure the therapist that he would not become anxious.
After being able to do this with every situation on the scale, the client would then have to behave similarly e. g. inviting a clown to their birthday party. This approach is adapted for a large number of different anxieties or phobias and is very effective, although can be criticised for being very time consuming. Evaluate two strength of the behaviourist approach. [6] The behaviourist approach is scientific. As they seek to study behaviour that is observed and directly measured. Behaviourists believe that the use of scientific methods, will allows them to analyse, qualify and compare behaviour.
This is one of the strength because it allows us to identify reality from beliefs. For example, some people believe that wearing a gold token around your neck will ward off evil, but how will we know if this is true, without conducting an experiment? And when it comes to treatment for disease, people want evidence that it will work. Another, strength to the behaviourist approach is that it focuses on the here and now. This is because they are not concern with the past of someone, like the psychodynamic approach, they look for current symptoms in someone’s behaviours.
For example the aversion therapy is used to treat alcoholism by teaching the person a new stimulus response link between alcohol and nausea, thus reducing the undesirable behaviour. Evaluate two weaknesses of the behaviourist approach. [6] One weakness, of the behaviourist approach is that it is too deterministic. This is because they believe that behaviour is most certainly determined by the environmental stimuli (classical conditioning) or by the reward/punishment provided by our environment (operant conditioning).
Thus people are controlled by the external factors. Another weakness of the behaviourist approach is that there are more about nurture and ignores the role of nature. For example, the behaviourist approach would not consider how our genetics make- up could influence personality and behaviour. Explain and evaluate the methodology used by the behaviourist approach. [12] The behaviourist approach believes that only the behaviour observed are worthy of study because we cannot confirm what is going on in the mind. So they use lab experiments.
One of the aims of lab experiment is to establish the cause- effect relationship. For example bandura et al experiment, they manipulated the environment of the children. Strength of lab experiments is that they are able to study casual relationships, because extraneous variable can be controlled. Also lab experiment offer an objective means of studying human behaviours, this is because the experimenter will have to follow, standard procedure, this allows the experiment to have repetitive values by others, in order to determine whether it is valid in it finding.
Lab experiments, allow you to collect qualitative data, making it easier for you to make comparison and analysis to the information collected. For example, bandura, study of the ‘BOBO dolls’ he had to put the children in a lab, he had two separate groups of children taking part in the experiment, this allow him to make cause and effect conclusion, and to put his findings into qualitative data. However, lab experiments are seen has being artificial, because it is unlikely, that someone will behave the same in real life has they do in a lab. This means that it lacks ecological validity.
Also often, lab experiments can see participants behaving differently, this is often because they will try and guess the purpose of the study and act the way they think the researcher wants them to act, also the participant, may want to ruin the research so they use the ‘screw you effect’. This means that the experiment may have high levels of demand characteristic. For example, Loftus and palmer study on ‘eye witnesses’ was carried out using her students at the university, so they might have answered questions, or acted the way they think that she wanted them to act it could also be experimenter bias.
This is because experimenter may or may not intentionally display behaviour that influences participants to act in the desired way. For example by using a certain tone of voice it could influence the participant’s feedback. Another methodology used by the behaviourist approach, is the animals in the researches. This is because they believe that there are only quantitative differences between humans and animals. Animal learning have been successfully applied to human behaviours.
For example, classical conditioning principles were developed through Pavlov’s study of dogs and these principles have been successfully used in therapy, such as systematic desensitisation for the treatment of phobia. There is often less emotional involvement with animals. This results in there being greater objectivity on behalf of the experimenters and therefore there is less bias. Animals, are not subject to demand characteristic, however they may act differently in a lab, than when in normal habitat.
The issue of using animals in your research, is that fact that the research will become less generalizable to the public. Because how do we know that animals learn in the same way as humans. This maybe the cause of basic elements of human learning, for example the uses of reward/punishments, but human behaviours are more complex. Also using animals in your research can raise ethical issues. This is because animals cannot give consent to take part in an experiment, they have no rights to withdraw. Psychodynamic approach
Outline two assumptions of the psychodynamic approach. [4] One assumption of this approach is that personality is made up of three parts: the id (which demands pleasure at any cost), the superego (which is our sense of right and wrong, our morals) and the ego (which is in touch with reality and largely part of the conscious mind). The ego essentially acts as a referee between the id and the superego, as they are in constant conflict, where one maybe saying ‘I want to do/have it now’ and the other, ‘you cannot have it now’.
The psychodynamic approach also assumes that in order to cope with the demands of the id, the ego uses defences- known as defence mechanisms, to prevent us from anxieties caused by the id-superego battle. One example of a defence mechanism is known as displacement, which is the act of taking out our feelings for someone or something on some substitute object (e. g. punching our pillow instead of our boyfriend who we are angry at). Describe Freud’s theory of personality developments. [8] The personality has three elements id, ego and superego. They work together to create a complex behaviours.
Describe how the psychodynamic approach has been applied in either dream analysis or free association. [12] One of the main assumptions of the psychodynamic approach is that our behaviour is largely driven by the thoughts and feelings that lie in our unconscious mind. Therefore the aim of any therapy based on this approach would be to access the unconscious mind, and bring these feelings into the conscious mind so they can be addressed. Dream analysis is one form of psychoanalysis. Freud believed dreams to be significant source of information in relation to our personality; essentially they are the ‘royal road to the unconscious’.
For Freud, dreams represented our underlying wishes and desires (wish fulfilment), which would come to light during dream as this was when our ego defences were at their lowest, and therefore would not censor important information. However Freud said that this information is presented in a dream in a disguised form, called the manifest content, which is the storyline that you recall. The true meaning of the dream which is likely to be hidden is known as the latent content it is the process of the ‘dreamwork’ that disguises latent content, and allows the dream to continue forming a more acceptable storyline.
For example, during dreamwork, displacement may occur where our true feelings for someone will be transferred onto someone or something else. Also symbolisation will disguise the meaning of the dream; this is where an object in a dream may symbolise something else. For example, a snake may really represent a penis or a train going through a tunnel may represent sexual intercourse. The role of the dream analyst is to decode the manifest to the latent content. They must merely suggest ideas about the interpretation to the patient who can accept or deny this as accurate.
Freud himself stated that ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’. While some symbols do have a universal meaning, it is important to interpret the dream in the context of the patient’s current life. Evaluate two strengths of the psychodynamic approach. [6] One, strength of the psychodynamic approach is that it takes in both side of the nature-nurture debate. Freud claims that adult personality is the product of innate drives and childhood experiences. These drives includes drives includes the structure of personality as well as the psychosexual stages that every child passes through.
Another, strength of the psychodynamic approach is that it has proven to be useful in several ways. It highlights that childhood experiences are critical in the development of who we become as adults. Also Freud was the first person to recognise that psychological factors can be the cause of physical symptoms such as paralysis. Generally, this approach is useful for understanding mental health problems. For example that mental health can be a cause of childhood experiences or the unconscious mind. Evaluate two weaknesses of the psychodynamic approach. [6] One, weakness of the psychodynamic approach it that it cannot be proven wrong.
This is because the approach is unscientific and it cannot be falsify. Popper (1935) argues that falsification is the only way to be certain. Many of Freud’s prediction are ‘slippery’. For example his view that all men have repressed homosexual tendencies cannot be disproved. Another weakness of this approach is that it’s to deterministic. This is because Freud saw infant behaviour has determined by innate forces and adult behaviour as determined by childhood experiences. It therefore follows that we do not have any free will and that our life is already determined.
Explain and evaluate the methodology of the psychodynamic approach. [12] * Case studies (explain a bit what a case study is) give strength – high in ecological validity and qualitative data is obtained. Weaknesses- no quantitative data- can’t make cause- effect cannot be generalised. * Clinical interviews (explain a bit what a clinical interview is) – strength- gives good relationship between client and therapist (client more like to open up and be honest about emotion). Therapists tap into verbal and no verbal behaviours (tone of voice, body languages) also rich in qualitative data.
Weaknesses- problem with generalisation to public and interview bias. Cognitive approach Outline two assumptions of the cognitive approach. [4] The cognitive approach looks at how thinking shapes our behaviour. An assumption of the cognitive approach is that behaviour can be explained by mental processes. This approach sees a human has information processors, where our thinking processors all work together in order to make sense of the world around us. Cognitive processes that have been studied include perception, attention, memory and language.
Another assumption of the cognitive approach is that the human mind is like a computer. The computer analogy has been accepted by the cognitive approach. This is when we take in information (input), change it or store it (process), and then recall it when necessary (output). An example of this approach is the multistore model of memory (Atkinson and Shiffrin 1968). In this theory, they propose that information is entered into the brain through our senses (eyes, ears etc. ) and move to the short term memory (STM) store and then to the long-term memory (LTM) store. It output when required.
Describe the attribution theory. [8] Attributions are the beliefs that we hold about the causes of a person’s behaviour. Heider proposed a simplistic model of attribution. He said that our beliefs about the causes of a person’s behaviour can be categorised in two main ways. Firstly, we use an internal attribution, whereby we believe that the person themselves is responsible for their behaviour, for example, it is their personality. Or we can make an external attribution, whereby we see external factors as responsible for a person’s behaviour, for example, the environment or situation they are in.
Kelley proposed a more complex model known as the covariation model. Kelley said that attributions are determined by the covariance of three factors: consistency- does the person always behave in this way when faced with similar situations? Distinctiveness- does the person always behave in this way when in the same situation? Consensus- do other people behave in the same way in similar situation? According to Kelley, internal attributions are made when distinctiveness and consensus are low, but consistency is high.
For example, john always laughs at comedians (high consistency), he doesn’t just laugh at one particular comedian (low distinctiveness) and not everybody laughs at all comedians (low consensus). Therefore, we can conclude that john is a happy-go-lucky guy who is always happy (internal attribution). We often make errors in our attributions, one of which is known as the fundamental attribution error (FAE). This is where we tend to offer internal attributions for other people behaviour, even when external causes are equally more likely.
This doesn’t occur in all cultures though, but is more likely to occur in individualist ones. Describe how the cognitive approach has been applied to either CBT or RET. [12] Evaluate two strengths of the cognitive approach. [6] Strength of the cognitive approach is that it does consider what goes on inside the mind to be important. Unlike the behaviourist approach, which did not see the mind as worthy of study, cognitive psychologists believe that important process such as perception and thinking shape our behaviour, and so should be studied. In other words, they are interested in what goes on inside the ‘black box’.
This has led to important advances in our understanding and improvement of memory. Another important strength to this approach is the way that it has influenced different areas of psychology, and the impact that it has had everyday life. For example, therapies like CT and CBT is extremely widely used now in the UK for treating depression. Cognitive psychology has greatly influenced the thinking within the field of developmental psychology too. For example, Piaget’s theory of cognitive development has been most influential within education. Evaluate two weaknesses of the cognitive approach. [6]
A problem with this approach is the comparison that it makes between the human mind and a computer (computer analogy). This is too ‘mechanistic’, as human beings have emotions and feelings that greatly affect how they respond to situations and how they store information (for example, when we witness a traumatic event). So it seems a bit naive to reduce the mind to a machine as there are many differences. The cognitive approach can also be considered a bit simplistic. It does say that both internal and external factors shape our behaviour, but also ignore some important other factors that are likely to affect how we behave.
For example, it fails to consider the role that genetics have on behaviour, and it also ignores important social factors on behaviour, such as a person’s upbringing. In summary, not all aspects of the nature-nurture debate are considered by this approach; in fact the approach ignores this debate completely. Explain and evaluate the methodology used by the cognitive approach. [12] The cognitive approach would make use of case studies in order to understand cognitive progresses such as memory. Case studies of individuals with damage to their brain can help psychologist further understand mental processes.
For example, take the case of HM whose memory became as a consequence of psychosurgery. HM had trouble laying down new memories after his operation and this case has been used to support the multistore model of memory. Case studies have the advantage that they allow us to gain in-depth, unique insight into a person’s behaviour. Also qualitative data can be obtained which allows us to draw valid conclusion, as we have taken time to study behaviour in detail. Case studies do have their disadvantages though. The main issue being that we cannot generalise the information from them.
Take the case of HM, his brain damage was unique, and it is unlikely that we can draw general conclusion about the memory from this case alone. There is also a danger of researcher bias and subjectivity. Researchers may only select the information they want in their descriptions, in order to support a theory or hypothesis. This means case studies are not as objective as say, experiment. Another method used by the cognitive approach would be lab experiments. Cognitive psychologists believe that psychology is a pure science and that we should study behaviour in an objective manner.
Lab experiments have proved useful in studying memory processes. For example, Loftus conducted many experiments into the role of leading questions in distorting memory. Lab experiments have the advantage of allowing us to draw conclusions about casual relationships, as variables can be tightly controlled. Furthermore, as they follow standardised objective procedures they are easy to replicate in order to validate findings. They produce quantitative data (for example in the Loftus experiments the percentage of people who had been influenced by a leading question) that is easy to analyse and compare.
However, lab experiment can lack ecological validity; for example, it is questionable whether Loftus’ research is valid as participants were unlikely to be as emotionally aroused during the study as they would have been if they had witnesses real life traumatic events. Also, demand characteristic can be a problem, where participants try and ‘act up’ to the experiment, therefore behaving unnaturally. Finally, the experimenter may intentionally or unintentionally bias the outcome, and encourage the participant to behave/respond in the desired way. This can occur due to the close proximity between experimenter and participant.

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