AQA A-LEVEL PSYCHOLOGY REVISION NOTES: APPROACHES IN PSYCHOLOGY
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PSYCHOLOGY AQA A-LEVEL UNIT 2: 7182/2
ORIGINS OF PSYCHOLOGY
- Wundt, introspection and the emergence of Psychology as a science
- Classical conditioning and Pavlov’s research
- Operant conditioning, types of reinforcement and Skinner’s research
- Social learning theory including imitation, identification, modelling, vicarious reinforcement, the role of mediational processes and Bandura’s research
- Evaluation of Learning Approaches
THE COGNITIVE APPROACH
- The study of internal mental processes
- The role of schema
- The use of theoretical and computer models to explain and make inferences about mental processes
- The emergence of cognitive neuroscience
- Evaluation of the Cognitive Approach
THE BIOLOGICAL APPROACH
- Evolution and behaviour
- Genotype and phenotype, genetic basis of behaviour
- The influence of genes, biological structures and neurochemistry on behaviour
- Evaluation of the Biological Approach
THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH
- The structure of personality: id, ego and superego
- The role of the unconscious
- Defence mechanisms including repression, denial and displacement
- Psychosexual stages
- Evaluation of the Psychodynamic Approach
- Free will, self-actualisation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
- Focus on the self, congruence, the role of conditions of worth
- The influence on counselling psychology
- Evaluation of the Humanistic Approach
COMPARISON OF APPROACHES
- Biological, behavioural, cognitive, psychodynamic, humanistic
For centuries, philosophers and biologists theorised about the causes of human behaviour. However, Psychology as a separate academic discipline did not emerge until 1879 when Wundt established the first Psychology laboratory using a method known as introspection – reflecting on one’s own mental processes such as emotions and sensations.
Freud developed the psychoanalytic/psychodynamic approach from approx. 1895 onwards. Freud was incredibly influential on 20th C. Psychology arguing that humans were governed by instincts and irrational unconscious conflicts which arose in early childhood experience. However, Freud’s emphasis on unobservable aspects of human behaviour (e.g. the unconscious mind) attracted criticism from psychologists who argued that Psychology should be scientific in aims and methods, and focus on observable behaviour.
The Behaviourist approach (or Learning Theory) was developed by Watson who argued that Psychology should adopt a strictly scientific, empirical approach (i.e. only focus on outwardly observable, measurable behaviour). Throughout the 20th C. Behaviourism explored the variety of way in which behaviours are acquired (learnt), maintained (kept) and extinguished (unlearnt) via classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning.
By the 1950’s Cognitive psychologists returned to studying internal mental processes (such as memory, perception, attention, decision-making, etc.) and the development of the first computers in the ‘50’s allowed Cognitive psychologists to model human mental processes artificially (e.g. chess computers). The Cognitive approach also favoured scientific methods and controlled experimentation.
The Biological approach has always existed within Psychology, focusing on the way in which internal structures and processes (the brain, neurotransmitters, hormones, genes, etc.) influence the mind and behaviour. Biological psychology employs highly scientific methods and shares much in common with biology and chemistry.
Humanistic Psychology emerged in the 1960’s and was critical of Behaviourist and Psychodynamic arguments that behaviour was controlled by the either the environment or the unconscious mind. Humanistic psychologists argued that people had free-will (can actively choose how they want to act, feel and behave) and the potential to guide their own personal growth to achieve psychological health, overcome traumas in their past and achieve self-actualisation (personal fulfilment and happiness).
ORIGINS OF PSYCHOLOGY: WUNDT, INTROSPECTION AND THE EMERGENCE OF PSYCHOLOGY AS A SCIENCE (AQA A-level Psychology resources)
For centuries, philosophers and biologists theorised about the causes of human behaviour, however Psychology as a separate academic discipline did not emerge until 1879 when Wundt established the first Psychology laboratory in Germany. Wundt employed introspection as his main method – asking subjects to systematically report on their inner mental processes such as emotions and sensations, and asking them to describe the quality, duration and intensity of what they felt.
Wundt used experimental methods to try to establish the basic building blocks (structures) of thought and investigate how they interacted with each other. Thus, he attempted to break down participants’ observations of objects, images and events down into constituent parts in the same way that an anatomist would study a body by trying to find its constituent parts (e.g. heart, liver, etc.) and how they interact.
For example, in studying reaction time, Wundt systematically changing the stimuli he presented to participants and measured how long it took them to respond - inferring that the longer it took them to respond the more mental processes must be involved.
One major criticism of Wundt’s approach relates to the methodology of introspection. Critics argue that relying on individuals' self-reporting of their thoughts and feelings is subjective: i.e. depends on individual perception and interpretation. Variability in individuals' introspective reports, the inability to access certain mental processes consciously, and the potential influence of biases all undermine the reliability of introspection as a method of inquiry.
Wundt's structuralism, with its emphasis on breaking down mental processes into isolated elements, has also been criticised for oversimplifying the complexity of human cognition and emotion. Critics argue that the reductionist nature of this approach neglects the holistic and dynamic nature of human consciousness and fails to capture how various mental processes interact and influence each other in real-world scenarios.
Lastly, Wundt's work lacked the cross-cultural perspective that contemporary psychology recognises as crucial. His studies were primarily conducted on Western, middle-class populations, which limits the generalisability of his findings to non-European populations.
LEARNING APPROACHES (BEHAVIOURISM) (A-level Psychology notes)
THE BEHAVIOURIST APPROACH, INCLUDING CLASSICAL CONDITIONING AND PAVLOV’S RESEARCH, OPERANT CONDITIONING, TYPES OF REINFORCEMENT AND SKINNER’S RESEARCH; SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY INCLUDING IMITATION, IDENTIFICATION, MODELLING, VICARIOUS REINFORCEMENT, THE ROLE OF MEDIATIONAL PROCESSES AND BANDURA’S RESEARCH
From the 1920’s-60’s Behaviourism attempted to develop a more scientific approach in Psychology focusing on observable behaviour and how individuals acquire/learn behaviours through interaction with their social environment: e.g. family, peers, teachers.
CLASSICAL CONDITIONING AND PAVLOV’S RESEARCH
Classical Conditioning (CC) argues that behaviours are acquired through ‘stimulus-response’ associations: e.g. an event in the environment (stimulus) will cause a physiological effect (response) such as fear, happiness, etc. If this association is repeated a number of times the response will automatically occur every time the stimulus is presented.
In 1927 Pavlov formulated the basics of CC after studying why dogs in his laboratory salivated in the presence of his research assistants.
Dogs naturally salivated in the presence of food. He described this link as an unconditioned stimulus (UCS - the food) causing an unconditioned response (salivation - UCR).
By repeatedly pairing the UCS of food with a neutral stimulus (a bell ringing) just before presentation of food, Pavlov found that eventually dogs salivated simply at the sound of the bell. Therefore, the neutral stimulus of the bell had become a conditioned stimulus (CS) producing a conditioned response (CR) of salivation.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER SYLLABUS AREAS
- Watson later showed how phobias could be acquired through CC in the ‘Little Albert’ experiment. (Psychopathology)
- Systematic Desensitisation is based on the principles of CC to ‘unlearn’ phobic responses. (Psychopathology)
- Learning Theory of attachment partly explains attachment through CC. (Attachment)
This material could be described and evaluated in an Approaches question on CC to provide practical applications/explanations from this approach.
OPERANT CONDITIONING, TYPES OF REINFORCEMENT AND SKINNER’S RESEARCH
Operant Conditioning (OC) focuses on how behaviour is influenced by the consequences of our actions.
If behaviours are reinforced (rewarded) then they are strengthened and more likely to be repeated in the future. If behaviours are punished (or ignored) they will be less likely to be repeated in the future and may eventually be extinguished. For example, aggressive behaviours in a child could be strengthened through the positive reinforcers of praise, attention, respect, etc.
Skinner (‘53) developed a ‘Skinner Box’ to study leaning through OC in rats and pigeons. An animal placed in the box would discover accidentally at some point that pressing a lever in the box would release a food pellet. This positive reinforcement would increase the frequency of lever-pressing. This would also occur if the lever took away an unpleasant stimulus such as a loud noise – i.e. negative reinforcement. Unsurprisingly, punishments such as the lever generating an electric shock would lead to decreased lever-pressing.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER SYLLABUS AREAS
- Learning Theory of attachment partly explains attachment through OC. (Attachment)
This material could be described and evaluated in an Approaches question on OC to provide practical applications/explanations from this approach
SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY (SLT) INCLUDING IMITATION, IDENTIFICATION, MODELLING, VICARIOUS REINFORCEMENT, THE ROLE OF MEDIATIONAL PROCESSES AND BANDURA’S RESEARCH
SLT was developed by Bandura in the 60’s and focuses on how behaviours such as aggression may be learnt via observation and imitation of others.
- Modelling: imitating observed behaviour (e.g. aggression) of a model.
- Vicarious Learning: imitation as a result of seeing another individual being positively reinforced (e.g. praise, popularity, respect, etc.) for a behaviour (e.g. aggression).
Imitation is most likely if the learner (e.g. a boy) identifies with the person whom they are imitating – the model (e.g. the boy’s father, a media hero, a peer, etc.)
Bandura identified 4 mediational processes in social learning.
Mediational processes refer to the thoughts/cognitions which influence whether we will or will not imitate others and how motivated we are to do so.
- Attention: the observer must observe the model behaving in a particular way.
- Retention: the observer must remember what they’ve seen.
- Reproduction: the observer must be capable of imitating the observed act.
- Motivation: the observer must be willing to imitate the observed act.
A study into imitative aggression based on SLT
Bandura (61) divided 72 children aged 4 into 3 groups of 12 boys and 12 girls.
- In condition 1 the children saw a male and a female adult model physically and verbally attack a 5’ tall inflatable doll (bobo doll).
- In the 2nd condition the adults did not aggress against the doll.
- In condition 3 there was no adult model at all.
Children were then taken to a room and prevented from playing with some attractive toys (to frustrate them).
They were then taken to a 3rd room with a bobo doll and various weapons. Bandura’s observation of imitative aggression found that children in condition 1 who had witnessed the violent model were far more likely to aggress against the bobo doll than those in the other conditions.
Bandura’s research implies that violence in the media and the family can cause imitative aggression in children.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER SYLLABUS AREAS
- Bandura’s study is described in more details in the Aggression
- SLT is discussed in the Gender
This material could be described and evaluated in an Approaches question on SLT to provide practical applications/explanations from this approach
EVALUATION OF LEARNING APPROACHES
- Behaviourism adopts a strictly empirical approach: i.e. it only focuses on observable behaviour which can be measured and tested – it does not make reference to hypothetical, non-measurable or observable states such as ‘the super-ego, ‘emotion’, ‘motivation’, etc. Equally, Behaviourism employs scientific methods – experiments conducted under tightly controlled laboratory conditions aimed at understanding the cause-effect relationships which govern the acquisition, maintenance or extinction of behaviours.
- Behaviourism illustrates how our social environment – family, peers, teachers, etc. – influences our behaviour through reinforcement, punishment or imitation. Clearly this is an important ‘nurture’ influence governing a huge range of behaviours ranging from gender role to aggression to language acquisition. Therefore, Behaviourism is important in understanding how our social experiences with others in the family, our peer group, at school, at work, etc. mould our behavioural responses.
- Learning theory has been used to develop methods for controlling behaviour in real-world situations: for example, classroom and family discipline, managing the behaviour of prisoners or inmates in mental institutions, and treating mental disorders such as phobias (SD).
- Behaviourists argued that humans are born a ‘tabula rasa’ (blank slate) whose behaviour, personality and attitudes are acquired as a result of learning. Behaviourism is criticised for its extreme ‘nurture’ viewpoint: e.g. it argues that all behaviours are acquired through learning and ignores the importance of biology, instinct, evolution and thought (cognition) in influencing behaviour. Thus, Behaviourism is reductionist (reduces all behaviour to learning) and deterministic (argues that our behaviours are determined by previous learning experiences and we possess no free-will or choice).
- The laws of Behaviourism were originally formulated using research conducted on animals such as rats, dogs and pigeons. Behaviourists believed that the fundamental laws governing the acquisition of behaviours were similar for all species including humans. Clearly, there is a problem of generalising from animals to humans in regard to the complexity of human cognitive processes. Although animals may respond fairly mechanically to conditioning, human cognitions make human behavioural responses much more complex.
- You can also gain marks for evaluation by stating what Learning Theory ignores which other approaches do take account of.
THE COGNITIVE APPROACH (AQA A-level Psychology notes)
THE STUDY OF INTERNAL MENTAL PROCESSES, THE ROLE OF SCHEMA, THE USE OF THEORETICAL AND COMPUTER MODELS TO EXPLAIN AND MAKE INFERENCES ABOUT MENTAL PROCESSES. THE EMERGENCE OF COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE
Cognitive (from the Latin cogito – I think) refers to the study of human mental processes.
Cognitive Psychology developed from the 1950’s onwards partly as an improvement on Behavioural Psychology which failed to recognise the importance of mental processes in determining behaviour; partly, as a result of the development of computers which were able to mimic human mental processes.
THE STUDY OF INTERNAL MENTAL PROCESSES
Cognitive Psychology is concerned with internal mental processes such as
- Perception – how we take in and make sense of external environmental stimuli.
- Attention – how we focus in on and filter out external environmental stimuli.
- Memory – how we retain and recall information.
- Language – the use of mental symbols to represent, manipulate and communicate aspects of internal and external reality.
- Thinking – judgement, reasoning, logic, problem-solving.
Thus Cognitive Psychology is concerned with all the ways in which knowledge of the world is attained, retained and used.
THE ROLE OF SCHEMA
Schemas are mental maps of understanding about the world, ourselves and others: for example, we have schemas of understanding about how to use the Underground, how to act in a job interview, how a policeman is likely to behave, etc. Our schemas help us make sense of, understand and predict what is likely to happen in situations. In the field of eye-witness testimony (EWT) schemas about race, gender and social class have been shown to bias witness’s memories of events in that stereotypes may cause us to believe that some people are more likely to commit crime.
THE USE OF THEORETICAL AND COMPUTER MODELS TO EXPLAIN AND MAKE INFERENCES ABOUT MENTAL PROCESSES
The mind is often conceptualised as a computer/information processor. The mind has an input of information from the external world via the senses; throughput in the form of memory, thinking and language; and output in the form of decision-making, speech and action.
Parallel processing is processing different tasks at once (e.g. driving a car and holding a conversation). Sequential processing is performing one task and then another, in order.
The brain can be conceptualized as ‘hardware’, our experiences and learnt responses as ‘software’.
Cognitive abilities such as memory and attention have limited capacities and if concentration/focus on one task is interfered with by competing stimuli we may lose focus/be distracted. For example, when learning to drive we may find that holding a conversation is causing interference meaning that we lose focus and driving ability suffers.
Inference refers to going beyond the immediate evidence to make assumptions about mental processes that cannot be directly observed. Much memory research makes inferences about the underlying processes of memory by drawing inferences from studies which involve, for example, asking participants to recall lists of words.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER SYLLABUS AREAS
- Memory: the whole topic is based on the Cognitive Approach.
- Psychopathology: the cognitive approach to understanding and treating depression focuses on cognitions (thoughts).
- Gender: Kohlberg’s theory and Gender Schema Theory are based on children’s changing cognitions about gender
This material could be described and evaluated in an Approaches question on the Cognitive Approach to provide practical applications/explanations from this approach
EVALUATION OF COGNITIVE APPROACH
- The cognitive approach has been useful in researching, describing and understanding the effects of mental processes and cognitions on behaviour: e.g. Loftus and Palmer’s study of eyewitness testimony showed that memory can be warped and distorted after the event by leading questions. Studies such as these have real-life applications – in this case how witnesses are questioned by police and cross-examined by lawyers. Similarly, cognitive therapies are widely employed in the NHS and research evidence indicates they are an effective in the treatment of a wide range of disorders – depression, stress, anxiety, social phobias, etc.
- The cognitive approach lends itself to laboratory experimentation, therefore hypotheses can be tested under highly controlled conditions, confounding variables can be eliminated, and cause-effect relationships between variables established. The testing of mental processes such as memory or perception often makes use of technical measuring instruments which ensures high levels of precision in measurements taken.
- Although the computer analogy of the mind is, in some respects, suitable, computers essential number-crunch quantitative data at high speeds. Humans are far less capable than computers in this respect, but computers do not possess most of the characteristics of the human mind – intuitive decision-making, emotion, personal beliefs and motivations, self-consciousness, moral judgment, etc. Thus humans are qualitatively different to computers. Even the most advanced computer technology is far from able to mimic more complex human mental states.
- The cognitive approach views thought processes as all important in determining emotional state and behaviour. It ignores, therefore, alternative influences on behaviour such as instinct, genetics, neurotransmitters, learning experiences and social environment. For example, a depressive’s maladaptive cognitions could be the result of a biochemical imbalance, and mood and behaviour could be improved by a drug such as Prozac rather than through altering cognitions.
- You can also gain marks for evaluation by stating what the Cognitive Approach ignores which other approaches do take account of.
THE EMERGENCE OF COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE
Cognitive neuroscience brings together knowledge of the structure and functions of the brain (from Biological Psychology) with cognitive psychologists’ knowledge of mental processes such as memory and perception. By studying individuals who have suffered damage to the brain, brain scanning techniques can illustrate which parts of the brain are involved with which mental processes. For example, HM had his hippocampus removed in an operation to reduce his epilepsy. After the operation he could remember things he had just been told suggesting that his STM was intact, but he could not transfer this information to the LTM. Thus he could not form new long-term memories. He could, however, remember things (LTM) from before the surgery. This provides evidence for the MSM’s argument that STM and LTM are 2 separate stores.
THE BIOLOGICAL APPROACH (A-level Psychology revision notes)
THE INFLUENCE OF GENES, BIOLOGICAL STRUCTURES AND NEUROCHEMISTRY ON BEHAVIOUR. GENOTYPE AND PHENOTYPE, GENETIC BASIS OF BEHAVIOUR, EVOLUTION AND BEHAVIOUR
EVOLUTION AND BEHAVIOUR
Darwin’s theory of evolution argues that physical and psychological characteristics which increase the chances of an organism surviving and reproducing (adaptive traits) mean that these characteristics will be more likely to be passed onto the next generation. For example, during the evolution of homo sapiens (approx. 150,000 – present) traits such as physical strength and intelligence would lead individuals to being more likely to survive (by gaining resources: e.g. hunting and gathering food) and reproduce, thus passing on these characteristics genetically to the next generation. Traits such as physical beauty in humans or length and quality of plumage in a peacock are indicators of ‘good’ genes and health: characteristics which are attractive to potential mates.
GENOTYPE AND PHENOTYPE
Adaptive traits which brought advantages to our ancestors are coded in our genes. At the point of conception 2 sets of chromosomes (23 from the father and 23 from the mother) combine to form the unique combination of 46 genes present in each individual. The term genotype refers to the unique combination of genes present in the DNA of every cell in an individual’s body.
From conception, genes interact with the environment in various ways – first of all within the mother’s body: for example, toxins such as alcohol may be passed through the placenta, then from the outside world: for example, exercising will make one stronger. The way in which the genotype is modified and influenced by the environment is referred to as the phenotype.
THE INFLUENCE OF GENES ON BEHAVIOUR
Twin studies can be used to assess to what extent psychological characteristics are genetically inherited (nature) or caused by the environment (nurture). Schizophrenia, intelligence and personality type are some of the characteristics which evidence suggests are partially genetically determined. By studying large numbers of identical (MZ) and non-identical (DZ) twins where 1 of the twin pair has a characteristic (such as schizophrenia) we can calculate a ‘concordance rate’ – the average % probability that the other twin will also possess that characteristic. If the concordance rate is higher for MZ’s (who share 100% genetic similarity) than DZ’s (who are only 50% alike) we can deduce that the disorder is genetic to some extent. For example, concordance rates for depression are about 46% of MZs and only 20% for DZs.
THE INFLUENCE OF NEUROCHEMISTRY ON BEHAVIOUR
It is believed that inherited genes which cause mental disorders operate by causing abnormal neurotransmitter levels.
Excessive levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine are associated with schizophrenia. Phenothiazines (drugs used to treat schizophrenia) inhibit dopamine activity and reduce symptoms, and L-Dopa (used to treat Parkinson’s disease) stimulates dopamine production and produces schizophrenic symptoms in unaffected individuals.
The Relationship between Dopamine, Phenothiazines & L-Dopa
DRUG USED TO TREAT
EFFECT OF DRUG
SIDE EFFECTS OF DRUG
Lowers dopamine- reduces delusions and hallucinations
Stiffness of limbs
Stiffness of limbs
Increases dopamine - reduces stiffness of limbs
Delusions and hallucinations
THE INFLUENCE OF BIOLOGICAL STRUCTURES ON BEHAVIOUR
The link between brain structures and their functions is referred to as brain localisation.
Brain localisation can be studied via
- Invasive methods
Animals can have brain sites electrically or chemically stimulated, or cut/burnt out (lesions). Psychologists then monitor the animal for changes in behaviour.
- Non-invasive methods
Brain scans such as CAT, PET and MRI scans use a variety of techniques to ‘see’ inside live brains. By asking people taking scans to perform certain tasks and monitoring electrical activity and blood flow we have been able to build up a picture of brain localisation.
For example, HM had his hippocampus removed in an operation to reduce his epilepsy. After the operation he could remember things he had just been told suggesting that his STM was intact, but he could not transfer this information to the LTM. Thus he could not form new long-term memories. He could, however, remember things (LTM) from before the surgery. This provides evidence for the MSM’s argument that STM and LTM are 2 separate stores.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER SYLLABUS AREAS
- Biological explanations and treatments for Schizophrenia (Schizophrenia) or OCD (Psychopathology)
- Biological explanations of gender role (Gender)
- Neural and hormonal mechanisms in aggression (Aggression)
This material could be described and evaluated in an Approaches question on the Biological Approach to provide practical applications/explanations from this approach.
EVALUATION OF THE BIOLOGICAL APPROACH
- The biological approach employs scientific methods such as laboratory experiments on physiological structures and processes conducted under controlled conditions. These produce quantitative data which can be statistically analysed to show cause-effect relationships between variables. For example, experimentation have proven that schizophrenia is linked to high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The drug chlorpromazine blocks dopamine receptors, reduces dopamine levels and lessen the disorder’s symptoms. Thus, scientific experimentation allows us to determine cause-effect relations between biological and psychological factors.
- Findings have resulted in practical applications which reduce suffering. For example, chemotherapy - the use of drugs to treat mental disorders - improves the quality of life of the mental ill. Before the invention of drug therapies, there was little that could be done to help schizophrenics; chlorpromazine reduces the severity of symptoms and helps schizophrenics live independently and take care of their own basic needs. Anti-depressants may improve the mood of depressives to motivate them to engage in therapy and become more sociable.
- The biological approach is determinist – all behaviours are believed to be biological in origin – the influence of ‘nurture’ factors is ignored. For example, biological psychologists focus on the role of genetic and neurological factors in understanding intelligence and under-estimate the role of social and environmental factors or past experience: e.g. intelligence is affected by family values and schooling. Thus, the biological approach oversimplifies human psychology.
- The biological approach is reductionist – it reduces the complexity of human consciousness and behaviour to biological ‘parts’ and ignores the role of cognition (thoughts). For example, the biological approach reduces mental disorders such as depression or schizophrenia to genetic and neurological causation and ignores the role that an individual’s thoughts about their self, others and their life may contribute to the onset of a disorder.
- Much experimental research conducted by biological psychologists is based on animal research. For example, Selye’s research into how bodies respond to stress was based on the stress responses of rats. Apart from the obvious physical differences, the human stress response is influenced by complex sets of cognitions (thoughts) about the stressor whereas animals generally respond to stress in a fairly predictable manner. Thus, findings from animal studies are not directly generalisable to humans.
- You can also gain marks for evaluation by stating what the Biological Approach ignores which other approaches do take account of.
THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH (AQA A-level Psychology revision notes)
THE ROLE OF THE UNCONSCIOUS; THE STRUCTURE OF PERSONALITY: ID, EGO AND SUPEREGO; DEFENCE MECHANISMS INCLUDING REPRESSION, DENIAL AND DISPLACEMENT, PSYCHOSEXUAL STAGES
THE STRUCTURE OF PERSONALITY: ID, EGO AND SUPEREGO
Freud viewed the personality as being composed of
- Id - the biological, instinctual, asocial part of ourselves concerned with the satisfaction of basic desires such as food and warmth, and drives such as sex and aggression.
- Super-Ego - concerned with obeying social norms and rules, shaped by the authority and discipline of the parents and society. Composed of the conscience (which punishes the ego with feelings of guilt) and the ego-ideal (which rewards us when we behave in socially appropriate ways).
- The Ego - manages the conflict that takes place between the impulses of the Id and the realities of the external world (the reality principal).
THE ROLE OF THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND
Freud argued that only a small part of the mind was Conscious - the far greater proportion is Unconscious and thus we have limited insight and self-understanding of our own motives, emotions and behaviour. Much human behaviour is, therefore, irrational and caused by unconscious impulses such as
- Anxiety caused by conflict between the Id and the Super-Ego
- Socially unacceptable unconscious wishes and desires: e.g. aggressive urges toward a parent, etc.
- Repressed memories – painful memories that have been pushed down from the Conscious to the Unconscious (without us consciously deciding to do so)
- Fears and anxieties
- Sexual and aggressive drives
Painful, anxiety causing material is repressed (pushed down) into the Unconscious to prevent us being overwhelmed in everyday life.
During sleep, material from the Unconscious enters the Conscious mind to take the form of dreams – symbolic dramas of Unconscious conflicts.
DEFENCE MECHANISMS INCLUDING REPRESSION, DENIAL AND DISPLACEMENT
Conflicts between the Id, Super-Ego and Ego create anxiety. Anxiety may be reduced through defence mechanisms – irrational/abnormal ways of thinking or behaving. Common defence mechanisms include Denial (refusing to face up to an unpleasant aspect of reality); Repression (blocking of unacceptable or unpleasant feelings, thoughts or impulses); and Displacement (re-directing thoughts and impulses from one person to another: e.g. one feels aggressive towards one’s teacher but aggression is displaced onto a weaker, more accessible target).
The psychosexual theory of development proposes that children pass through five stages from birth to early adulthood. If a child finds a stage problematic or too pleasurable fixation occurs which will result in clusters of personality traits emerging.
Oral Stage (0-1 yr). Attitudes to pleasure are formed as the infant receives satisfaction through oral activities. Fixation may occur through
- Over-indulgence – the infant is fed whenever it demands food – this results in traits such as being overly optimistic, dependency on others, egocentricity.
- Under-indulgence – the infant experiences problems breastfeeding – this results in traits such as pessimism, envy, cynicism, greed and ‘oral’ habits.
Anal Stage (1-3 yr). Attitudes to discipline and authority are formed as parents enforce social rules. Fixation may result in personalities which are
- Anally retentive – excessive discipline – causes traits such as obsession with cleanliness, orderliness, control, obedience, conformity, being overly moral.
- Anally expulsive – lax discipline – impulsive, rebellious, non-conformist, expressive, disorganized, creative.
- Phallic Stage. Aged 4-5 boys experience conflicting emotions towards the mother (love and desire for possession) and the father (jealousy and fear). This ‘Oedipus Complex’ needs to be resolved for the infant to develop their appropriate gender role. Fixation may result in homosexuality, exhibitionism, excessive ambition, vanity, excessive masculinity or femininity.
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER SYLLABUS AREAS
- The Oedipus Complex - Gender
This material could be described and evaluated in an Approaches question on the Psychodynamic Approach to provide practical applications/explanations from this approach
EVALUATION OF THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH
- Freud highlights irrational behaviour and thought processes arguing that we are motivated by deep, Unconscious desires and instincts we are unaware of and have little control over. Thus humans are viewed as lacking self-insight and self-control. This perspective is important in helping us understand the many irrational behaviours individuals and groups display: for example, the obsession with cleanliness, routine and regularity which marks the major symptoms of OCD, or an anorexic’s refusal to eat.
- Many studies report psychodynamic therapy as effective, particularly for clients whose psychological problems arose in childhood. Lindgren (2010) found that after 18 months of therapy 134 young adults who had suffered long-term depression, anxiety and low self-esteem reported their symptoms had significantly decreased. Psychodynamic therapies are still recommended by the NHS in some instances – for example, complex cases of depression accompanied by other symptoms.
- Freudian methods are unscientific. He is criticised for constructing theories through self-analysis or based on unrepresentative studies of a small numbers of neurotics. Thus, the psychodynamic approach is subjective, its findings not generalisable to the population as a whole, and Freud is often accused of making false links between case studies and theory he wished to prove. For example, the concept of the Oedipus complex was based on Freud’s memories of his own childhood and the case study of Little Hans. This case study is highly criticisable for generalising from a sample of 1 boy, and that Freud may have interpreted Han’s behaviour to provide proof for the Oedipus Complex.
- Psychodynamic theory is deterministic. It is argued that Freud puts too much emphasis on childhood experiences - a time people have no memory of or control over events in their life - thus they are a ‘victim’ of childhood experience and parents are to blame for their offspring’s psychological problems. For example, overly strict discipline during an infant’s toilet training may cause an anally-retentive personality type.
- Freud’s theories are based on case studies generally conducted on young 19th Viennese neurotic women: therefore, his theories are gender biased and may not be relevant to 21st C. society.
- You can also gain marks for evaluation by stating what Psychodynamic Theory ignores which other approaches focus on/do take account of.
THE HUMANISTIC APPROACH (Psychology A-level revision)
FREE WILL, SELF-ACTUALISATION AND MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS; FOCUS ON THE SELF, CONGRUENCE, THE ROLE OF CONDITIONS OF WORTH. INFLUENCE ON COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGY
FREE WILL, SELF-ACTUALISATION AND MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
Humanistic Psychology emerged in the 1960’s and was critical of Behaviourist and Psychodynamic arguments that behaviour was controlled by the either the Unconscious mind or the environment (i.e. both these approaches are ‘determinist’). Humanistic psychologists argued that people had free-will (can actively choose how they want to act, feel and behave) and the potential to guide their own personal growth to achieve psychological health, overcome traumas in their past and achieve self-actualisation (personal fulfilment and happiness).
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory argues that humans all exist somewhere on a hierarchy associated with particular needs/desires. At a basic level people needs to satisfy simple physiological needs to do with food, warmth and survival. Once these needs are satisfied we are motivated to focus on needs relating to physical and psychological safety (e.g. not feeling threatened). The next level relates to love and belonging – the desire for acceptance from family and friends. The 4th level relates to self-esteem – feeling positive towards oneself and a sense of competence and achievement. Once all of these needs have been satisfied we may engage with the need for self-actualisation – the desire for personal fulfilment. Self-actualisation is associated with creativity, spontaneity and thinking in original, unconventional ways.
FOCUS ON THE SELF, CONGRUENCE, THE ROLE OF CONDITIONS OF WORTH
Rogers argued that humans have an innate drive towards personal growth. During childhood we develop a sense of self (who we are and what we’re capable of) and self-esteem (how we feel about ourselves) from our parents, friends, teachers, etc.
A child’s self-esteem may be dependent on approval from parents. If a parent only gives conditional love (what Rogers refers to as conditions of worth: i.e. only shows love when the child behaves as the parent wishes them to) this may interfere with positive psychological growth and health. Rogers argued, therefore, that parents should give unconditional positive regard to their children.
Roger’s also argued that psychological problems arise when a person experiences a state of incongruence (where their ideal self – how they would like to be – does not fit with their perception of how they actually are). Congruence can be encouraged by others giving unconditional positive regard. Self-actualisation is only possible when a state of congruence is achieved.
INFLUENCE ON COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGY
Humanistic psychology inspired Person-Centred Counselling – where clients are encouraged to explore their emotions/thoughts and discover their own solution to their problems. The therapist encourages the client to talk openly and tries to enter into the world view of their client and clarify exactly what the client is expressing. The therapist should be (i) empathetic, (ii) give unconditional positive regard to the client without imposing conditions of worth.
EVALUATION OF THE HUMANISTIC APPROACH
- The humanistic approach emphasises our ability to exercise free-will and choice in deciding how to behave, thus the approach is not deterministic.
- The approach focuses on how humans make sense of their experiences – thus, there is a focus on individuals’ personal, subjective experience which cannot be studied in laboratory settings. Thus there is more a focus on the ‘whole’ human being and what they feel is important and relevant to their life.
- Humanistic Psychology is not reductionist. Whereas behaviourism reduces behaviour to what has been learnt in the past, and the biological approach focuses on genes, the brain and neurotransmitters, the Humanistic Approach focus on the whole person and understanding them in the context of their life and their experiences.
- Person-centred Counselling is supportive of people with psychological problems and argues they must be treated with respect and unconditional positive regard. The aim of therapy is to empower the client so that they are able to help themselves overcome their own problems. This should provide a more long-term improvement in mental health.
- Humanistic Psychology has been criticised for being overly-optimistic about human nature: e.g. that humans are fundamentally ‘good’ and naturally attempt to make ‘positive’ progress in their lives. This contrasts strongly with Freud’s view where humans are thought to be motivated by unconscious drives which are often aimed at self-satisfaction and a disregard for others.
- Humanistic Psychology’s emphasis on free-will and choice may be a reflection of wealthy, western cultures where money and liberal laws allow people to choose how to act and behave and pursue personal growth rather than dealing with basic issues such as food and safety.
- Due to the focus on personal subjective experiences, Humanistic Psychology is not open to scientific study, therefore it is difficult to ‘prove’ Humanistic approaches right or wrong or make scientific predictions about how people are likely to behave.
- The focus on ‘conscious experience’ ignores the fact that we may be motivated by unconscious forces we have little awareness of (as the Psychodynamic Approach argues).
- CCT is of little use for individuals with low intelligence, learning difficulties or the mentally ill, as they may lack the insight or ability to reflect on their own life and experiences and benefit from the guidance and advice provided by the therapist.
- You can also gain marks for evaluation by stating what the Humanistic Approach ignores which other approaches do take account of.
COMPARISON OF APPROACHES (A-level Psychology revision)
BIOLOGICAL, BEHAVIOURAL, COGNITIVE, PSYCHODYNAMIC, HUMANISTIC
You may be asked to compare any of the 5 major approaches with each other and this may be an 8 or 16-mark essay question.
So – the 10 possible combinations are…
The easiest way to tackle these questions is in terms of their view on some of the major topics covered in the paper 3 Issues & Debates topic.
Use the chart below to understand how the different Approaches compare (are similar) and contrast (are different) with each other in terms of:
- Basic assumptions about human psychology/behaviour
- Methods of investigation they tend to use
- Their scientific status – i.e. is the Approach regarded as scientific or not?
- Their position on the following issues/debates
- Nature vs. Nurture
- Free-will versus Determinism
- Holism versus Reductionism
- Idiographic versus Nomothetic
Your essay should be based around comparing and contrasting the Approaches in terms of points 1-4 above and (if appropriate or if you have enough time) illustrating these similarities/differences by referring to the main topics you have studied from each Approach.