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Comparison of Approaches Psychology

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Comparison of Approaches Psychology

There are many different approaches to psychology, but which one is the right one? While the answer to that question is far too complicated, we can get a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach by comparing them.

Comparison of approaches in psychology

Comparing the approaches in psychology focuses on their stance in the following debates:

  • Free will vs determinism
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Reductionist vs holistic
  • Scientific research process
  • Nomothetic vs idiographic

Comparison Path Approaches Psychology, Path to chose, StudySmarterPath to choose, freepik.com/pch.vector

Comparison of quantitative and qualitative research approaches

One of the most significant differences between approaches is whether they are based more on quantitative or qualitative analysis.

Quantitative research approaches

Quantitative research approaches include behavioural psychology, social learning theory, and cognitive and biological psychology. The psychodynamic approach carries out a little quantitative and qualitative analysis. These approaches are nomothetic, meaning that they attempt to gather large amounts of generalised data to make prescriptive judgements about the nature of human psychology.

Quantitative research focuses on statistical analysis and aims to find information that can be generalised to the greater population. It is heavily based on the scientific method, focusing only on what can be directly observed and quantifiably measured.

Qualitative research approaches

Qualitative research approaches are idiographic, meaning that they focus more on unique individuals and a more holistic view of each person's psychological profile, as humans differ significantly from one another. An example of this is the humanistic approach.

Qualitative research typically works outside of the scientific method, delving deeper into subjects rather than trying to measure and make prescriptive judgements through observation.

For example, the humanistic approach assumes that quantitative research is reductive and cannot accurately judge the psychology of all humans because everyone is unique.

Comparison of the biological and humanistic approaches

The biological and humanistic approaches are two very different approaches in psychology. Let's look at the differences and similarities between the biological and humanistic approaches.

The biological approach

The biological approach assumes that human behaviour results from biological, physical processes over which we have no control and may not even be aware. This idea is also known as biological determinism. Its applications mainly lie in drug treatments that aim to alter the biological processes behind our behaviour.

Reductionist and nomothetic

This approach is reductionist, as it uses broad observations of human biology to make judgements about behaviour. It abides by the scientific method and typically uses lab experiments to gather data.

The biological approach is nomothetic and creates generalised, prescriptive judgements about human psychology based on the fact that we all share physiology and may react predictably to specific treatments or activities in the brain.

Because of its focus on physiology as the basis of psychology, it is a natural approach. It often uses animal studies to understand animal behaviour and extrapolate its findings to humans.

The humanistic approach

The humanistic approach assumes that the self ultimately shapes human behaviour, and we can choose to some degree how we react to things and conduct ourselves. This makes the humanistic approach a free-will approach. Its applications mainly include client-centric talk therapy.

Holistic and idiographic

Because of its focus on individual clients and the belief that each person is different and must be individually understood, the approach is holistic. The humanistic approach considers scientifically-based approaches like the biological approach to be reductive, so it works outside of the scientific method.

The humanistic approach is idiographic and focuses on individual-focused, deep analysis of individuals rather than making broad prescriptions about human psychology based on quantitative analysis.

A humanistic approach is an interactionist approach, meaning that it believes a combination of nature and nurture ultimately drives human behaviour to achieve a form of self-actualisation. As the humanistic approach is focused on humans and methods that only humans can participate in (i.e., talk therapy), animals are not typically used.

Biology Nature Research Comparison Approaches StudySmarterNature and biology, freepik.com/freepik

Comparison of the cognitive and behaviourist approaches

The cognitive and behaviourist approaches have more in common than the previously discussed approaches. Let's look into them and discuss the differences and similarities between the cognitive and behaviourist approaches.

The cognitive approach

The cognitive approach assumes that our behaviour results from cognitive processes in the brain but that we have the final say on how we choose to act. This makes the cognitive approach a soft deterministic approach, as it leaves room for an element of free will while explaining most behaviour as being a result of things we don't control. The cognitive approach's applications are mainly found in CBT - cognitive behavioural therapy, a style of therapy that aims to assist the client in changing how they think and react to feelings.

Reductionist and nomothetic

The cognitive approach is experimentally reductionist, offering experimental reasonings based on cognitive observations. The cognitive approach uses a combination of lab experiments and brain imaging techniques to understand human behaviour, so it abides by the scientific method and is therefore nomothetic. Concerning case studies, it adopts the idiographic approach.

The cognitive approach holds a neutral position in the nature vs nurture debate and does not use animals in its research, as their cognitive processes differ from ours.

The behaviourist approach

Behaviourism is typically applied in treating phobias (such as the flooding technique) and treating people with PTSD and autism. The behaviourist approach is reductive because of its focus on environmental stimulus/response relationships.

Determinist and nomothetic

The behaviourist approach assumes that our behaviour is a result of simple stimulus/response combinations that occur when we interact and observe our surroundings. This makes it a determinist approach as it proposes that our environment is responsible for our actions.

The behaviourist approach abides by the scientific method and is nomothetic, generalising its findings around stimulus/response to the broader population. It is on the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate, believing humans are born as blank slates (tabula rasa), and their experience of their environment determines behaviour.

Animals were used heavily in the early stages of this approach's development.

Animal Research Comparison of Approaches StudySmarterAnimal research, freepik.com/pch.vector

Comparison of social learning theory and the psychodynamic approach

Comparing these two approaches is not so simple, as the psychodynamic approach operates on a less black-and-white view of how psychology works. Let's look at the differences and similarities between social learning theory and the psychodynamic approach.

Social learning theory (SLT)

Social learning theory assumes that our behaviour is learned and reinforced by others. This makes SLT an example of reciprocal determinism. It identifies that we are influenced by what we observe but that there is an element of choice regarding whether others reinforce our behaviour and how much we take that reinforcement on board.

Reductionist and nomothetic

SLT has been used to explain how behaviour such as aggression arises and how we can treat it. SLT uses a mixture of environmental and cognitive explanations for behaviour, so it is reductionist but less than, say, the biological approach.

SLT abides by the scientific approach and is nomothetic, believing that we all learn behaviour in the same ways. SLT is an example of a nurture-based approach, as it highlights the importance of the environment in shaping our behaviour. SLT does not use animals in its research.

The psychodynamic approach

Freud's psychodynamic approach assumes that human behaviour results from formative experiences from childhood and innate 'drives' (described as the id, ego and superego). This is known as psychic determinism. The psychodynamic approach led to the creation of psychoanalysis, which was an early precursor to our more modern forms of talk therapy.

Holistic, idiographic, and nomothetic

The psychodynamic approach is holistic, as it places great importance on exploring all areas of one's behaviour. It does not abide by the scientific method and has idiographic and nomothetic elements. It also contains elements of both nature and nurture, as it believes in the importance of innate drives and that early life experience can also influence our behaviour.

The psychodynamic approach does not use animals in its research.

Comparison of approaches table

Here's a table comparing the different approaches and their similarities and differences. This should make it easy to remember them all.

BehaviouralBiologicalCognitiveSocial LearningPsychodynamicHumanistic
Scientific?YesYesYesYesNoNo
Reductionist or holistic?ReductionistReductionistReductionistReductionistHolisticHolistic
Idiographic or nomothetic?NomotheticNomotheticNomotheticNomotheticBothIdiographic
Nature or nurture?NurtureNatureBothNurtureBothInteractionist (both)
Deterministic or free will?DeterministicDeterministicSoft deterministicSoft deterministicDeterministicFree-will
Real-world usePhobia treatmentDrug therapy and psychosurgeryCBTUnderstanding aggressionPsychoanalysisCounselling
Animal involvement?Animal studies laid the foundations of this theory.Animal research is used, especially if similar to humans.Animals not involvedAnimals not involvedAnimals not involvedAnimals not involved

Comparison of Approaches - Key takeaways

  • The behavioural approach, SLT, cognitive and biological approaches are scientific, while the psychodynamic and humanistic approaches do not use the scientific method.
  • The behavioural approach, SLT, cognitive, and biological approaches are nomothetic, while the psychodynamic approach has idiographic elements and the humanistic approach is idiographic.
  • The behavioural approach, SLT, cognitive and biological approaches are reductionist, while the psychodynamic and humanistic approaches are holistic.
  • The behavioural, biological and psychodynamic approaches are hard determinist, while SLT and the cognitive approach are soft determinist and the humanistic approach believes in free will.
  • The behavioural approach and SLT are both nurture approaches, while the cognitive, psychodynamic and humanistic approaches have elements of nature and nurture, and the biological approach is nature.

Frequently Asked Questions about Comparison of Approaches Psychology

There are many different approaches in psychology, including the biological, behavioural, psychodynamic, cognitive, humanistic approaches, and social learning theory.

In psychology, the approaches are different ways of solving problems and looking at the world of psychology.

The cognitive approach is scientific and reductive, while the psychodynamic approach does not follow the scientific method and is holistic.

You can compare approaches in psychology by comparing the functions of each and their attributes.

The cognitive approach assumes that our behaviour is a result of cognitive processes in the brain.

Final Comparison of Approaches Psychology Quiz

Question

What are the different approaches in psychology?


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Answer

The different approaches in psychology are behaviourist, social learning theory, cognitive, biological, psychodynamic and humanistic.

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Question

Where does Bowlby's attachment theory lie in the 'nature versus nurture' debate?

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Answer

The learning theory of attachment and Bowlby’s attachment theory are concerned with human nature rather than nurture. Therefore, they would take the side of nature in the 'nature versus nurture' debate.

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Question

How does the psychodynamic approach differ from the biological approach regarding child development?

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Answer

The biological approach focuses on the physiological changes a child goes through during its development. In contrast, the psychodynamic approach focuses on the unconscious development the child goes through during their early stages of life.

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Question

How does humanistic psychology see child development?


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Answer

Humanistic psychologists see the development of the self as ongoing throughout life. A child’s relationship with their parents is a critical determinant of psychological health.

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What is determinism in psychology?

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Answer

Determinism suggests that our behaviours have a cause, internal or external. These causes determine what the individual will be like.

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 What does the biological approach claim as a determinant of behaviour?

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Answer

The biological approach claims that our genetics, hormones, and biological influences determine our behaviour, which our innate powers govern.

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What is one example of soft determinism?

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Answer

The cognitive approach suggests that we can choose the thoughts and behaviours we want to focus on and develop within the limits of what we know and have experienced.

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Question

Is free will similar to determinism?



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Answer

No, free will is the opposite of determinism.


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How does free will differ from determinism?



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Answer

Free will is the liberty to decide how to behave and think.

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What is reductionism?



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Reductionism is a theory used to simplify complex psychological processes into small parts or reduce something complex into something simple.

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What does holism focus on?



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Answer

Holism focuses on the interaction of many parts of the whole structure interplay rather than small parts.



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Question

What approaches in psychology are considered reductionists?



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Answer

Psychodynamic, biological, behaviourism, social learning, and cognitive approaches are considered reductionists. 

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Question

Outline an example of a holistic approach in psychology. 



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Answer

Humanistic psychology has a holistic approach to understanding human behaviour.



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Question

Is the psychodynamic approach in psychology considered holistic?



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Answer

Psychodynamic is based on reductionism and holism approaches.



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Question

What is the belief of nature and nurture in the psychology debate? 



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Answer

Nature: Believes that biological factors influence human behaviour. 

Nurture: Believes that the environment and experiences influence human behaviour.



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Question

When comparing the approaches in psychology, what debates are we concerned with?

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Answer

Free will vs. determinism
Nature vs. nurture
Reductionist vs. holistic
Scientific research process
Nomothetic vs. idiographic 

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Question

The biological approach is ______.

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Answer

deterministic

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The biological approach is reductionist, true or false?

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Answer

True.

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Is the biological approach nomothetic or idiographic?

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Answer

nomothetic

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The humanistic approach is based on _____.

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Answer

free-will approach 

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The cognitive approach has a soft deterministic approach, true or false?


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Answer

True.

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Question

Does the behaviourist approach have a deterministic or free-will based approach?

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Answer

it is environmentally deterministic

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