Idiographic and Nomothetic Approach

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  • Created on: 12-06-22 12:41
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  • Idiographic and Nomothetic
    • The idiographic approach is an approach in psychological research that focuses on the individual case as a means of understanding behaviour
      • Qualitative methods are used to help the researcher gain insights into human behaviour
        • Qualitative methods are used such as unstructured interviews, case studies and thematic analysis
      • Unique individuals are studied in depth rather than through collecting numerical data from many individuals and determining average characteristics.
      • Freud used case studies of his patients as a way to understand human behaviour, such as the case of Little Hans
      • Humanistic psychologists study the whole person
        • They are concerned with the person’s subjective experience. 
    • The nomothetic approach aims to formulate general laws of behaviour.
      • the study of a large number of people and then seeks to make generalisations or develop laws/theories about their behaviour
      • Quantitative methods are used to analyse behaviour
      • the goal of the scientific approach
      • The biological approach seeks to establish the general basic principles of how the body and brain work
      • Behaviourist psychologists have produced general laws of behaviour – classical and operant conditioning
      • Cognitive psychology is another example of a nomothetic approach because its aim is to develop general laws of behaviour which apply to all people
    • The central argument is whether the ultimate aim of psychological research to discover universal laws of behaviour or to develop an in-depth understanding of unique cases
    • Idiographic
      • P - its in-depth qualitative methods of investigation, provides a complete and global account of the individual. 
        • E - This may compliment the nomothetic approach by shedding further light on general laws or indeed challenging such laws.  
          • E - For example a single case may generate hypothesis for further study for example HM. 
            • L - This means that findings from idiographic methods may reveal important insights about normal functioning which may contribute to our overall understanding
      • P - it is not scientific
        • E - case studies often rely on subjective interpretations and are open to bias. 
          • E -  The emphasis on in-depth data collection and the difficulties in arriving at justifiable generalisations contradicts the central purpose of any mature science
            • L - Research practices that do not address these goals can seem scientifically pointless.
    • Nomothetic
      • P - loses sight of the ‘whole person’, due to its fixation on quantitative data and statistical analysis. 
        • E - Furthermore, only provides a superficial understanding of human behaviour. For example, Milgram’s research found that 65% of participants obeyed an authority figure 
          • E - However, the results fail to provide an explanation of why each person obeyed, and there may have been very different circumstances that led to the obedience found in each participant.
            • L - This means, in the search for generalities, the nomothetic approach may sometimes overlook the richness of human experience. 
      • P - nomothetic approach is considered as generally scientific
        • E - The use of experimental methods, controlled measurement and the ability to predict behaviour, are all seen as strengths
          • E - Furthermore, controlled methods allow for replication to examine the reliability of findings which has helped psychology establish itself as a scientific discipline.
            • L - The development of theories and empirical testing are just one of the key features of science that are employed by the nomothetic approach.
    • OTHER
      • P - Holt (1967) argues that the ideographic/nomothetic distinction is a false distinction
        • E - Many approaches in psychology take advantage of both approaches and therefore the two approaches can be viewed as complementary rather than contradictory.
          • E - For example, Freud used a combined approach. He employed idiographic methods to study people and also used those insights to generate laws about human development in his theory of personality.
            • L - In reality, many approaches make use of both methods of investigation, and it could be argued that the distinction between idiographic and nomothetic is inappropriate 


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