The origins of Psychology (Outline)

  • Wilhelm Wundt is credited as being the first psychologist when in 1875 he created the first psychological lab in Leipzig, Germany. 
  • Wundt founded the institute of Experimental Psychology with Gustev Fechner in 1879. His approach led towards the acceptance of psychology as a science as it moved away from the realms of philosophy, physiology and biology.
  • Granville Stanley-Hall is credited as establishing the first american lab in 1993 with the American Psychological Association founded in 1892.
  • Wundt wished to study the structure of the human mind and believed this could be achieved by breaking down behaviours such as perception and sensation into their basic elements.
  • His approach was known as structuralism and the technique he used became known as introspection which is latin for 'looking into'.
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Introspection (Outline)

Wundt trained participants to become self-aware enough to observe and report back their inner mental processes and emotional states within experiments when subjected to stimuli such as pictures or auditory tones and then describe (report) what they experienced.

This information was then used to generate theories about perception and mental processes and gain insight into their workings. Wundt initially believed all aspects of human behaviour could be investiated via experiments using introspection like this including memory and perception.

Wundt later realised that learning, language and emotions could bot be studied through lab experiments. This was in part due to such self-reports being found to be unreliable and difficult to replicate and ultimately subjectively down to the individual.

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Introspection (Evaluation)


Introspection was found to be innacurate; it relied on subjective responses from patients which can not be observed not was it possible to use it effectively to formulate theories on memory or perception. It is difficult to replicate compared to behaviouralist explanations such as classical and operant conditions which can be replicated.

Introspection was ony suited for people who were able to show an ability to have self-awareness so it did not uncover appropriate in understanding all behaviour from people. In addition it did not uncover unconcious attitudes or bias people may hold which influence behaviour and choices people make as they were unaware of them. 

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Emergence of psychology as a science

For psychology to be accepted as a science it had to adopt the scientific methods of other natural sciences such as chemistry and biology. Psychology relies on empiricism, also known as the empirical method, which gathers knowledge from observation and experience. Empiricism is based on the assumption of determinism and that all behaviour has a cause and if this is the case it can also be predicted within different sutuations. This technique became knon as the scientific method. 

This scientific method uses investigative methods which are objective, systematic and replicable. Objectivity looks to ensure researchers do not let their bias or preconcieved ideas influence their collection and recording of data. Being systematic involves conducting experiments in an orderly way with measurements carried out accurately while considering possible influences to recording that may occur. Replicability is about reliability so that the studies and observations are replicated when conducted by other researchers to ensure validity in results. If different results are obtained this would mean they are not universally acceptable as true. The development of theories within psychology follows the scientific cycle of building, refining and falsifying on observations, developing theories and testing these again with objective, systematic and replicable observation.

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Scientific approach to psych evaluation

+ As psychology relies on the same scientific methods as other natural sciences which includes the systematic, objective and replicability of research, it is seen as a credible science. Research can also be replicated and verified to test the reliability of findings and theories into human behaviour. As psychology sees all behaviour as deterministic, experiments can be created to establish the cause and effect relationship through emperical and replicable research.

- However, of all the natural sciences, psychology is the most inferential with direct cause and effect being hardest to establish between data observations and theories which look to explain the findings. When compared to biology and chemistry, the results even between replicated studies vary greatly which weakens the case for psychology being a credible science. 

- Another weakness is not all behaviour or the workings of the mind can be explored or explained by psychological research and scientific method. This means predicting behaviour becomes impossible as the scientific method itself may be inappropriate within psychology. As the scientific approach focuses on objectivity and control within observations, when used to explain human behaviour through controlled environments the situations may be cotrived to natural settings. This would invariably tell us little about the lab settings and the findings may only be limited to the experiments themselves. 

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The behaviouralist approach

The behaviouralist approach assumes human behaviour can be explaines mostly through a basic form of learning known as conditioning and learning through experience. Conditioning involves forming learned associations between a stimuli and a response (either positive or negative) and assumes humans are born as a blank slate without genetic influences on behaviour. There are two types of conditioning which explain human behviour which are; classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

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Classical conditioning & Pavlov

Classical conditioning originated through the work of Pavlov (1927) and occurs through learning by association.  A behavioural response is learned when it becomes associated between a previously neutral stimulus and a reflex response. The neutral stimulus is called the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) and the natural response to it is known as the unconditioned response (UCR). In Pavlov's experiments of classical conditioning the UCS was food given to the dog which produced the unconditioned response of salivating (UCR).

Introducing a neutral stimulus of a bell (NS) which is rang shortly before this food (UCS) is given, after many pairings of the two, the NS is able to produce the same response of salivation without the UCS. The NS is now known as a conditioned stimulus (CS) and the response of salivation if known as the conditioned response (CR). 

Pavlov found that he was able to condition his dogs to produce the CR of salivation at the sound of the bell (CS) even in the absence of food this way. There were important factors that affected conditioned learning this way, first of which was time. If the NS is not introduces immediately before the UCS or if the time is too long between the two, conditioning will not occur. He also found that the CR was not permanent and over time, if no food (UCS) is given, the CR of sliv will eventually cease to occur (extinction). When the CS and UCS are paired once again, the link between the two and the CR is re-established again faster than initially made. Animals will also produce the CR to other stimuli which may appear similar to the CS.

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Classical conditioning evaluation

+ Behaviourist explanations such as classical conditioning have been shown to have validity nd reliability as an explanation for learning as they have been successfully recreated in replicated studies.

+ It assumes all behaviour is learnt it can simply be unlearnt. This had led to real world applications throughout the training of sleep behaviour in babies to even dogs and obedience training. Our understanding of classical conditioning has led to the development of therapies which eliminate or reduce phobias through systematic desensitisation.

-  It is criticised as being dehumanising and mechanistic with people being reduced to simple programmable stimulus-response units. The theory is therefore too reductionist as it portrays humans as far too simple than they are and the theory does not account for the free will and ability of concious thought everyone has.  

- Cannot fully explain nor treat all disorders such as schizophrenia which has been linked to biological causes (high dopamine). This explanation would result in behaviourist treatments and this may only treat the symptoms rather than the true underlying cuse hich may not lead to long lasting solutions with the true cause persisting. It may be that symptoms are behavioural while the cause is potentially biological in some cases which this explanation for behaviour completely ignores.

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Operant conditioning & Skinner

Operant conditioning works on the principle of learning through consequences and there are 3 main ways behaviour may be learnt: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement strengthens a particular behaviour that freely occurs which makes it more likely to occur. Positive reinforcement focuses on encouraging a pleasurable response response while negative reinforcement looks to remove something unpleasant from happening.

Skinner (1938) showed operant conditioning through his work on rats. He found when a rat, placed in a special cage, accidentally pressed a lever and was rewarded for this behaviour with food, it would subsequently press the lever consistently to obtain more food as this behaviout had become positively reinforced through gaining the reward. When the food pellet ceased to be given by the lever the rat would eventually stop pressing it as exinction of the behaviour occured. Behaviourists propose human behaviour is learnt this way and made more likely if percieved positive rewards are associated with engaging in particular behaviours.

Negative reinforcement works by removing unpleasant stimuli from happening. Skinner found this by providing unpleasant loud noises which the rat could switch of through the press of a lever. He found negative reinforcement also reinforced behaviour this way as rats would repeatedly press the lever to stop the noises. He also found that when the lever led to punishemnts, they were less inclines to press it highlighting how punishment can stop a behaviour from occurring altogether.

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Operant conditioning evaluation

+ A strength of Skinner's research into operant conditioning was that it relied on the experimental method which allowed the use of controlled conditions through the skinner box. This allowed casual relstionships between two variables to be established as he could see how manipulation of the consewuences of behaviour (IV) affected behavior itself (DV). This also allowed accurate predictions of behaviour to be made too.

- A criticisim of Skinner's work is it has relied on animals such as rats and pigeons. They are significantly different from humans and therefotr the findings may lack external valisity to real world situations for humans. This is because humans have free will and behaviour is not so easily determined by positive or negtive reinforcement.

- Operant conditioning only focuses on observable behaviour however does not factor in the influence of thoughts and cognitive processes. This means that opersnt conditioning cannot account for impulsive or spontaneous behaviours that people engagei n sometiems that may have no percieved benefit and for this reason the explanation is too simplified and not holistic enough to explain all behaviour.

- Can't generalise Skinner's findings to humans as it's an animal study.

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Social learning theory (Bandura)

  • Bandura's SLT suggests learning through vicarious learning and the observation of other people's actions (models) and the consequences they face. They can be live which carry out an attitude/ behaviour - this may be a parent, teacher or peer group or a symbolic model - someone through the media. These models give examples of attitudes/ behaviours that are observed and reproduced through imitation.
  • Imitation - 3 factors which determine if a behaviour will be imitated; 1) the characteristics of the model, 2) the confidence the observer has in their own ability to copy the model's behaviour, 3) the observed consequences of the behaviour in question.
  • Imitation is more likely if the observer can relate and identify with the model. Identification therefore a key determinant of imitation this may be through the observer believing the model is similar enough to them that they would experience similar consequences. Gender is found to make identification with the model easier thus SLT more effective.
  • Bandura found that behaviour observed and seen as rewarding by children was more likely to be repeated compared to behavior which was punished (vicarious reinforcement).
  • SLT unlike behaviourism, factors internal cognitive processes that occur prior to imitation - mediational processes. These are attention (must grab attention), retention (behaviour remembered), reproduction (have ability to replicate) and motivation (situation to use behaviour).
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SLT - Evaluation (strengths)

Bandura's bobo doll study

  • Children ages 3-5 y/o - male and female. Half exposed to adult models being aggressive to the bobo doll & othet half exposed to non-aggressive model.
  • Children in 'aggressive' condition reproduced physical and verbal abuse to the doll. 
  • Children in non-aggressive group exhibited virtually no aggression to the doll.
  • Supports SLT and demonstrates how children learn aggressive acts by modelled behaviour.

Bandura and Walters

  • Children divided into 3 groups.
  • Group 1 saw model rewarded for being aggressive - they showed a higher level of aggression in their own play.
  • Group 2 saw model punished for being aggressive - showed a low level of aggression in their own play.
  • Group 3 saw the model with no consequences for their behaviour - Somewhere in between
  • Supports SLT and vicarious reinforcement influencing the learning and imitation of behaviour.
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SLT - Evaluation (strengths)

Identification being important for imitation is also supported through research: Fox et al

  • Exposed participants to computer generated humand who looked either similar or different and engaged in exercise or loitering.
  • Participants who saw models who looked similar to themselves and engaged in exercise, were more likely to engage in exercise themselves when compare to participants who observed models loitering who were different to them.
  • Support for identification with the models being important for retention and imitation of behaviour.

Another strength is that it can be considered a more holistic approach than behaviourism, which focuses only on observable behaviours. SLT also includes cognitive processes wich has more face validity as thoughts preceeding behaviour is something people can generally relate to.

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SLT - Evaluation (weaknesses)

SLT cannot explain all behavior particularly when there appears to be no apparent role model for individuals to have learnt from. This is more evident when imitation revolves around psychopathic behaviours or abnormal behaviours which are limited to just one person within the family with no opportunity to learn from a model. Therefore SLT an an explanation for all behaviours is not appropriate and biological explanations may be better suited in some cases involving mental disorders.

Another weakness is the problem of determining causality between someone being exposed to behaviour and imitation, Increased association with deviant peers according to this theory, increases the probability of the individual adopting the same values however establishing cause and effect is difficult. it may be that the individual had such attitudes prior to exposure which explains their interest in such peer groups. Therefore confounding variables such as individual differences and personality may be a factor affecting variables.

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The cognitive approach

The cognitive approach focuses on peope's perception, interpretation & storage as well as the manipulation of information by studying the internal mental processes to understand behaviour. The cognitive appoach assumes thought processes can and should be studied scientifically through lab studies.

It also see's the mind working similarly to a computer with most of cognitive psychology often referring to the information processing model and metaphors such as 'encoding, processing and retrieval' are used to explain what occurs within the human brain.

As cognitive processes are not actually visible to be tested directly, psychologists must study them indirectly through making inferences about results gained from observing behaviour.

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Schemas are a cognitive framework and represent ideas and expectations the person holds about a person or situation. They form through experience an aid in making future predictions of events or situations for us and remain unique to each individual as our experiences are subjective to ourselves.

This means we see the world dependent on our own experiences and therefore our own version of reality is created through influences from these schemas. Schems can be useful as they allow us to fill in the gaps when information is lacking based on past experiences however they may also exclude anything which does not conform to our established expectations or ideas about the world.

This can be problematic as schemas can cuase individuals to focus on things which confirm people's pre-existing beliefs and ideas rather than allow us to accept new ones. Recall and memory as well as perception may therefore also be influnced by schemas as we 'see what we want to see' and remember only selet or biased versions of events.

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The role of theoretical & computer models

Theoretical models provide a specific means to test ideas and make predictions however these are simplified versions which are based on research evidence to make inferences about mental processes which cannot be directly tested.

Models assume that the mind works similar to that of a computer and throigh a series of processing steps; for example the information processing model proposes a simple 3-step process involving input, processing and output. 

Computer programming has allowed us to make inferences on how the human mind may work in a similar way and comparisons have been drawn between how we recieve information using computer related termanology.

For example, using the information processing model information is inputted through our senses and processed and encoded in memory. Long-term memory is compared to the hard-drive of a computer's memory while RAM may relate to working memory and a template workspace.

Models provide a means to test individual elements; whn results do not fit with the model it can be easily changed or updated.

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The emergence of cognitive neuroscience

The advancement of technology has led to the emergence of cognitive neuroscience which allow researchers to study the living brain. This has brought together brain scanning technologies when studying cognitive processes involved in memory and attention giving detailes information about which brain structures are involeved in different mental processing.

Neuroimaging techniques such as PET scans and fMRI highlight different parts of the body as active when engaging in cognitive activities which test memory, perception, attention and emotions.

For example, Burnett et al (2009) found guilt highlighted numerous brain regions including the medial pre-frontal cortex which was assocaited with social emotions. Patients suffering from brain damage may also be used to take part in cognitive tasks while undergoing scans to see how the brain reacts. Whe they are compared to 'normal' people and their brain functioning, the pattern of brain activity and differences can help make inferences on how cognitive processes function normally.

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The cognitive approach - Strengths

+ This approach had helped us better understand how we form impressions of other people within social psychology and how we may form biases that can influence how we interact other people's behaviours die to our schemas.

+ The cognitive approach to psychopathology has also highlighted that dysfunctional behaviour can usually be attributed to fault or irrational through processes which proceeded the behaviour itself further highlighting its validity 

+ This approach has also led to practical real world applications and the development of CBT based treatments which have proven effective in the treatment of OCD and depression which could only be effcetive if the problems themselves were cognitive based as this approach suggests.

+ The cognitive approach uses experimental methods to conduct reseaech as it provides researchers with a rigorous method to collect and evaluate evidence which is a major strength of this approach. The conclusions researchers draw from these findings are therefore much more than methods such as intospection can offer as repeat studies and show reliability through finding similar results.

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The cognitive approach - Weaknesses

- The cognitive approach relies on computer based models to explain how human coding occurs. Terms such as encoding, storage and retrieval' are taken from computer terminology and there's a difference between information processing which occurs in machines and organic biological structures such as the human mind. For example, the human mind is more prone to errors, forgetting or retrieving incorrect information from memories which computers do not do. Therefore basing cognitive processes on computer-based understanding lacks valididy as it may not be a true fit for how the mind works and limits us from exploring how the mind works as it's much more complex than we can map using models which limit us. Such use of models portray humans as mechanistic and lacking free will which is not evidently accurate.

- Many studies into cognitive psychology tend to use contrive tasks or tasks that have little to do with everyday behaviour in their natural settings. For example, studies tend to be in lab settings using methods to test memory that people would be unlikely to face, such as random word lists or digits. This is unlike how memory is used in everyday life nor does it actually explain how people may forget memories. Due to this we are drawing conclusions into experiments which lack ecological validity and would lack external validity and generalisation into real life situations. Much of cognitive psychology could therefore be argued to lack ecological validity as it does not reflect real life behaviour.

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The cognitive approach - Strengths

+ The emergence of PET scans and fMRI has supported some elements of the cognitive approach and the use fo models. For example brain imaging has confirmed that short-term memory are seperate stores highlighting that the use of models to explain how such areas of the brain was distinctive from one another has validity.

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The biological approach

The biological approach attempts to explain all behaviour through biology, particularly focusing on genetics, neurochemistry and hormonal changes as well as how evolution may have shaped human behaviour.

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The influence of genetics on behaviour

Genes carry instructions for the development of characteristics such as intellegence, temperment or highr however their expression will be dependent on how genes interact with one another but also the influence of the environment. The way psychological characteristics such as behaviour are determined by either genes or the environment is known as the nature-nurture debate and the main focus on how genetics influence behaviour has looked at genotype and phenotype.

A genotype is the person's individual make-up which provides the genetic code for how the individual should develop and their characteristics. Every person has a unique genotype within their cells. The phenotype of an individual is what actually happens to the individual once the genotype interacts with the environment. The expression of phenotype is not always as the genotype dictates and this occurs due to a number of reasons. The same is believed to occur for psychological characteristics such as behaviour; there may be a genetic predisposition for certain behavioural traits however the environment may cause it to be inhibited.

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The genetic basis of behaviour

The genetic basis for behaviour has focused on trying to identify exactly how much behaviour is influenced by genetics and genotypes and how much can be attributed to environmental influences and phenotype. Work to disentangle heritability and the variation of traits within a population that can be attributed to genetic differences has focused on identical and non-identical twins. If identical twins who share 100% of the same genetics show a higher likelihood of sharing behaviours or disorders when compared to non-identical twins then genetics and genotypes are believed to account for this. As both sets of twins likely share the same environments, genetics is assumed to be the only difference between both pairs of twins. Research findings vary but it is believed genetics can account for up to 80% for characteristics such as intellegence which would invariably affect behaviour.

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Influence of biological structures on behaviour

The biological structures of the brain consist of the CNS and the PNS, both of which influnce behaviour.

The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord and these send messages to and from the environment. They also act as the centre point from which all the physiological elements of the individual are controlled and coordinated such as breating, heart-rate and even senses.

The PNS comprises of the sonomatic and autonomic nervous system (ANS) and sends and recieves information to and from the CNS. The ANS is important for survival as it manages the body's response to any threats while the somatic system controls the muscles and recieves information from the skin. These nervous systems carry messages all over the body through individual nerve cells known as neurons. These transmit nerve impulses as electrical signals and most aspects of behaviour are under these neurons control including breathing, eating and even sexual behavoiour.

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The influence of neurochemistry on behaviour

Neurochemistry and its influence on behaviour focuses on hormones and neurotransmitters. Hormones are chemicals which are produced by the endocrine systems such s the pituitary gland. Hormones stimulate receptors on the surface or inside of cells and their presence causes physiological reactions which alters the activity in the cell. 

Neurotransmitters are chemicaks which travel via the cerebral fluid and are released when nerve impulses reach the end of a neuron. Some trigger the recieving neuron to send an impulse while others inhibit impulses being sent. Neurotransmitters which trigger a release from recieving neurons to stimulate the brain ar known as excitatory neurotransmitters while those that inhibit impulses are known as inhibitory neurotransmitters. 

Dopamine and Seratonin are two neurotransmitters psychlogists have focused on as they are believed to affect behaviour. Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter related to drive ormotivation and seratonin an inhibitory neurotransmitter which helos stabilise moods. Some research has also found new levels of seratonin can lead to increased aggression (Crocket et al 2008). High amounts of dopamine has also been linked to schizophrenia.

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Evolution and behaviour

Charles Darwin's natural selection theory is used to explain behaviour from an evolutionary perspective and is based on the idea of adaptiveness. A random mutation in the geneti make-up of an animal due to environmental pressures will lead to a physical characteristic change or behavioural change. This would in turn either increase their chances of survivak and re-production or lower it. Animals compete with one another for access to resources such as food, shelter and mates and if this mutation increases the chance of survival they become more likely to gain access to such resources ove their competition which may not have this mutation. If they succeed in reproducing, this adaptive trait may get passed on their subsequent offspring who may benefit from it also increasing their reproductive fitness and survival.

Psychologists believe various psychological characteristics such as aggression and intellegence can also be explained through this evolutionary explanantion. Aggression is seen throughout the animal kingdom as well as in humans and may have served the purpose of increasing survivak rates and resources as well as the protection of territory. Research into aggession has focused on the MAOA gene as a possible explanation which may invariably be explained through environmental pressures of the past shaping its existance in men.

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Biological approach evaluation (Strengths)

+ The biological approach uses scientific methods, such as the experimental method as its main form of investigation which gives this approach validity. Studies using this approach take place in highly controlled laboratory settings which are reliable as they make replication of the same experimental conditions for the verification of results possibe. The results gained are also more objective as they are based on biology compared to subjective reporting or observations which also give the bio approach more validity.

+ The biological approach is one of the strongest supporters of the nature argument in the nature-nurture debate as it explains behaviours through genetic influences. This is also backed up by researh studies which have found higher concordance rates forpsychopathological behaviours such as depression or aggressive tendancies among relatives. 

+ Another strength of the biological approach is it can make clearer predictions regarding behaviour and possible links it has to biology. For example, predicting the effcets of neurotransmitters have on behaviour becomes easier when looking at those who are generally related. In turn this has contributed to the development of drug treatments and real world applications, for example high concordance rates between family members for depression has led to identifying common neurochemical imbalances and then creating drug therapies which help reduce depressive symptoms.

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Biological approach evaluation (Weaknesses)

- The biological approach is reductionist as it attempts to break down complex huma behaviour and explain it through the smallest parts such as genetics, hormones and neurochemical imbalances. This stops us from considering other possible explanations for behaviour which may also be contributing such as cognitive, emotional or cultural factors. Human's free will and ability for concious thoughts is overlooked with biological explanations which is another limitation.

- Explaining behaviour through biology such as genetics raises serious ethical issues particularly when applied to criminality. For example, trying to explain criminal behaviour through genetic screening of the population to identify those with a predisposition to criminal behaviour. Such individuals may be stigmatised even if they pose no risk. Alternatively if individuals find they have such a predisposition for criminal behaviour or psychopathological disorder they may use this as a defence to avoid taking responsibility for behaviour within the courts too. A practical real world application for such screening however could be that individuals who are at higher risk of developing certain disorders can try to tke steps to avoid situations which may trigger them develop copong skills which could prevent them from being as vulnerable. 

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The psychodynamic approach

The role of the unconcious

Freud believed there were parts of the mind which was unaccessable to concious thought and he referred to this as the unconcious mind. To illustrate this he used an iceberg as a metaphor to describe the different layers. The tip of the iceberg above the water represented the concious mind that we are aware of. Slightly below this was the 'preconcious' which was stored informations which was capable of becoming concious but was not done so without us thinking about it. The bottom and biggest layer represented the unconcious mind which was unaccessible yet according to Freud controlled most of our everyday behaviours. This unconcious mind would reveal itself in slips of the tongue, during creative moments or even neurotic symptoms. Freud believed the unconcious mind controlled both our waking and sleeping minds and its role was to actively surpress and prevent traumatic memories from reaching our concious awareness through the use of defence mechanisms.

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The structure of personality

Freud divided personality or 'the mind' into three components: the id; ego and superego. The id is the instinctual basis of personality and is present from birth and operates only in the unconcious mind. Frued proposed it drove an individual's biological needs and operated on the pleasure principle eg. instant gratification. The ego represented the rational component of personality which mediates between the demands of the id, the external world and the superego. Frued proposed the ego develops from the age of 2 as a child begins to develop the ability to reason and learn not everything is always possible how they want them to be. The ego operates on the reality principle and forms the planning part of personality. The superego develops from the age of 4 and is divided into the concience and ego-ideal. It operates on the mortality principle as children internalise societal moral codes on right or wrong while also producing feelings of guilt for bad behaviour. It also determines appropriate behaviour with the edo-ideal representing what a person strives to become which is mostly influenced by parenting.

Freud believed a health adult would have a strong ego which was able to mediate between the id and its instinctual demands and the superego's moral values. An individual with the id in charge would be hedonistic and pleasure seeking with little concern for morality. Frued believed that if the superego was in control a person would be guilt ridden even by socially acceptable pleasures.

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Defence mechanisms

Defence mechanisms are used to reduce anxiety whe faced with situations an individual is unable to deal with rationally. Freud beliebed these operated unconciously and worked by distorting the perception of reality to stop the individual becoming aware of unpleasant thoughts or feelings which may damage the ego. 

Repression involves unconciously pushing out and blocking difficult thoughts out of the concious mind. Freud proposed that forgetting was motivated and done so for a reason, for example the mind would deliberately forget traumatic events to avoid confronting them. Although repression pushed thoughts into the inconcious they may still affect the person in normal life.

Denail is when an individual refuses to accept the reality of situations as a way to deal with worrying or unpleasant information. An individual may simply ignore what has occured and try to continue as if it did not happen.

Displacement involves the redirection of feelings, which may be hostile, towards a less threatening target than where they originated from. This is almost cathartic as it provides psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions. 

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Psychosexual stages

Freud believed personality developed through a sequence of 5 stages:

Oral stage - lasts from birth to approximately 18 months with the infant obtaining pleasure through feeding, sucking and biting through the use of the mouth.

Anal stage - 18 months to 3 years old with the child's focus being on the expulsion of faeces and bodily waste and toilet training becoming a major focus for them to learn to control this. The ego begins to develop with the child becoming aware of the demands of the world and others.

Phallic stage - 3-6 years old with a child's focus moving to the genitals and them recieving pleasure from self-exploration. For boys, the Oedipus complex occurs where they pursue their mother as a love interest while experiencing hostility towards their father who is seen as a rival. As these feeligns are uncomfortable, they are pushed into the subconcsious and the child begins to identify with the father as a means of resolving the castration anxiety they experience. For girls, the Electra complex is triggered as the young girl realises both herself and her mother lack a penis which leads to penis envy whereby she turns to her father as a love interest. 

Latent stage - 6-12 y/o with the conflicts of the previous stages being repressed and children unable to remember much of their early years. Child develops mastery of the world around them and consolidate the character habits they formed in the 3 previous stages. 

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Psychosexual stages cont.

Genital stage - spans through puberty and adult life and plays the role of physiological detachment and independenc from the parents. Sexual energy is focused on the genitallia with the ego being established and the person's focus shifting from pleasure gratification to secondary process-thinking and gratification through friendships, intimate reltionships and family/ adult responsibilities.  

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Psychodynamic approach - Strengths

The psychodynamic approach includes and explains the importance of how childhood eperiences may affect later development in people which is largely accepted by most psychologists suh as Bowlby to be important. This approach also incorporates the role of the subconcious and feelings and how they may drive certain behaviours in people which they may not necessarily be able to explain. The approach also highlights the importance of a child's upbringing and strengthens the case for reforms provising real world applications for us to apply particularly around children's rights.

Freud's approach also suggested new methodological ways for psychologists to gather evidence which was based on case studies and observable evidence rather than subjective introspection. The psychodynamic approach also provided alternative explanations for disorders such as depression and anxiety adding credit to psychological causes rather than necessarily biological. This also led to the development of treatments such as psychotherapy which a large scale review by D Maat et al (2009) found to show significant and maintained improvements after treatment adding further credibility to the pychodynamic approach.

There is also scientific support for the psychodynamic approach through the use of scientific methodology. Fisher & Greenberg (1996) concluded that after examining over 2500 studies that pscyhoanalysis compared to other psychological studies and there appeared to be support for the unconcious motivations in behaviour as well ad the existance of defence mechanisms.

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Psychodynamic approach - Weaknesses

Much of the evidence for the psychodynamic approach comes from case studies which lack reliability and population validity due to the lack of generalisation. Evidence gathered could also be argued to apply only to the individuals involved. The case studies for which Freud found this approach on were also based on people from western backgrounds and it ould be argued that this approach is culturally biased and not apply to people of different cultures. Psychoanalysts assume mental disorders are due to traumatic memories which are locked in the unconcious and freeing them through psychotherapy helps individuals deal with their issues better. However,  other cultures do not value such insight in the same way. 

Research evidence also suggests that therapies based on the psychodynamic approach appear to have limited effect which would mean the approach itself is invalid. Eysenck (1952) conducted a meta-analysis of thousands of psychoanalytic patients and found it appeared to work for 66% of the patients. However, when compared to a control gorup of patients who recieved no therapy, 70% of people suffering from mental illness without intervention also showed improvement. This would suggest the explanation lacks validity as an approach to explaining mental illness.

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Humanistic psychology

Free will

Humanistic psychology views free will as a core assumption to this approah and sees people with full concious control over themselves and the choices they make as well as their own behaviour. Humanistic psychology also sees people responsible for how they develop and progress in life although this approach acknowledges the constraints society may impose through social rules, laws and morals which restrict people's free will. 

Ultimately this approach believes people have the ability to choose to do something if they want to do it. This approach also sees people as having the ability to reflect on their feelings and experiences and initiate personal change and growth themselves.

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Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow's heirarchy of needs focuses on the 5 stages he believed explaied people's motivations and behaviour. The first and most basic needs which people strive to meet are physiological needs around survival such as food, water, sex, sleep and oxygen. Following this people strive to meet safety needs such as personal safety, security thorugh employment and resources, stability and freedom from fear of harm be it psycholigically or physically. The third level looks ar establishing a sense of love and belonging through acquiring friendships, intimate relationships and intimacy. The fourth level looks at building a person's self-esteem needs through confidence, achievement, attaining the respect from others and status. The final level looks at achieving their potential and a sense of well-being and satidfaction. This may be through creativity, acceptance of others and having a good sense of reality and the world round them. The drive to achieve this potential involves people working through the four previous stages to achieve self-actualisation. 

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Focus on the self

The focus on self comes from the work of Carl Rogers and refers to people's perception of themselves as a person. He believed that people had two basic needs which were to achieve a positive regard from other people and to achieve a feeling of self-worth through having a positive regard of oneself. This feeling of self-worth developed in childhood through the interactions the child has with their parents as contact with significant other pigures in their lives as they develop such as friends and intimate partners. Physiological health, according to Rodgers, was determined by what person thought about themselves and their sense of self-worth. Rodgers suggested we had 3 versions of ourselves which need to integrate for people to achieve self-actualisation and reach their potential.

The self-concept is how people felt they were as a person. Self-esteem is closely linked to this self-concept as people with low self-esteem would view their self-concept as poor and have a low regard for their ability.

The ideal self is the version of themselves people wished to be and who they are working towards becoming.

The real self is the person people actually are. This becomes subjective between people as humanistic psychology views everyone to percieve and judge things differently.

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Congruence occurs when a person's ideal self and self-concept are seen as the same. If a person's self-concept and ideal self are different than a state of incongruence occurs. Rodgers believed that for self-actualisation to occur it was necessary for a person to experience congruence. An important factor in achieving congruence, according to Rodgers, was unconditional positive regard. This wasn't that a person must be loved for who they are by someone else unconditionally and this may come from parents, other family members or even friends or partners.

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The role of conditions of worth

The conditions of worth are the requirements a person percieves significant others have put upon them and they need to meet in order to be loved and accepted. These conditions may be either real or percieved by the individual. An example may be a child feeling like they need to achieve good grades in order to be loved by their parents as the parents have set an expectation of doing well academically and thus the condition is overtly set in the child's mind.

They may have also observed dissapointment when a sibling does poorly and this may have set the condition indirectly. These conditions of worth lead to a child experiencing conditional positive regard and believing they can only be loved if they meet these 'conditions or worth'. According to Rodgers, unconditional positive regard is important for people to reach self-actualisation and with conditions set for them to be loved, this makes self-actualisation more difficult to achieve.

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The influence of counselling

The humanistic approach and the work of Rodgers has led to the client-centred approach with therapists focusing on building a relationship with clients and making them feel comfortable and accepted so they feel unconditional positive regard. This helps nurture a relationship where patients can be completely open and honest. Humanisti psychologists than act as guides or facilitators which help patients better understand themselves to reach their potential and self-actualisation. A positive, empathetic and unconditional positive regard helps foster acceptance and understand which helps remove any conditions of worth people may have. With this removed, patients can then move towards being their true self and congruent and behave how they wish to rather than in a manner to please others around them.

This client centred approach had influenced CBT practices which integrates the humanisic client focused practice. A meta-analysis by Elliott (2002) found that humanisti therapies showed significant improvement in patients when compared to control groups and this effectiveness has led to a resurgance of the humanistic approach with councelling psychology.

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The humanistic approach - Strengths

A strength of Maslow's heirarchy is that it is supported by research which suggests it may have relevance on a much larger scale than simply individual growth. Hagerty (1999) found that lower level needs such as physiological needs and safety needs were more prevalent in countires of early economic development. This was evident when looking at the relationship between economic growth and Maslow's heirarchy across 88 countries over a period of 34 years. Countries with advanced stages of economic development saw esteem needs and self-actualisation through academic achievement enrollment rates as more important. Education is seen as an indicator for the drive people have to reach self-actualisation through self-improvement highlighting the application this theory has to economic development within countries.

Another strength is that the humanistic approach is it its focus on treating everyone as unique and the need to treat everyone this way is supposed by research findings in gender research. Research into gender differences as repeatedly shown that differences within men and women are far greater than between men and women. This supports humanistic psychology's assumption that everyone should be treated as unique as differences are greater between one gender than across genders highlighting the need to treat everyone as unique.

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The humanistic approach - Weaknesses

A major weakness of the humanist approach is its ideas such as Maslow's heirarchy, the conditions of worth and the focus of the self are hard to test or gather any meaningful scientific evidence to support them having validity. Also as the focus is on the subjective experience of the individual, this again is difficult to test. Therefore it could be argued that the humanistic approach lacks credability and is merely speculation as we can not objectively validate its assumptions. 

Another weakness of the humanistic approach is it is unrealistically assumes people are inherently good and interested in personal growth. The theory ignores the fact that people can be pessimistic or self-destructive and the view that the development of personality is diercted simply by personal growth is oversimplified. The humanistic approach also assumes problems arise due to people being unable to self-actualise and encouraging people simply to focus on their own personal development may be unrealistic when situational factors need may be the true case.

Humanistic approach can be argued to be culturally biased and based on the assumptions of western society. For example, Maslow's heirarchy does not appear to apply in eastern countries such as China. 

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