Debates in Psychology

Free will and determinism, The nature-nurture debate, Holism and Reductionism, Idiographic and Nomothetic approaches, Psychology and Science.

  • Created by: Mia
  • Created on: 05-04-12 09:13

Types of Determinism

If actions come from forces beyond our control, it is determined.  There are different types of determinism, internal and external determinism.
Internal determinism is associated with Biological determinism, this includes:

  • Instinctive needs (e.g. to eat and drink)
  • The controlling of the brain (different areas dictate different behaviours)
  • Hormonal system (e.g. link shown between synthetic oestrogen and sexual preference)
  • Evolutionary forces (e.g. fight or flight response)
  • Genes (Genetic predisposition to certain behaviours/conditions)

There is also Psychic determinism, this states that behaviour is determined by unconscious forces, e.g. Freudian Slips.

Environmental or external determinism is the idea that all behaviour is the result of an external stimulus.

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Evaluation of Determinism

  • The ideas are compatible with the scientific method.
  • Behaviour is predictable and can be explained.
  • However accurate predictions can not be made, as there are so many influences on the individual.
  • LInks to Chaos theory and the Butterfly effect.
  • Determinism, although compatible with science is unfalsafiable, as it could be argued any unexplained behaviour is just because a cause has not yet been found.
  • If determinism exists, people can not be held morally responsible for their crimes, and should not be punished.
  • Can be used to create universal laws, which would make psychology more scientific.
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Free will

  • Used in the humanistic approach in psychology.
  • It is the idea that behaviour is free from coertion, yet still has a cause.
  • People make decisions freely, but within certain limits.
  • People have total control over their actions, and should be held accountable for all behaviour.
  • Unsupported by a study by Libet (Wrist flicking)
  • In some approaches (e.g. Pschodynamic) free will is seen as an illusion.
  • People are agents of their own behaviour.
  • Science relies on causal explanations, free will is not a causal explanation of behaviour.
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Evaluation of Free will

  • It is not compatible with science.
  • How can something non-physical effect physical actions?
  • It is hard to define free will.
  • People are held responsible for their actions, which suggests popular belief in free will.
  • If free will is threatened then behaviour becomes erratic and less predictable, suggesting free-will.
  • Can be compatible with determinism, in that they both reach the same decision, ultimately.
  • It is possible that people exercise free-will within certain constraints.
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Free Will vs. Determinism Key Points

  • This debate is about the extent to which an individual has control of their own behaviour. Free will states people have total control, whereas determinism states we have no control.
  • There are 2 main catagories of determinism, internal and external.
  • The Humanistic approach is the only approach to support the idea of free will.
  • "Soft determinism"  where actions are influenced, but not controlled, as opposed to "Hard determinism" where all actions are predictable.
  • Determinism is compatible with the scientific method.
  • Free will and determinism overlap, determinists accept the role of "Uncertainty factors"
  • Libet's study on wrist flicking set out to prove free will, but actually supported determinism.
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Idiographic Approach

  • There is great emphasis on the subjective experience of the idividual.
  • It provides a fuller understanding of the individual than the nomothetic approach does.
  • Is suited to unique cases or individuals.
  • Findings can serve as a source of ideas for the nomothetic approach.
  • Unique cases can highlight flaws in general laws of behaviour.
  • Satisfies some of the key aims of science (descriptions and understands of behaviour)
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The Scientific Approach

  • Hypothesis Testing is used, this is making a prediction and then testing it using the experimental method design
  • General laws, ties in with the nomothetic approach
  • Empirical evidence. This would be gained using experiments, which can be replicated to show findings are reliable.
  • Paradigms are used, a paradigm is a framework containing all of the commonly accepted views about a subject
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The Scientific Approach (Strengths)

  • Experiments are replicatable.
  • Definative subject matter
  • Paradigm
  • Great Understanding and knowledge at a theoretical level.
  • Allows for progress within the discipline.
  • Has high credibility.
  • Practical applications:predictions and control of behaviour.
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The Scientific Approach (Limitations)

  • Ethical issues, including dehumanization.
  • Not all variables can be controlled.
  • Lab studies may produce demand characteristics.
  • Artificial enviroments resulting in low ecological validity.
  • Reductionist
  • Deterministic
  • Subjective private experience is not taken into account.
  • Cognitive processes are unobservable subject matter
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Nomothetic Approach

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Nomothetic Approach (Strengths)

  • Compatible with determinism.
  • General laws can be created.
  • Can be used to predict and control behaviour.
  • Gives a starting point for therapy, as general procedures can be put in place.
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Nomothetic Approach (Limitations)

  • Only a superficial understanding of any individual can be achieved using the nomothetic approach.
  • Neglects Human uniqueness, which makes it a hugely dehumanizing approach.
  • Generalisations do not apply to every individual.
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  • Reductionism is based upon explaining behaviours by breaking them down into smaller sections and processes.
  • Reductionism is compatible with the scientific method, which states complex ideas should be explained in terms of the simplest principles.
  • Behaviours can be reduced to basic scientific principles (eg, hormones affect gender (chemistry))
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Strengths of reductionism

  • Reductionist is consistent with a scientific approach, which links psychology to respected scientific disciplines.
  • Simpler smaller components are easier to test, so theories can be falsified.
  • As behaviour is simplified it is easy to explain in concise terms.
  • Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best (eg. memory loss is just decay of neurones)
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Strengths of holism

  • It provides a more complete picture of behaviour than reductionism.
  • It does not ignore the complexity of behaviour.
  • It is not dehumanising.
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Weaknesses of reductionism

  • Behaviour is variable and influenced by many factors, so a single explanation is not useful.
  • Sometimes more than one level is neccessary to explain things.
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  • Holism is based around the idea that the whole of something is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
  • Is mainly used in the humanistic approach.
  • Is investigated using qualitative data.
  • Gestalt psychologists would say that to investigate any one aspect of a person, you must look at the whole.
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