AQA PSYB4 Revision – Comparisons between approaches and taking an eclectic approach to psychology

Similarities between approaches

  • Behaviourism and SLT = learning behaviour = S/R bonds or modelling/vicarious reinforcement
  • SLT and cognitive = importance of mental processes in learning =schemas/mediating cognitive factors
  • Biological, behaviourist and SLT = scientific methods = controlled laboratory experiments and observations
  • Psychodynamic and humanistic = subjective experience = eg. Little Hans/psychoanalysis comparable to person-centred therapy, unstructured interviews etc – but psychodynamic = not responsible for own behaviour, humanism = responsible.
  • Biological and behaviourist = animal research = Skinner’s use of rats in his skinner box experiment to investigate operant conditioning / bio-psychological/neurosurgical studies on the nervous system. Yet, one studies internal structure and the other studies external environment = ethics and validity

Differences between approaches

  • Free will (humanism) versus determinism
  • Holism (humanism) versus reductionism (biological/behaviourist)
  • Scientific methods versus non-scientific methods (humanism/psychodynamic)
  • Nature(biological) versus nurture (SLT/behaviourist)

The eclectic approach

  • ‘To use a combination of the different psychological approaches to explain, treat and study behaviour’
  • Represents human behaviour more accurately
  • Gives a richer, fuller representation of human behaviour
  • Tailored to individuals
  • Adopts a range of views
  • Copes better with the complexity of human behaviour
  • Approaches are used in a’ pick and mix way’ in order to understand behaviour
  • Combines ideas from different approaches = more common in applied psychology such as the treatment of disorders and offending behaviour
  • Theoretical eclecticism = combining different theoretical approaches and ideas
  • Methodological eclecticism = combining different research methods
  • Epistemological eclecticism = the combination of different positions in the debates in psychology (Ie. Nature vs nurtue = the interactionist view)
  • Applied eclecticism = the use of combinations of approaches in applied psychology (eg. The use of drugs and CBT to treat unipolar depression)
  • Selective eclecticism = using different ideas alone, or together in different situations, such as explaining depression with biological ideas, yet using cognitive therapies.

Strengths of the eclectic approach

  • Human behaviour is too complex and varied to be explained by just one approach – complex psychological disorder eg. Schizophrenia = wealth of evidence supporting both biological and sociocultural explanations and it may be necessary to take an interactionist view and consider both. This is a strength because the eclectic approach reflects the complexity of human thought and behaviour, giving a richer and fuller representation of behaviour.
  • There are many examples of complementarity between approaches. For example SLT and behaviourism both focus on theories of learning and SLT builds on the notion of reinforcement by considering how vicarious reinforcement contributes to behaviour. This is a strength because the approach can take the best parts of other approaches, combining them to give a better understanding of behaviour.
  • Too much emphasis on one approach may mean that relevant information from other approaches is missed out. If we focus on social and environmental factors when explaining offending behaviour, we may miss the cases where an offender has brain abnormality which is causing their behaviour. This is a strength because the eclectic approach uses the best bits from each approach to ensure the most relevant explanation is used. This is of particular importance in explaining offending behaviour/psychological disorders as the priority is treating the offender/patient, regardless of the approach that is taken.

Limitations of the eclectic approach

  • CONCLUDING POINT – There irreconcilable differences between some approaches: some are directly contradictory and cannot be combined. For example, the humanistic approach argues that we have free will, while other approaches are deterministic. The psychodynamic approach also sees are behaviour as caused by unconscious thoughts, the biological by chemical, hereditary and genetic causes, and so on. This is a weakness because it can make it very difficult to adopt an eclectic approach. It is good in theory, but this level of disagreement between the approaches has led some people to talk about the existence of psychologies rather than psychology. 
  • A pick and mix of different approaches can produce a watered down version that is no better than common sense. For example, This is a weakness because taking on an eclectic approach may take away the detail and underlying theory and evidence of each approach. However this approach has the advantage of ensuring that a particular perspective is neither ignored, nor forgotten.
  • In terms of therapies, using many different approaches can lead a therapist to become ‘a jack of all trades and a master of none’ For example, it is very hard to know all the approaches equally well. Furthermore it is difficult to know when to combine approaches or just use one approach in one situation and one approach in another. This is a weakness because it may result in therapy not being as effective as when a therapist specialises in a particular approach. However, the priority is obviously treating the patient, so it is important that the therapist can use their professional initiative to adopt the principles of whichever approach is most relevant and helpful.

Application of the eclectic approach and studies

  • Criminality
  • Partly genetic = LANGE found concordance rates of 77% for MZ twins and 12% for DZ twins . CROWE found that almost 50% of adopted children whose biological mothers had a criminal record had criminal records themselves by age 18.
  • Sociocultural Learning theories = FARRINGTON ET AL found that criminality develops in a context of inappropriate role models and dysfunctional systems of rewad.
  • Schizophrenia treatments
  • Biological – Cole et al found that after just 6 weeks of treatment with antipsychotics, people with schizophrenia showed significant improvement compared to those given a placebo
  • Psychotherapy – drury et al found that cognitive therapy led to a faster response to reatment  = drug treatment = instant psycho = not

Essay intro

  • The eclectic approach in psychology can be defined as ‘using a combination of the different psychological approaches to explain, treat and study behaviour’. Eclecticism can take a number of forms, whether it be epistemological eclecticism, which finds a compromise position of the key debates in psychology, methodological eclecticism, which combines a number of different research methods, etc.