Complete Psychology

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Section 1 Conceptual and historical issues

Chapter 2 Approaches to psychology

In this chapter, we will look at the ways in which psychologists go about understanding human behaviour. We'll do this in two ways. First, we will look at where psychology came from and how it developed. This will help us to understand how our ideas of what psychology is and should be have changed. We will then look at how psychology is approached today, and see that there are six main theoretical approaches. We will cover each of these approaches individually, discuss their main assumptions and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

Chapter 3 Psychology as science

In this chapter, we look at scientific psychology. We start by thinking about the ways in which we come to know things and consider science to be a 'way of knowing' with particular strengths. We look at how views of science developed over time and what the principles and assumptions underlying scientific psychology are. We then look at how psychology can be carried out scientifically and evaluate whether it can be seen as a science. Following this, we consider a range of issues in scientific psychology, including threats to the validity of psychology research and ethical issues. We conclude by thinking about some alternatives to scientific psychology.

Chapter 4 Bias in psychology

In this chapter, we look at the problem of bias in psychology. While psychology claims to be an objective, value-free science, we'll see that at various points it has produced theories that support inequality. We consider four main areas of bias: ethnocentrism (culture bias), androcentrism (pro-male bias), racism and also biases arising from methodology. These are particularly visible examples of bias, but the list isn't exhaustive. We could also have covered homophobia (anti-homosexuality bias) and ageism, for example, but, unfortunately, space doesn't allow full coverage. Having looked at these areas of bias, we then look at the implications of bias for psychology's claims to objectivity. We conclude by considering some ways in which the problem of bias can be tackled.

Chapter 5 Issues and debates in psychology

This chapter introduces three key debates in psychology that shape the kinds of approach psychologists use to understand human nature. The chapter is divided into four main sections. It begins with an overview of how issues arise in psychology and the ways in which psychologists choose a position in debates. It then goes on to look at reductionism and its value, freewill and determinism and the nature-nurture debate. These topics have been chosen because they affect the fundamental purposes and methods of psychology, and psychologists' views of human nature. Understanding the nature of these debates, and where different psychologists stand in regard to them, is critical for evaluating the theories in psychology that we'll see later in the book. In addition, understanding the debates will help us to evaluate the claims about psychology that are made in everyday life.