Holism and reductionism Flashcards Preview

Issues and debates > Holism and reductionism > Flashcards

Flashcards in Holism and reductionism Deck (10)
Loading flashcards...

What is holism?

- The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
- Analysing components is not enough as it doesn't capture the whole person.


What is reductionism?

- Explaining a phenomenon by breaking it down into its constituent parts.
- Belief that human behaviour is best explained by breaking down into smaller constituent parts.


What are the levels of explanation?

Suggests that there are different ways of viewing the same phenomena.


What is the reductionist hierarchy?



What is biological reductionism?

Reducing behaviour to physiological levels, e.g. hormones, brain structures, genes.


What is environmental reductionism?

Reducing behaviour to stimulus-response links which can be tested and explained using lab experiments.


State a positive of holism.

- Aspects of social behaviour that only emerge within a group context and cannot be understand at the level of the individual members.
- EG: the effects of conformity and de-individuation of the prisoners and guards in the SPE.
- It was the interaction between the people that was significant.


State a criticism of holism.

- Don't tend to lend themselves to scientific rigour or testing - humanistic approach has been described as a loose set of abstract constructions.
- If we combine many different perspectives it becomes difficult to establish which is most influential and suggests that when coming to solutions for real work problems, lower level explanations may be more appropriate.


State a positive of reductionism.

- Often forms basis of scientific research.
- In order to create operationalised variables it is necessary to break target behaviours down into constituent parts. This makes it possible to conduct experiments and observations in a way that is meaningful and reliable.
- Gives psychology credibility and equal standing with the natural sciences lower down in the reductionist hierarchy,.


State a criticism of reductionism.

- Accused of oversimplifying complex phenomena, leading to loss of validity.
- Explanations that operate at the level of genes and neurotransmitters do not include an analysis of the social context.
- Reductionist explanations can only ever form part of an explanation.