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An argument or theory which proposes that only makes sense to study and indivisible system rather than its constituent parts



The belief that human behaviour is best explained by breaking it down into smaller constituent parts


General idea about Holism and reductionism

A group of German researchers working in the 1920s and 30s known as Gestalt psychologists declared that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
-holism- the idea that any attempt to break up behaviour and experience is inappropriate as this can only be understood by analysing the person or behaviour as a whole
-reductionism- Analyses behaviour by breaking it down into its constituent parts all phenomena should be explained using the most basic principles this is often the simplest easiest and most economical level of explanation


Levels of explanation in psychology

Suggest that there are different ways of viewing the same phenomena in psychology such as socio-cultural, psychological, physical, physiological and neurochemical


Biological reductionism

A form of reductionism which attempts to explain social and psychological phenomena at a lower biological level in terms of the actions of genes and hormones. All behaviour is at some level biological and so can be explained through neuro-chemical, neurophysiological, evolutionary and genetic influences


Environmental reductionism

The attempt to explain all behaviour in terms of stimulus response links that have been learned through experience


holism (for)

There are aspects of social behaviour that only emerge within a group context and cannot be understood at the level of individual group members e.g. Stanford prison experiment cant be understood by looking at the participants as individuals it was the interaction between people and the behaviour of the group that was important shows that holistic explanations provide a more complete and global understanding of behaviour


holism (against)

-Holistic explanations in psychology tend not to lend themselves to rigourous scientific testing and can become vague and speculative as they become more complex
-Higher level explanations that combine many different perspectives present researchers with a practical dilemma if we accept that there are many factors that contribute to depression for example it becomes difficult to establish which is most influential and which one to use as a basis for therapy


reductionism (for)

-In order to create operationalised variables it is necessary to break target behaviours down into constituent parts this makes it possible to conduct experiments or record observations in a way that is meaningful and reliable
-Gives psychology greater credibility placing it on equal terms with the natural sciences


reductionism (against)

Have been accused of oversimplifying complex phenomena leading to a loss of validity
-explanations that operate at the level of the gene, neurotransmitter and neuron do not include an analysis of the social context within which behaviours occur and this is where the behaviour in question may derive its meaning


Interactionist approach

Compliance levels of explanation e.g. diathesis stress model and interactionist approaches to treatment of schizophrenia