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According to a reductionist approach , what is the best way to explain our behaviour and why do supporters argue that it is scientific?

It explains human behaviour by breaking it down into smaller components

It helps to analyse the behaviour properly and understand the way we behave

The supports argue  it is scientific based using basic principles of behaviour


What does this debate centre around?

This debate centres around the argument as to whether human behaviour is best explained by breaking behaviour down into smaller constituent parts or by studying each person as a unique individual


What is a holistic approach?

A holistic approach perceives the whole experience rather than individual features and/or the relations between them


What is an example of holistic approach?

For example, the humanistic approach explains human behaviour in terms of individual experience as a whole, as opposed to reducing behaviour such as depression down to a neurochemical.


Whatis reductionism approach?

A reductionist approach analyses behaviour in its smaller units, as complex phenomena are best understood in terms of a more basic level of explanation.


What is levels of explanation?


Levels of explanation suggests that there are different ways of viewing the same phenomena in psychology,

for example the cause of OCD may be understood in different ways


Explaning OCD as levels of explanation:

  1. Socio-cultural level - It involves behaviour most people would regard as odd e.g repititive hand-washing
  2. Psychological level - Individual's experience of obesseive thoughts
  3. Physical level - The sequence of movements involving washing one's hands
  4. Physiological level - Hypersensitivity of the basal ganglia
  5. Neurochemical level - Underproduction of seretonin


(each level is reductionist than the other one


What is biological reductionism?

Physiological and neurochemical levels

Biological reductionism reduces complex behaviours to the actions of neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones and genes


Example of biological reductionism

For example, OCD is explained in terms of neurochemical imbalances (dopamine and serotonin) and therefore when looking at this complex behaviour, psychologists reduce it to the action of physiology and ignore environmental influences.


What is envirnomental determinism?

Environmental reductionism is when complex behaviour is broken down into simple stimulus-response links


Example of enivnromental reductionism?

  • For example, within the behavioural approach uses classical conditioning to suggest that we learn to associate two stimuli together causing a learned (conditioned) response
  • . Therefore, when looking at complex behaviour, psychologists reduce it to the influence of our environment and ignore biological influences.


A limitation of holism that is impractical

  • Holistic explanations tend not to lend themseleves to rigorous scientific testing and become vague and speculative as they become more complex
  • For example if we accept there are many factors contributing to depression it is difficult to establish which is most influential and which to use as a basis of therapy
  • This suggests that when coming to finding solutions for real world problems lower level explanatiosn amy be more applicable


A strength of reductionism is there scientific credibility

  • A reductionism approach foten forms the basis of scientific research. Target behaviours are reduced to consituient parts to create operationalised variables
  • This makes it possible to conduct experiments or record observations (behavioural categories) in meaingful and reliable ways
  • This gives psychology greater credibilitty placing it on equal terms with natural sciences lower down the reductionist hierarchy


A strength of both holism and reductionism is the interactionist approach

  • Interactionism in the context of holism and reductionism considers how different levels of explanation combine and interact
  • E.G Diathesis stress model explains mental disorders like shizophrenia as the outcome of predisposition (often genetic) which si triggered by some stressor (often psychological)
  • This model has led to multi-disciplinary and holistic approach to treatment (e.g combing drugs and family therapy) and is associated with lower and relapse rates


A strength of holism is to explain key aspects of social behaviours

  • There are some social behaviours that only emerge within a group and context and cannot be understoof at the level of indidvual group members
  • Fot example the effcts of de-indidivulation of prisoners and guards in Stanford prision experiment could not be understood by studying the participants as indidivuals - it was the interactions between the people that mattered
  • This shows that holistic explanations are needed for a more complete understanding of behaviour than reductionist approaches