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Example Answers for Approaches in Psychology: A Level Psychology, Paper 2, June 2018 (AQA)


Last updated 19 Jun 2018

Section A – Approaches in Psychology: Q1 [1 Mark]

C = Mental processes are studied directly by making inferences.

Section A – Approaches in Psychology: Q2 [4 Marks]

One reason that schema might be useful is in unfamiliar situations or events, where there are expectations of how to behave. Schemas are useful as they allow us to take cognitive shortcuts when interpreting a large amount of information, as they help us to ‘fill in the gaps’ in the absence of complete information. This matters because humans need to use cognitive time-saving strategies when processing the complex world around us; otherwise they would have too much information to process in new or unfamiliar situations.

However, one issue with schemas is that they may exclude information which does not conform to our prior expectations. As a result, we may form stereotypes which are then difficult to move away from, even if new or disputing information is then presented to us. This matters because we may not be processing the world around us accurately and may misjudge or represent a person or situation.  

Section A – Approaches in Psychology: Q3 [3 Marks]

When Jed took his anger out by kicking his locker, he was showing displacement. This is when an individual redirects their hostile feelings onto something else because it is not appropriate to express their feeling towards the person or object in question. In this case, Jed could not take his frustration out on his teacher, who issued the detention and he displaced his feelings by kicking the locker.

Section A – Approaches in Psychology: Q4 [16 Marks]

*It is important to note that the command term ‘compare’ included similarities and/or differences and therefore this essay will include both.

The central claim of the behaviourist approach is that almost all human behaviour is the result of learning. One of the first behaviourists to explore the relationship between learning and behaviour was Pavlov. Pavlov developed the theory of classical conditioning and famously tested it using his dogs, who were conditioned to associate the sound of a bell with food. This resulted in the dogs producing a salivation response at the sound of a bell even when no food was present. Pavlov demonstrated that repeated exposure to an event leads to a learned and uncontrollable behaviour.

Developing these ideas, B.F. Skinner suggested that behaviour was the result of learning through the consequences of our actions. Skinner conducted research into his operant conditioning theory using rats, and found that three types of consequences will affect behaviour: positive reinforcement involves rewarding a behaviour, which increases the likelihood of it being repeated; negative reinforcement involves removing an unpleasant outcome to increase the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated; punishment involves adding an unpleasant outcome to a behaviour, which reduces the likelihood of it being repeated. For Skinner, behaviour is the result of learning and remembering the consequences of previous behaviours.

While the behaviourist approach may appear strikingly different to the biological approach, these two approaches do share some similarities. For example, both approaches argue that behaviour is, to some extent, determined. Behaviourists argue that behaviour is determined by the environment and is a product of stimulus-response associations, while biological psychologists argue that behaviour is the product of internal biological factors (e.g. genes, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.). As a result, it is clear that both approaches argue that behaviour is determined, although they differ in their belief about the origins of behaviour.

Furthermore, both approaches take a nomothetic approach when studying human behaviour. Both behaviourists and biological psychologists investigate behaviour in an attempt to create universal laws that apply to all human beings. Behaviourists argue that this is possible because human beings share similar physiologies, and behaviourists argue that this is possible because all behaviour is the result of learning and stimulus-response associations. Therefore, the aim of generating universal laws that apply to all humans is another similarity between the behaviourist and biological approaches.

Despite their similarities, the behaviourist approach and biological approach are different in their position on the nature-nurture debate. Behaviourist views rest firmly on the nurture side of the debate, and John Locke famously argued that human beings are born a tabula rasa (blank slate) and that all behaviour is learned. Biological psychologists, on the other hand, would argue a nature-based view of behaviour. They posit that behaviour is the result of innate biological factors (e.g. genes, hormones, neurotransmitters. etc.) and is, therefore, the product of nature and not nurture. Therefore, despite their similarities in terms of determinism and their approach to investigation, the behaviourist and biological approaches are radically different in terms of their position on the nature-nurture debate.

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