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Discuss the Freewill Versus Determinism Debate As It Applies To Psychology.

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DISCUSS THE FREEWILL VERSUS DETERMINISM DEBATE AS IT APPLIES TO PSYCHOLOGY Do we choose to act as we do or are our actions a result of influences beyond our control? This question has preoccupied philosophers for centuries, thus giving rise to the 'Freewill versus Determinism' debate. By definition, freewill is the notion that we are free to make decisions and thus control all of our actions however determinism takes the opposing view suggesting that all of our actions are totally determined by the external and internal forces operating on them. It is now widely recognised by most psychologists that it is a combination of both freewill and determinism that determine our behaviour however this leads to another question, 'to what extent is our behaviour determined and to what extent are we free to choose?' The idea that our behaviour is controlled by external factors paints a rather depressing picture of life in which we have no control over any of our actions. As a result, the humanistic approach in psychology completely rejected this idea and instead opted for the idea of freewill. ...read more.


Psychic determinism stresses that we are at the mercy of unconscious forces over which we have no control. Trivial things such as forgetting a dentist's appointment could be due to an unconscious fear of going to the dentist's. Freud believed that freewill was simply an illusion; however he did believe that people may have the potential for freewill as it forms the basis of psychoanalysis. Similarly, the evolutionary approach is also very deterministic arguing that our genes have control over our behaviour as well physiological processes since they have been naturally selected over the generations. However it is not wholly deterministic as it recognizes cultural evolution in humans. The behaviourist approach is also in favour of determinism arguing that human behaviour is determined by learning from the environment and its causes can be explained in terms of environmental stimuli. Skinner, a strong believer in environmental determinism, asserted that in actual fact freewill in human behaviour was merely an illusion because in reality we are all at the mercy of our environment. ...read more.


If indeed humans had freewill over their actions, then psychology would not be a science as behaviour would not be causal and therefore there would be no need for researchers to ascertain the causes of behaviour by measuring the influence of variables. If, on the other hand, behaviour was purely deterministic, then crime would be left unpunished since we would not be held responsible for our actions consequently leading to the deterioration of society. Furthermore, we would feel very helpless as we would be entirely at the mercy of our environments and have no control over our lives and thus question the purpose of creation. It is important to note the fact that it is impossible to design an experiment to find out which is the greater influence in human behaviour, freewill or determinism, and therefore this debate may be more philosophical than it is scientific. In conclusion, many psychologists have realised that it is neither extreme that influences our behaviour; rather it is a combination if the two that governs human behaviour. As a result, they have opted for the position of soft determinism to describe human behaviour most accurately. Fatema Jessa 13DHo ...read more.

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Response to the question

Though a fairly prescriptive and predictable essay, this candidate has easily satisfied the demands of the coursework question and whilst might not gain full marks for her efforts, is likely to achieve a high B grade for A Level. The ...

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Response to the question

Though a fairly prescriptive and predictable essay, this candidate has easily satisfied the demands of the coursework question and whilst might not gain full marks for her efforts, is likely to achieve a high B grade for A Level. The introductory paragraph is ample and describes the free will-determinism debate in Psychology, with specific reference to its role in explaining behaviour (as this debate exists far beyond just psychology, it is good to see this level of clarity and precision has been implemented).

The structure works well for the candidate, as they break up cohesive paragraphs so as to help the reader digest the information easily, and each one discusses to good detail the stance of different approaches and perspectives with regard to the free will-determinism debate in Psychology. I would argue that this prevents the essay from being all that cohesive (save the introductory and conclusive paragraphs, which work perfectly) because of the segregation between each approach and perspective, and this is where the candidate struggles for the A grade - the need for a strong, cohesive essay that flows well is a large one at A Level, and should always be recognised.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis here is good, and shows the examiner clearly that the candidate has a very good knowledge of both psychology, it's approaches and perspectives and also the major debate concerning free will and deterministic views of behaviour. There is a very wide range of approaches and perspectives address, including more complex new-age practises like the Humanistic approach and Neo-Behaviourism (Socio-Cognitive Learning). There is a deep-set understanding of the birth of each practise and this surplus information would happily substitute for the lack of the Cognitive, Social and Developmental approaches.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication here is very good. The candidate uses a variety of Psychology-orientated terminology with confidence and accuracy, helping to show the examiner they are competent when it comes to discussing debates using the tools that professional psychologists use. From an English perspective the QWC is also very good, allowing for little error in spelling, punctuation and grammar. This candidate has probably proof-read and spell-checked their essay for errors that even computer spell-checkers may miss, and is a good idea for every candidate submitting coursework.

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