Reductionism In Psychology

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Describe and evaluate reductionist explanations in 2 areas of psychology (30)

Reductionism is the belief that the subject matter of psychology can be best explained by breaking it down into simple elements. This is sometimes referred to as Occam’s razor, which outlines that unnecessary constructs and levels of explanation can be cut away in order to reveal the simple explanation. This idea is further supported by Morgan’s Law Of Parsimony. This law states that we have no need to explain behaviour in terms of complex psychological processes, when it can be done in much simpler ideas. The reductionist line of thinking suggests that whatever it is we are trying to explain, we should look for something basic. The reductionist approach allows for psychology to be seen more scientifically but whether this is the best approach for the investigation of human behaviour is debateable.

Rose suggested different levels of explanation for most things. Each level has a valid contribution to offer overall, but a particular topic may be best explained at a particular level. The hierarchical levels Rose suggested were molecular being the most reductionist and the behaviour of groups (sociology) being the least reductionist. Reductionism in psychology lies within the other 3 levels in the hierarchy. The main principle is that complex behaviour can be broken down into their constituent parts and that these parts can then be used to explain complex human behaviour.

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The concept of reductionism means that psychology can be viewed as fully scientific, cause and effect can be established. Also, predictions of human behaviour can be made based on biological and physiological components. Due to the scientific nature of reductionism, empirical evidence can be gained in order to support areas of psychology. For example, within schizophrenia evidence has found that excessive dopamine is a characteristic of the disorder. Following this, anti-psychotic drugs have been developed and found successful in reducing dopamine activity and thus reducing symptoms of schizophrenia. However, even thought the success of anti-psychotic medication supports the biological reductionist ...

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The Quality of Written Communication is flawless. The candidate writes so clearly and precisely throughout the answer that the examiner would have a very clear indication of the abilities of this candidates. They have a very good level of knowledge of how to implement key words and specialist terminology into their evaluations. There is also no cause for concern with regards to grammar, spelling or punctuation.

The Level of Analysis is good. The candidate proposes a nicely balanced discussion about the role and uses of reductionism of psychology; how it can aid psychologists and how it can hinder the validity of research, particularly in approaches that view human behaviour as more of a results of everything they've ever done or felt rather than something as a result of one small environmental or biological influential factor. There is a good understanding of the birth of these theories and how to explain them so even non-psychology students can understand.

This is a very confident, very succinct, and very well-expressed essay that proposes clear ideas about the role of Reductionism in Psychology. The candidate nicely satisfies the question, though perhaps a little more could be said with regards to the Humanistic approach. But even so, I greatly commend the candidate for not opting to do something more simplistic such as two approaches the advocate reductionist tendencies like the physiological approach and the cognitive approach, or the cognitive approach and the behaviourist perspective. It would be interesting to contrast one of these with the psychodynamic perspective, but it is easy to see why any candidate would want to avoid it as it really does stick out (by being the only staunchly reductionist approach/perspective that isn't at all scientific). So all in all, this response is excellent as it shows a very adept knowledge of psychology and how to form a fair evaluation of studies that feature reductionism.