Scientific methods in psychology - behaviourist and humanist approaches.

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Nelson Truran

Through sciences like biology and chemistry we have discovered the function and reactions of the external. But only through psychology have we turned that inquisition inwards and revealed the most basic of questions like, “why does little sally cry uncontrollably when we leave her alone?” or “why does Frank cut the faces out of pictures?” Looking back over time it seems strange that we would establish the meaning of biological processes like the solar cycle, before we even fathomed the mental development of human beings.

Scientific Approaches differ, sometimes slightly, sometimes to a larger quantity, from psychological approaches. This is not to say it is impossible to use scientific approaches in psychology, more like it IS possible to both use scientific approaches and other means to achieve understanding of the mind and behaviour. For example Freud’s study on little Hans showed the basic outline of a Scientific Approach, (Case Study, Questionnaire, etc.) Freud used his own perception of the gathered empirical data and put forward theories based on his insight and some gathered evidence. Judging by how much understanding of mind and behaviour we have gained from said study it could be advantageous to sometimes trim the fat of scientific approaches and use human understanding over tried and tested methods.

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Though there are some very obvious problems by following this system. For example, insight isn’t measureable, and therefore can’t be proven correct or incorrect, but remain a theory until scientifically proven, and there is no way yet to scientifically prove behaviour, for it is anomalous and sporadic and far too difficult to predict. This causes a circular problem:

You can’t prove a theory without scientific fact, and you can’t gather scientific facts of said theory.

If we, for example, take the behaviouristic approach’s explanation for aggressive behaviour amongst children and gather only scientific data, like,

95/100 children that behaved badly ...

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Research methodology in psychology can be placed into two categories which include quantitative and qualitative research. Qualitative research uses open ended questioning, diary accounts, interviews and unstructured observations. Quantitative research however, is more concerned with the measuring of things. The writer needs to understand the differences between the two. The writer then needs to describe Behaviourism and the scientific methods used to measure behaviour. Following on from this could be an introduction to Humanism and the kind of scientific research methods that would be employed, if any. Finally, the writer needs to conclude the work by weighing up all the information. Although the writing style is easy to follow, more detail needs to be added, some references need to be included and the writer needs to structure the essay better. At present it is rather vague with little real content. Star rating 2*