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Debates in Psychology. Reductionism Versus Holism Freewill Versus Determinism Adapted from www.completepsychology.co.uk. Topics to Consider. Reductionist and holistic levels of analysis forms of reductionism a hierarchy of explanation Free will and determinism

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debates in psychology

Debates in Psychology

Reductionism Versus Holism

Freewill Versus Determinism

Adapted from www.completepsychology.co.uk

topics to consider
Topics to Consider
  • Reductionist and holistic levels of analysis
    • forms of reductionism
    • a hierarchy of explanation
  • Free will and determinism
    • either/or, or somewhere in-between?
overview
Overview
  • Disagreement about a range of issues
  • Different positions lead to different approaches to psychology
  • Important to understand these issues to be able to evaluate theories in psychology
debate 1 reductionism versus holism
Debate 1 Reductionism versus Holism
  • Reductionism is the view that complex phenomena can be best understood by reducing them to separate simpler parts

Descartes held that non-human animals could be reductively explained as automata — De homines 1622.

reductionism
Reductionism
  • Reductionism is the view that complex phenomena can be best understood by reducing them to separate simpler parts
types of reductionism
Types of Reductionism
  • physiological reductionism
  • biological reductionism
physiological reductionism
Physiological Reductionism
  • Psychological explanations are replaced by physiological explanations in terms of brain operation, genetics, or both
  • Provides simple explanations than can often be tested scientifically
biological reductionism
Biological Reductionism
  • Explain human behaviour in terms of simpler animals
  • Assumes continuity of behavior between animals and humans
reductionism levels of explanation
Reductionism & Levels of Explanation
  • Some argue that the “best science” focuses on the deepest levels
  • Watson: ‘There is only one science, physics: the rest is just social work.’
evaluation
Evaluation
  • Advantages of reductionism:
    • Scientific, easily tested and concise explanations
    • successful interventions e.g. treatment of bipolar disorder
evaluation11
Evaluation
  • Disadvantages of reductionism:
    • may lose features of the phenomenon of interest (‘can’t see the wood for the trees’)
    • most behaviours - e.g., violence - have a social meaning that may not correspond to biological processes
holism
Holism
  • Human behaviour is highly complex and higher levels of analysis give a more complete and realistic view of behaviour
  • “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”
holism13
Holism
  • Answering the question as to why we are aggressive has more practical value than understanding the physiological underpinning of the behaviour.
evaluation14
Evaluation
  • Adopting many levels of analysis a challenge
  • Danger that biological aspects of behaviour are neglected
free will and determinism
Free Will and Determinism
  • Do we have free will, or is all our behaviour determined by identifiable causes?
  • Much of psychology assumes determinism, since to be scientific (finding cause and effect) means identifying determining causes
  • However, determinism conflicts with our subjective experience of choice
definitions of free will
Definitions of Free Will
  • Choice:
    • people have free will if they have a genuine choice of behaviour
    • Assumes that influences on behaviour can be rejected at will
defining determinism
Defining Determinism
  • Comes in a range of forms, depending on what’s seen as determining behaviour
    • e.g. behaviourism, psychodynamics, evolutionary psychology
  • Determinism means all behaviour has theoretically identifiable causes and can be predicted
soft determinism
Soft Determinism
  • A compromise position first proposed by William James 1890
  • Behaviour is seen as determined to an extent, but in the absence of compulsion, people have a degree of choice and freedom
  • The question then becomes ‘How much is determined?’
evaluation20
Evaluation
  • Belief in free will matches subjective experience and our sense of moral responsibility
  • However, difficult to find an scientific explanation of behaviour if we don’t accept determinism
  • Perhaps different phenomena differ in the extent to which they’re determined
    • e.g. language use vs. instinctive responses