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Psychology Assignment Final

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Describe and discuss how each psychological perspective explains smoking using empirical evidence A perspective or approach in psychology is a specific understanding as to why and how individuals think, feel and behave. The perspectives/approaches are essential to the study of psychology; they reinforce all psychological thought and investigation. The purpose of this assignment is to evaluate the psychological perspectives in order to explain smoking. The psychodynamic approach

Psychodynamic psychologists assume an individual’s behaviour is determined by their unconscious thoughts and memories, making it a deterministic approach. They believe that each manifest (surface) thought or behaviour hides a latent (hidden) motive or intention. This reflects our instinctive biological drives and early experiences, predominantly before the age of five. Primarily, how a child is treated by their parents, reflects their adult behaviour. This approach is regarded as a reductionist approach to psychology rather than a holistic one. Sigmund Freud (1896-1939) believed that one of the key influences to his psychodynamic approach was the assumption was that the early childhood was particularly important in the development of an adults personality traits. According to (Gross, 2005) Freud claimed that development took place through three stages of psychosexual development, the oral, anal and the phallic. However, if a trauma occurs at any stage of development it could result in the child getting fixated (stuck) at that stage, if this does happen, then traces of that stage will remain in their behaviour as an adult.

For example, smoking in adults can be explained through the oral stage of the psychosexual stages, where as a child a conflict occurs at the oral stage, where the sources of pleasure would be in the mouth, with the influences at this stage being breast feeding and weaning onto solid food. Therefore, the result of fixation is smoking, nail biting, dependency and aggression. An example of psychodynamic research is Freud’s (1909) case study of ‘Little Hans’, where Freud believed Hans was going through the phallic stage of the psychosexual stages of development. (Gross 2005, p. 507-509) However, no independent evidence was provided to support Freud. The information he gathered was through corresponding with Hans’s father, who was a supporter of Freud and his theories. Therefore, the case study was seen as researcher bias. Freud’s evaluation of the evidence suited his own theories and beliefs. In addition, it was very controversial as there was too much emphasis on sex. One of the limitations repeatedly made towards Freud’s theories where that they were unscientific, classing them as unfalsifiable. (Not able to disapprove them). Behaviourist

“Psychology, as the behaviourist views it, is a purely objective, experimental branch of natural science which needs introspection as little as do sciences of chemistry and physics. It is granted that the behaviour of animals can be investigated without appeal to consciousness.” (Watson 1919) Watson (1913) was the founding father of behaviourism and developed a radical behaviourist approach. However, not all behaviourist psychologists adopt such an extreme position. Behaviourist psychologists assume an individual’s behaviour is completely controlled by their environment and their prior learning. Behaviourists believe that the environmental factors (called stimuli) affect evident behaviour (called the response). This approach is deterministic as they believe that individuals have no free will. Behaviourists believe that all learning can be accounted for in terms of law-governed processes like classical and operant conditioning. The behaviourists’ view that all behaviour, regardless of how multifaceted, it can be broken down into the essential processes of conditioning making it a highly reductionist approach to psychology.

They also assume that the processes of learning are common to all species. Therefore, humans learn in the same way as other animals. (Billingham, M et al (2008) According to (Gross, 2005) behaviourists use two procedures to explain how an individual’s learn – Classical Conditioning (CC) and Operant Conditioning (OC). In Classical Conditioning, an individual learns to associate two stimuli when they occur together; such that the response originally elicited by one stimulus is transferred to another. The individual learns to produce an existing response to a new stimulus. Therefore, within the behaviourist approach smoking can be explained through Classical Conditioning. For example, an individual is feeling stressed due to an argument and removes themselves from the situation by going outside (UCS) to relieve the stress (UCR). By adding smoking (CS) to the equation, allows the individual to associate smoking (CS) to the relief of stress (UCR). Show in fig.1 UCS_____ Outside| | UCR____ Reduces Stress|

UCS_____ Outside| CS______ Smoking| UCR____ Reduces Stress| | CS______ Smoking| UCR____ Reduces Stress|

The evidence for Classical Conditioning (CC) was from an experiment by Ivan Pavlov (1890-1930). By looking into natural reflexes and neutral stimuli he was able to condition dogs to salivate to the sound of a bell through repeated association of the bell to food. (Gross 2005, p. 123) The behaviourist studies carried out tend to be very reliable, and can be credited with presenting the scientific method into psychology. It is methodical and objective due to the laboratory testing on animals; the conditions are controlled to the exact conditions learning occurs for example the nature and accessibility of reinforcement and punishment. However, a limitation to the behaviourist approach is that they only test on animals, not humans which mean it does not effectively relate to a human being. Humanistic

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.” (Maslow, 1968) Humanistic psychologists such as Carl Rogers (1951-1961) and Abraham Maslow (1962-1970), assume that each individual is unique and have their own way of perceiving and understanding the world. (Ideographic approach)They focus on an individual’s subjectivity. Therefore, they reject the objective scientific method as a way of studying people. A humanistic approach is based upon the belief that every individual person has free will and that they are able to control and determine their own development, even though they may not always realise this. Rather, than it being down to the environment or genetic factors. As Humanistic psychologists do not attempt to reduce individual’s behaviour into smaller processes, their approach tends to be undoubtedly holistic rather than reductionist. According to (Pennington et al, 2003) Maslow (1970) believed that humans are motivated through the need of fulfilment and change through personal growth. Maslow conceptualised these needs into a hierarchy of five needs, which are usually, represented as a pyramid; progression to the top of the pyramid can only be achieved with fulfillment of the lower needs. Show in fig.2

Fig.2 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (based on Maslow, 1954)
By using Maslow’s theory of hierarchal needs, smoking can be explained; for example, Maslow believed that we need to achieve each level of these needs to become Self-Actualised. (Fulfilled and content) Therefore, relating smoking to the hierarchy of needs situates it on the level of love and belonging as an individual who smoked would feel that they belonged to a particular peer group. Showing how peer pressures can be persuasive to an individual, giving them a sense of belonging and being loved. Some of the limitations to the humanistic approach is it lacks scientific evidence to support the theories, the concept is vague and open to bias. In addition, Maslow was criticised at the fact that the humanistic approach looks upon the positive view of human nature (healthy people) and not enough attention on those who have psychological disorders. (Pennington et al, 2003 p. 180-191)

Cognitive psychologists assume that behaviour results from information processing. (Thinking) The Cognitive approach equates a human to a computer, such as, the mind is the software and the brain is the hardware. For example, they both encode, store and retrieve information, providing an output, or behaviour. However, there are certain differences between humans and computers, making this approach reductionist, as it ignores emotional, motivational and social factors in human behaviour.

Fig.3 The information processing model which represents our internal mental processess. The cognitive approach focuses on the internal mental processes of an individual, which lies between the stimuli and the response. The Cognitive approach believes that each individual’s brain goes through three stages of information processing. (Billingham, 2008) Show in fig.3 Therefore, smoking can be explained through the cognitive approach by the fact that each individual perceives information in a different way. For example, most smokers throughout their life will in fact ignore people in their lives who have died at a young age or suffered with serious smoking related diseases and only recognise the people who have smoked all their lives and who have not gained any ill effects from the results of smoking. (Misattribution) Therefore, an individual processes the information in a way that justifies them smoking. A case study to back this theory would be Dutton and Aron (1974) who had an attractive woman ask for interviews of young men both on a swaying rope bridge and on terra firma. After a while the attractive women gave the men her telephone number.

Over 60% from the rope bridge called her back, compared to 30% from terra firma. They had misattributed their fear on the bridge as an attraction to the woman. However, the evidence for this was very subjective as they did not take into account that some of the men may not have been attracted to the women or were perhaps homosexuals. In addition, the individuals who took part in the study were genuinely interested in the study. The cognitive approach emphasises the scientific methods which is a huge strength to this approach as it is based on controlled research. However, cognitive psychologists have been criticised as being over-simplistic as they ignore the complexities of the mind. Cognitive psychologists are divided on the subject of free will, some say individuals can choose their actions whereas, others are more deterministic and suggest that a human can no more decide on their own behaviour than a computer can. Biological

Psychologists from the biological approach assume behaviour and thought processes have a distinctive, biological basis and that an individual’s behaviour is caused by an action within the nervous system. They believe that the mind and the brain are the same and every thought or feeling an individual experiences are caused by an electrochemical occurrence between the neurones that make up our nervous system, in particular those contained in the brain. The biological approach is significant to psychology with regards to three areas of study, firstly, physiology – how the nervous system and hormones (neurotransmitters) work, how the brain functions and how changes in structure and function can affect behaviour. Secondly, – comparative method meaning different species of animals can be studied and compared, aiding in the search to understanding human behaviour. Thirdly, – inheritance (the investigation of) what an animal inherits from its parents, mechanisms of inheritance (genetics). (www.simplypsychology.org 27/11/12)

Therefore, to explain smoking within the biological approach, using the chemical processes as an important influence over an individual’s behaviour, nicotine is able to bind to some of the receptors acting like a neurotransmitter, which lead to many of the changes that are responsible for the important feelings a smoker may describe, including heightened activity, improved reaction time and a sense of reward and satisfaction. The receptors activate many different parts of the brain therefore by activating the dopamine levels within the brain allows the chemicals to produce feelings of pleasure and reward when an individual smokes. This results in high levels of dopamine, which means an individual has more chance of becoming addicted to smoking in the same way an addict may become addicted to drugs. According to (www.nhs.uk/news. 23/11/12) A laboratory study (Scripps Research Institute in Florida) of normal and genetically modified mice and rats investigated the effects of nicotine on receptors of the brain.

They theorised that the cause of smoking in humans is due to a problematic gene in the brain which is usually responsible for suppressing the need for more nicotine once critical levels are reached. However, the conclusions were based on a study of animals, which means it may not be valid to humans. Coincidently, it has not been established as to whether humans even carry this gene. Making it is very subjective. However, the overall approach is generally deterministic but biological psychologists believe that individuals do have a certain amount of free will. Although, the biological approach uses scientific and investigational procedures, the approach is reductionist as it describes all behaviours and thoughts in terms of chemical processes. The limitations of the biological approach are that it is over-simplistic as it fails to ruminate the influence environmental factors can have on an individual’s behaviour. In addition, the approach raises ethical issues for example genetic mapping. In addition, it fails to clarify why individuals start smoking and continue until addiction occurs, due to the addiction not being an immediate component. Conclusion

In conclusion to evaluating smoking with regards to each psychological approach, all approaches are able to explain why people start smoking. However, they are unable to explain why individuals are unable to stop smoking and it seems that within these approaches identifying a way for cessation for the individuals who smoke is not apparent.


Billingham, M et al (2008). AQA Psychology B. 4th ed. Cheltenham: Nelson Thomas p.12-13 Dutton, D. G. and Aron, A. P. (1974) Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology p.510-517 Gary Kuhlman and Mika Ono. (2007). Study Reveals Mechanism Behind Nicotine Dependency. Available: http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20071008/george.html.Last accessed 23/11/12. Gross, R (2005). Psychology The Science Of The Mind And Behaviour. 4th ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton .p.123, 507-509 Hock, R.R. (2002). Forty studies that changed psychology: Explorations into the history of psychological research. (4th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education. 22/11/12 McLeod, S.A. (2007). Biological Psychology. Available: http://www.simplypsychology.org/biological-psychology.html Last accessed 23/11/12 McLeod, S. A. (2008). Little Hans – Freudian Case Study. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/little-hans.html 22/11/12 McLeod, S. A. (2007). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.ht 22/11/12 McLeod, S. A. (2007). Pavlov’s Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html 22/11/12 NHS Choices. (2011). Nicotine addiction: all in the head? Available: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/01January/Pages/nicotine-addiction-tested-in-rodents.aspx. Last accessed 23/11/12 Pavlov, I.P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes. London: Oxford University Press. 22/11/12 Pennington, D et al (2003). Advanced Psychology. 7th ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p122-128

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