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What Is Reductionism In Psychology

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Is Psychology Reductionist And Is This A Bad Thing

Psychology Issues & Debates: Holism and Reductionism
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Currently the type of reductionism that is of most interest in psychology claims that all behaviours should be reducible to biology , meaning that most mental phenomena are equated with biological phenomena. In this essay the idea of reductionism will be analysed through psychological research and a conclusion can then be made based upon evidence to decide whether psychology is a reductionist or not.

However, The best solution is probably the diathesis stress model, which combines all approaches together. The diathesis-stress model indicates that physiological explanations tend to offer a predisposition to mental illnesses. Also, an alternative explanation is that a stressful life event causes the onset of mental disorders . The individual may have a predisposition to the disorder but only people who experience stressors will develop the disorder. The diathesis stress model can be applied to the cognitive and biological explanation, suggesting that people may have vulnerability for mental illness but the disorder only manifests itself when triggered by life events or when a person misinterprets other peoples behaviour.

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Which Approaches In Psychology Are Reductionist

Some reductionist approaches in psychology are biological, behavioural, cognitive, social, and psychodynamic. Rose proposed several levels of explanation for reductionism. The lowest level is biological explanations . These are followed by psychological explanations . The highest level is social explanations.

Can Biochemistry Eliminate Addiction Mental Illness And Pain

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A growing consensus is emerging that the best hope for understanding and dealing with psychological problems lies with work being done in genetics, biology, and the neurosciences. Research in the neurosciences, especially, is expected to revolutionize the treatment of mental disorders in the coming years. The public is kept abreast of progress in this field in article after article in mass publication periodicals. Moreover, psychologists appear so eager to accept neurological and biochemical explanations for behavior that psychology is in danger of losing its status as an independent body of knowledge. This reductionist trend of thought, as well as having major scientific implications, affects popular attitudes toward self-regulation in key areas of human functioning. Yet not only has biochemical and neurological research not explained basic aspects of human behavior and mental disorderit has fundamental problems in attempting such explanations. A psychology that accepts and accounts for subjective human experience is presented as a counterpoise to the reductionist thrust.

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Who Introduces The Idea Of Eliminative Materialism

The term “eliminative materialism” was first introduced by James Cornman in 1968 while describing a version of physicalism endorsed by Rorty. The later Ludwig Wittgenstein was also an important inspiration for eliminativism, particularly with his attack on “private objects” as “grammatical fictions”.

Ignores Other Factors Contributing To A Problem

Holism vs Reductionism

The clear downside of reductionism is that it is so totally focused on the smaller elements that contribute to a phenomenon that it fails to account for other forces that might play a role as well.

In our above example, researchers taking a biological approach for explaining depression might focus their studies on chemical reactions and balances within the body that contribute to symptoms of depression. While this type of research might lead to important medical advances in the treatment of depression, it excludes other variables such as cognitions, hereditary influences, personal problems, substance abuse, and other variables.

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Issues And Debates Historical Debates

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About this Lecture


In this fourth module, we think about reductionism versus holism, focusing in particular on: defining reductionism as the tendency to reduce complex concepts to their basic components evolutionary psychology as a theory framework which can be considered reductionist Freudian theory, based around coping with unpalatable or unbearable traumas or attractions, which is a reductionist view of human nature defining a holistic view as either taking the whole human being, including needs, wants and desires, or taking in the whole context around that human being, including society, culture and the economy Abraham Maslows holistic approach to the hierarchy of needs, which borrowed some concepts from Freudian theory Erich Fromms holistic theory contrasting consumer capitalism with Victorian views on prioritising saving money, as an example explanation for the development of different personality types the importance of recognising holism and reductionism as features of a theory, rather than theories or attitudes in themselves criticisms of positive psychology as being rooted in the motivations of governments and businesses to continue economic growth by pursuing positive mental health.

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Who Introduced Reductionism In Modern Times

Asked by: Laisha Kunze

The idea of Reductionism was first introduced by Descartes in Part V of his “Discourses” of 1637, where he argued the world was like a machine, its pieces like clockwork mechanisms, and that the machine could be understood by taking its pieces apart, studying them, and then putting them back together to see the larger …

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Is Reductionism Still Used Today

This version of reductionism is no longer widely accepted, mainly because of the difficulty of giving a satisfactory characterization of the distinction between theoretical and observational statements in science. The question of the unity of science remains controversial.

Why is reductionism a strength?

Reductionism in terms of biology is easier to understand because it helps us determine causation and helps identify the importance of individual factors. This means extraneous variables are highly controlled and cause and effect can be established, increasing validity.

What is the opposite of reductionist?

The opposite of reductionism is holism. This approach goes back to a statement by Aristotle in his Metaphysics2: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

A reductionist habit of mind will tend to see the whole as nothing more than the sum of parts that compose it.

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What is Reductionism? (Reductionism Defined, Meaning of Reductionism, Definition of Reductionism)

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Historical Background: Philosophical And Scientific

Undoubtedly, the growth and development of molecular biology over thepast half century has made reductionism in biology a central issue. However, it would be wrong to assume thatdifferent aspects of reductionism only gain traction in the wake ofthe molecularization of biology juxtaposed with discussions ofreduction from a logical empiricist perspective . Besides a perennial concern with what makeslife distinctive, we can distinguish at least two reductionist themesthroughout history relevant to the life sciences and its philosophy: the relation among different branches or domains of knowledgeand the relation betweenparts and wholes . These two themes link up in acomplex fashion with both epistemic and ontological reduction. Additionally, these themes arise in the context ofspecific domains of enduring interest: the complex relationsamong different animals and plants in natural environments, i.e.,ecology, the integrated relations among theparts and whole of an organism, i.e., physiology/functionalanatomy, and the dynamic relations among thehomogeneous components in the early stages of an embryo thateventually beget a unified whole organism containing heterogeneousparts in appropriate arrangement and connection, i.e.,development/reproduction.

The Concepts Of Holism And Reductionism

A biopsychosocial perspective is a form of holism’. This approach examines the three interdependent factors, biological, psychological and social, in devising explanations and possible interventions in mental health. From this perspective, all three factors are equally valid as objects of study.

The term reductionism’ refers to a process of trying to explain events by focusing on only one component of a complex whole. So, in explaining behaviour, a study of biology to the exclusion of psychology and social context would be said to be reductionist. Similarly, to explain psychology simply in terms of social context, whilst ignoring biology, would also exemplify reductionism in this sense.

Another shade of meaning of reductionism is in seeking explanations at a smaller scale. An example of this would be searching for an explanation of mental, behavioural and social events in terms of activity of regions of the brain. To take such reductionism still further, activity of the different areas of the brain would then be explained in terms of the chemicals that make up the brain , and the performance of these neurochemicals might then be explained in terms of their component parts.

The biomedical model exemplifies reductionism in both of these senses. An exclusive focus upon social context to the exclusion of biology and psychology illustrates reductionism in only the first sense of the term.

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Reductionism And Psychology: Why Not Everything Is In The Brain

Many of the discussions that take place within psychology are not, technically, psychological discussions, but rather philosophical. Philosophy provides an epistemological and conceptual framework that we use to interpret and produce data, and that previous phase is not a scientific task rather, it has to do with defending a point of view and arguing why it is better than other philosophical positions.

This is something that happens in all sciences, because all of them are based on philosophical foundations that normally have been discussed for decades. However, in psychology something happens that does not usually happen as much with the hard sciences as physics: the scientific debate and that of ideas mixes a lot and can easily get confused. This occurs, in part, because of the popularity of a philosophical position known as reductionism . Let’s see what it consists of and what implications and risks it can have in the field of psychology.

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Reductionism In The History Of The Treatment Of Mental Disorder

Reductionism vs holism

The thinking apparent in primitive reductionist approaches to psychology often continues uninterrupted into the present. The concept behind phrenologythat specific areas of the brain correspond to the various components in a person’s characterfinds a strong parallel in the concept underlying modern psychosurgery. In the last century treatments for insanity included strapping people into a centrifugal rotator and shocking their systems by dunking them in cold water. Electroshock treatment follows approximately the same kind of thinking. In order to appreciate just how alluring explanations for mental disorders that propose straightforward physical mechanisms for observed mental conditions are, consider that shell shock was originally thought by 20th-century psychiatry to be due to concussion or inner ear injury . The most consistently popular reductionist approach to psychotherapy has been drug therapy. At various times such chemicals as the narcotics, cocaine, Benzedrine, hormones, radioactive substances, and, most recently, LSD and tranquilizers have been endorsed as therapeutic agents. Some of these, like insulin, were accorded the same enthusiasm that antidepressant drugs engender today.

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What Is The Theory Of Reduction

Summary. Philosophers use theory reduction as a term of art to denote the scientific practice whereby a more basic theory expresses or otherwise captures the facts and principles described by a less basic theory. The reducing theory thus preserves the ontology of the reduced theory, at least in ideal cases.

Moving Away From Reductionism

The biopsychosocial model, proposed by Dr. George Engel in the late 1970s, says that both physical characteristics and psychosocial factors contribute to illness. This is now pretty widely accepted and taught when it comes to mental illness.

Moving away from reductionism doesnt mean that we need to accept all possibilities, including things that have been disproven. It also doesnt mean that Occams razor, a heuristic that says that entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity, goes out the window entirely.

Sometimes things are multiple by necessity, because thats simply what they are. Holism, the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is essentially the opposite of reductionism. When it comes to mental illness, a holistic approach seems to make sense. As a side note, I dont mean holistic in the sense of alternative health Im actually quite curious how that term got co-opted in that way.

There just dont seem to be any simple explanations for mental illness, and it probably doesnt do anyone much good to approach the matter as if thats what were looking for. If a phenomenon is inherently complex, we shouldnt pretend that its not.

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Is Frank Jackson A Physicalist

She comes across new properties. When Jackson lays it out like that, crystal clear, it’s hard not to feel a certain insecurity about physicalism. What else can you say, except that Mary learns about a new part of the world when she sees colour for the first time? But Jackson is a latter day physicalist.

Reductionism In The Mass Media

Reductionism vs Holism (Psychology Debate Explained) #Alevel

The extent of the rise in contemporary reductionism is indicated by the amountand kindof coverage that biochemical research on human behavior receives in the mass media, including our most respected mass circulation periodicals. Articles are written not only by science reporters but by scientific professionalsoften those conducting the research themselvesthat create the impression for most educated Americans that the study of human behavior is being revolutionized. For example, an article by neurologist Richard Restak in Saturday Review reports,

Medical researchers tend to frown on overenthusiastic claims about “miracle cures” and “wonder drugs.” Yet behind the scenes in medicine today, waves of high excitement are being generated by a group of biochemical agents called endorphins.

So far, researchers have carefully avoided hyperbole in their descriptions of the endorphins. But it’s hard to leave out the exclamation points when you are talking about a veritable philosopher’s stonea group of substances that hold out the promise of alleviating, or even eliminating, such age-old medical bugaboos as pain, drug addiction, and, among other mental illnesses, schizophrenia.

The article continues by describing investigations of serotonin and norepinephrine imbalances in depressed patients.

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Theory Validationreductionism And Addiction

That psychologists, among others, view reductionist approaches to psychology as inherently more scientific raises the issue of how science evaluates competing theories, for the use of reductionist theories and the overall viewpoint they represent will be worthwhile only to the extent that they can be shown to have greater validity than alternative approaches. The topic of drug addiction is good ground for making such comparisons, since the fact that addiction obviously engages both chemical and human inputs has made it the object of both pharmacological and psychological scrutiny. Several criteria of scientific validity offer help in assessing opposing viewpoints in this area of human behavior.

The Criterion of Accuracy

Thus pharmacological theories of addiction that have focused on the addictive characteristics of various drugs have not been able to deal with the diversity of usage patterns found with these drugs. Pharmacological accounts have typically ignored the finding from field studies of narcotics use that many people who take in substantial amounts of narcotics do not become addicted . Recently, however, endorphin researchers like Goldstein have attempted to explain this inconsistency by suggesting that it is individuals whose bodies are deficient in endorphins who become addicted when they are exposed to a narcotic. For these individuals, narcotics perform pain-relief functions that occur naturally for most people through endogenous morphine production.

Who Coined The Term Reductionism

The idea of Reductionism was first introduced by Descartes in Part V of his “Discourses” of 1637, where he argued the world was like a machine, its pieces like clockwork mechanisms, and that the machine could be understood by taking its pieces apart, studying them, and then putting them back together to see the larger …

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The Misguided Reliance On Reductionism

Inconsistencies in the work of Schachter, Pomerleau, Garmezy, and others are a sign that reductionist approaches have not been well integrated with existing knowledge in psychology, including often the research of such psychologists themselves. Another level of misconception is introduced when psychologists not familiar with the complexities in fundamental theories rest their interpretations of psychological phenomena on their assumptions about these theories. Examples come from the writings of two applied psychologists whose thinking has been influential in their fields and who resort to reductionist models that their work actually seems to run counter to rather than to support. Both psychologists have written about addiction both attempt to expand what has been a pharmacological concept to areas of behavior other than those involving drug use.

Representation Temporality And Intrinsicality

Drive Reduction Theory Definition Psychology

These representational issues are not idle with respect to differingexplanations, both past and present, because the same line of argumentabout the non-independence of organismal parts constituted reasons fortreating the organism from a non-reductionist standpoint . Individuation of parts and their explanatoryrelationship to wholes is critically dependent on the principlesutilized in representing them . Wimsatt has claimed that reduction and emergence are compatible withinthe context of explaining organizational complexity in living systems,going so far as to argue that reductionist methodology can identifyemergence when specific conditions of aggregativity are delineated.Different failures of aggregativity result when different conditionsare not met, which yields a subtle taxonomy of compositionalrelations, as well as highlighting that different decompositionsproduce distinct fulfillments and/or violations of those conditionsthat can be methodologically exploited by scientists for the purposeof causal discovery.

Kitcher also glimpsed the potential significance of temporality forreductive explanation in the context of embryology: Becausedevelopmental processes are complex and because changes in the timingof embryological events may produce a cascade of effects at severaldifferent levels, one sometimes uses descriptions at higher levels toexplain what goes on at a more fundamental level .

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