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Idiographic versus nomothetic approaches to psychology Essay

The approach of investigating large groups of people in order to find general laws of behaviour that apply to everyone Nomos= laws in ancient Greek; this approach assumes that an individual is a complex combination of many universal laws; it is best to study people on a large scale. Quantitative Experimental methods are best to identify the universal laws governing behaviour.

The individual will be classified with others and measured as a score upon a dimension, or be a statistic supporting a general principle (‘averaging’). The nomothetic approach is the main approach within scientifically oriented psychology. • Behaviourism: experiments with animals (rats, cats and pigeons) _establish laws of learning (B.F. Skinner e.g.). • Social psychology: Milgram e.g. used the nomothetic approach and made general conclusions on the basis of his research.

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