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An Eclectic Approach

Eclectic :-
deriving ideas (theories etc) from a broad
& diverse range of sources.

‘ An eclectic thinker is one who selectively

adopts ideas from different sources and
combines them in the development of a
new theory ‘ Mautner, 2000.

• In psychology the five major
perspectives each have their own
theories for explaining many aspects
of human behaviour.
• The topic of ‘Psychology of Atypical
behaviour’ is a good example of this
• Each theory will have its strengths
and weaknesses.

• The weaknesses of these theories
suggest that any one single theory
(from one approach only) is
inadequate in explaining human
• Trying to use an eclectic approach will
hopefully give a more comprehensive

• A true eclectic approach involves
the formation of a new theory which
is produced from a combination of
several other theories and which
ultimately replaces the other
• As yet, psychology has not
progressed to producing true eclectic
• At present, in relation to psychology
getting closer to an eclectic approach
to understanding a particular aspect
of human behaviour, it involves trying
to explain the behaviour using more
than one perspective and develop
applications based on more than one

• For example, in terms of therapies
for abnormal behaviours, an attempt
at an eclectic approach may involve
more than a single type of
therapy/treatment being used with
the person, to give a more holistic

What are the strengths and
weaknesses of using an Eclectic
Approach in Psychology?
1. Does not restrict ideas to only one
2. Allows new ideas to be generated.
3. Provides a fuller understanding of
behaviour as it considers all relevant
factors and how they might
1. May lead to confusion because there
are too many views expressed in an
eclectic explanation.
2. It is difficult to judge the relative
value of each perspective in an
eclectic explanation.
3. Because the different approaches
are very different from each other
it is difficult to combine them to
make one new theory.

To help you to appreciate the sort of
understanding you should have of the
perspectives and how you should use the
topics in psychology to illustrate your
understanding, have a go at the following
exercise. It involves looking at a behaviour
that we have not studied as a topic in
psychology and asks you to consider how
each approach might go about it.

Learning Objective:- You will begin to ask

yourself these kinds of questions about
some of the topics we have studied.
The Value of an eclectic approach
- A group exercise
Consider the behaviour of a man who when he approaches a pelican
crossing and it is on green, fails to cross, but simply stands there and
stares across the road before turning around and walking away.
Behaviourist Psychodynamic Humanistic Cognitive Biological

Possible questions asked

about his behaviour

How the questions would be


Possible explanation of his


Possible practical
applications of the
Strengths of the
explanation/ &application

Weaknesses of the

explanation / application

In order to prepare for this section
in the examinations (on paper 5), you
will need to do the following:-

o Take 2 topics that you have studied in
psychology over the past two years

(memory & forgetting, social cognition,

social influence, gender, abnormal
psychology, stress, cognitive

The best to choose from are probably –

abnormal psychology, stress, memory &
forgetting, gender.

o For each topic answer the following
questions briefly
 What does each approach have to say
about the topic?
 What are the limitations of that
approach’s explanation/application ?
 Are there any explanations and
applications that involve more that one
approach i.e. are eclectic (e.g.
biofeedback for stress, REBT) ?

Put down your answers to these questions
in a table or spider diagram so that you can
see everything you have written for each
topic on a whole page.

But remember:-
The questions on paper 5 are not testing
your knowledge of the topic but the topics
are to be used to illustrate your
understanding of the perspectives and
debates in psychology.
A typical exam question

• Describe what is meant by taking an

eclectic approach to understanding
behaviour and discuss the value of
using an eclectic approach to study
psychology. In your answer refer to
at least one topic you have studied in
(12 marks)
• How to go about answering this question:

• Highlight key terms in the question to

make sure that you are following the
instructions correctly.

• e.g. Describe what is meant by taking an

eclectic approach and discuss the value of
using an eclectic approach to study
psychology. In your answer refer to at
least two topics you have studied in
• Decide how to structure your answer –
draw a quick plan in pencil- spider diagrams
are good for this (remember to cross it out
when you have finished your essay)

• e.g. Essentially have two parts to the
Part 1
– Description of the term eclectic
approach. (AO1 marks).
– Also give an *example of a topic in
psychology where an eclectic approach
has been used e.g Biofeedback to
manage stress or, explain why it is an
example of an eclectic approach.(AO2
marks and possibly AO1 from your
description of biofeedback).

Part 2 Discussion of value of using an
eclectic approach. This could involve the
• Talk about the problem of taking a single
approach – keep it simple by using one *example
from psychology –Stress, abnormal behaviour,
eating /anxiety disorders, memory & forgetting
and briefly say what one approach has to say
about it.(AO1 marks) Point out some of the
limitations of this approach. Suggest what a
different approach can tell us about the topic
that the one you have just described doesn’t
(AO2 marks).

• Move onto talking about the advantages of
taking an eclectic approach – more
comprehensive understanding – may avoid
being *reductionist and deterministic – may
have benefit of *scientific principles and
research evidence – may have benefits for
the more successful treatment of a
disorder (you will need to choose your
advantages according to the topic you have
used as your example – you may also choose
to introduce another topic, but you do not
need to because you have referred to at
least 2 already ) (AO2 marks)
• Conclude by stating something like

‘ Taking only one approach to understanding human

behaviour will inevitably lead to a limited
understanding of that behaviour. In the case of an
abnormal behaviour for example, it may lead to
insufficient treatments and therapies being given.
If on the other hand an eclectic approach is used a
more comprehensive understanding will be gained.
In the case of therapies & treatments for abnormal
behaviour, this will have obvious benefits as the
various contributors to the disorder will be more
likely to be tackled by a range of treatments &
therapies rather than simply focussing on one.

• Which topics should you choose. Choose
ones that you feel most able to write
about. However, be sure that you can
actually explain how an eclectic approach
has been applied to the topics.

Some examples of an eclectic approach:-

• Stress management - Biofeedback – biological +


• Ellis’ REBT - behaviourist + cognitive

• Treatments for Eating disorders – behaviourist

+ cognitive + biological

• Social learning theory – behaviourist + cognitive

• Cognitive science – biological + cognitive