Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Current Debates in Psychology

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Current Debates in Psychology

Have you ever encountered a disagreement between psychologists regarding understanding the mind? Like many other scientific fields, psychology is constantly evolving, and so are discussions about critical issues and debates in significant areas of knowledge. Some debates have been going on for decades, while others are more recent. Let us take a look at the most notable current debates in psychology.

Current Debates in Psychology, Debating questions, StudySmarterDebating questions, freepik.com/piksuperstar

Current debates in psychology

Since its establishment as a distinct discipline, psychology has evolved and developed with each new discovery. Today, it is a diverse subject that covers a wide range of topics and deals with many areas of daily life.

Current debates in psychology meaning

Psychology strives to be an inclusive subject by taking into account individual differences, gender, race, mental health, disabilities, etc. The revolution in psychology has led to disagreements in the scientific community. These disagreements include the issues and debates currently being discussed in psychology today.

The discussions in psychology revolve around issues and debates that have arisen from contemporary problems created by industrialisation and the development of society.

Contemporary debate topics

Contemporary debates in psychology blame the industrialisation of society for the problems many of us face today. This is one factor that has driven the development of psychology. One example is the emergence of new approaches, such as the use of neuroscience and positive psychology.

Some of the more notable topics include:

  • Ethics of neuroscience examines ethical issues in neuroscience.

    Neuroscience studies the brain using advanced imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography.

    • This subject has led psychologists to overcome some ethical problems, although some remain, leading to the emergence of new problems.

  • The mother as the primary caregiver of an infant

    • In the past, a caregiver was always assumed to be the mother/a female. However, times have since changed. Men are increasingly taking on the role of caregiver, or sometimes the role of caregiver is shared between partners. This debate is primarily about Freud and Bowlby and the impact of the absence of a mother figure on a childs development.

  • The use of conditioning techniques to control children’s behaviour.

    • This is an example of a controversial topic in psychology. Although there are advantages to controlling childrens behaviour, there are also many disadvantages. Pavlov and Skinner have shown that it is possible to control and condition animals. Is the same true for human children? Is it because the techniques work and prove helpful to the child, or is it because of something else?

  • Reliability of eyewitness testimony (including children)

    • The validity and reliability of eyewitness testimony are an ongoing debate in psychology. Eyewitness testimony can be useful in arresting offenders. However, external factors such as anxiety easily influence it, which can lead to punishing the wrong person. Therefore, there is debate about whether eyewitness testimony is reliable support for the justice system.

  • Positive psychology was developed to enable the scientific study of human well-being. Humanistic psychologists (another name for positive psychologists) criticise other approaches.

    • Positive psychology is often criticised for its lack of utility because it focuses on the positive emotions and traits and ignores the negative ones (therefore, the approach can be considered reductionist). Overall, positive psychology is gaining traction based on research findings in many world areas.

The Brain Mental Health Contemporary Debates, The brain and mental health,  StudySmarterThe brain and mental health, freepik.com/rawpixel.com

Contemporary debates in topics – ethics of neuroscience

Psychologists have created a field in psychology called neuroethics.

Neuroethics aims to determine the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience research.

Contemporary debates examples – ethical issues in neuroscience

Some of the ethical issues in neuroscience include:

  • Invasiveness (psychological/physical harm): with advances in neuroimaging techniques, psychological research can be tested using less invasive methods (autopsies were very invasive but provided detailed information, whereas computed tomography scans (CT) are non-invasive and provide detailed information but present problems with radiation exposure, even if minimal).

  • Developed treatments: neuroscience tends to focus on biological treatments for disorders, leading to problems if the treatments have undesirable side effects. For example, people with depression take SSRIs, which have been associated with higher suicide rates when first taken.

  • Impact on society: the punishment of offenders and the way they are judged based on neuroscience research have impacted outcomes in society. One example is Raine et al. (1997).

  • However, the major ethical principles of psychology remain. These ethics are standards in psychology created to ensure the safety of participants and the preservation of ethical rights in research. These include:

    • Confidentiality

      • Participants personal information must remain confidential. Researchers typically maintain this by keeping data secure and not mentioning participant details in reports.

    • Deception/manipulation in research

      • Although this usually occurs in research, researchers must inform participants of the true aims and hypotheses of the research at the end of the study.

    • Right to withdraw

      • Participants must have the right to withdraw from the study at any point if they wish to do so.

    • Participants must not be harmed psychologically or physically.

    • Informed consent

      • Before deciding whether a participant wants to participate in the study, the researcher must inform the participant of the potential risks and benefits of participation.

These are questions researchers face in every scientific adventure they embark on.

Social policies and application of neuroscientific research

Neuroscience research has been applied to practice and social policy to improve the quality and duration of life. Neuroscience has also been applied to the legal system. For example, research has been conducted to determine differences in brain activation among offenders, as in Raine et al. (1997), which demonstrates the importance and usefulness of neuroscience research.

Contemporary debates examples – social policies and application of neuroscientific research

Examples of how neuroscience research is applied to contemporary society are:

  • In clinical settings
  • In businesses
  • In the workplace
  • In the legal system
  • In creating social policies to prevent things such as crime or to help migrants integrate into society.

Controversial debates in psychology

Two controversial debates in psychology are:

  1. The mother as an infants primary caregiver.

  2. The use of conditioning techniques to control childrens behaviour

Mother as an infants primary caregiver is a controversial debate in psychology. Research examining attachment styles between caregivers and infants usually assumes the mother as the caregiver.

In a meta-analysis, Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) examined cross-cultural differences in attachment styles. One of the inclusion criteria for the study was that the research should examine attachment styles between mother and infant.

However, women are usually employed nowadays, and partners share parental/caregiving responsibilities. According to Bowlby, the mother is indispensable for the child's healthy development. So will it harm child-rearing if the mother is no longer present? This debate is about whether assertions like Bowlby's are credible and what impact such assumptions have on women.

The use of conditioning techniques to control behaviour in children is another controversial topic in psychology. Some people argue the use of conditioning techniques to control children's behaviour has benefits, such as:

  • You can use it to correct ‘bad behaviour and encourage good behaviour.

Others argue that it is detrimental:

  • If children no longer receive rewards for good behaviour, they may not feel the need to behave that way.

Therefore, it is controversial whether this technique should be used. Many also wonder if it is not simply the childs response to ‘bribery and if they are being conditioned.

Contemporary debates in psychology – reliability of eye-witness testimony (including children)

The reliability of eyewitness testimony is an ongoing debate in psychology. Eyewitness testimony has often been used to incarcerate people, showing how important eyewitness testimony is. If they are not accurate, it can lead to the wrong person being punished.

Psychological research has found that the following factors can affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony:

  • Time of the incident
  • Anxiety levels at the time of the incident
  • Age of the eyewitness.

Children are young, impressionable, and have great imaginations. All of these can affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. For this reason, the justice system must be cautious when taking eyewitness testimony from children.Some courts have found that some testimony can be steered in a particular direction by cleverly worded words and questions. Memories can be fickle...

Contemporary Debates, eyewitness testimony,  StudySmarterEyewitness testimony, flaticon.com/Freepik

Contemporary debates in psychology – positive psychology

Positive psychology was launched in 1988. The discipline itself is a controversial topic within psychology itself because psychologists created it as a reaction to disagreements about psychologys focus on mental health and negative thoughts and behaviours.

As a new discipline in psychology has emerged, so have the questions and debates about positive psychology.

Some examples of these issues and debates are:

  • How useful is positive psychology?
    • Other approaches in psychology argue positive psychology overemphasises the importance of understanding behaviour in terms of positive emotions, thoughts, and behaviour. The approach does this while ignoring important factors such as the negative ones, which is why it can be considered reductionist.
  • Research in the field of positive psychology has shown the topics relevance.
    • Seligman (an important figure in positive psychology) proposed a curriculum that encourages students to develop skills and strengths that are valued. It introduces the measurement of behaviour and well-being and helps students engage in learning to increase their chances of doing well in school.
  • Ethical, social, and economic implications
    • Positive psychology has shown that happier people tend to perform better at work. Therefore, this can have better ethical, social and economic implications for individuals and society:
      1. Ethical – the company has an obligation to workers to ensure that workers feel comfortable and safe at work
      2. Social – people
      3. s moods may improve as a result, which can positively impact their social lives
      4. Economic – better worker performance is likely to make the company better off financially.

Current Debates in Psychology - Key takeaways

  • Current debates in psychology blame the industrialisation of society for the problems many of us face today. This is one factor that has driven the development of psychology. An example of this is the emergence of new approaches, such as the use of neuroscience and positive psychology.
  • Overall, we differentiate five key debates:
    1. The ethics of neuroscience
    2. The mother as the primary caregiver of an infant
    3. Using conditioning techniques to control the behaviour of children
    4. Reliability of eyewitness testimony (including children)
    5. Relevance of positive psychology in todays society.
  • Psychologists have created a field in psychology called neuroethics. The goal of this field is to determine the ethical, legal, and societal implications of neuroscience research. Some of the ethical obligations neuroscientists must adhere to are:
    1. Confidentiality
    2. Right to withdraw
    3. Informed consent
    4. Prevention of psychological/physical harm
    5. No deception of participants
    6. However, with the advent of advanced neuroimaging techniques, psychological research can be less invasive and has reduced the likelihood of some risks (this has improved the ethical standards of research).
    7. Neuroscience research has been applied to practice and social policy to improve quality and duration of life. Neuroscience has also been applied to the legal system, demonstrating the utility of this field.
  • Two controversial debates in psychology are:
    1. The mother, as an infants primary caregiver
    2. The use of conditioning techniques to control the behaviour of children.
  • The reliability of eyewitness testimony is an ongoing debate in psychology. Eyewitness testimony has often been used to incarcerate people, showing how important eyewitness testimony is. If they are not accurate, it can lead to the wrong person being punished.
  • Positive psychology originated in 1988. The discipline itself is a controversial topic within psychology itself. It arose as a reaction by psychologists to disagreements about psychologys focus on mental health and negative thoughts and behaviours.
  • With the emergence of a new discipline in psychology, questions and debates about positive psychology have also emerged. Examples include:
    1. How useful is positive psychology?
    2. The relevance of the subject
    3. Ethical, social, and economic implications of positive psychology.

Frequently Asked Questions about Current Debates in Psychology

Some of the contemporary debates in psychology are:

  • The ethics of neuroscience 
    • For example, does neuroscience maintain the ethical standards of research?
  • Positive psychology 
    • Some of the issues and debates of this discipline of psychology are:
      1. How useful is positive psychology?
      2. The relevance of the subject 
      3. The ethical, social, and economic implications of positive psychology.
  • The mother as the primary caregiver of an infant
  • The use of conditioning techniques to control children’s behaviour
  • Reliability of eyewitness testimony (including children)

There is an ongoing debate on whether psychology can be considered a science. Some argue it is because it follows the same methods as the natural sciences to investigate phenomena. Some argue it is not because it does not measure something that is directly observable. 

Final Current Debates in Psychology Quiz

Question

What three levels does positive psychology focus on?

Show answer

Answer

Subjective level, individual level, and societal level.

Show question

Question

What does the subjective level focus on?

Show answer

Answer

Positive emotions, such as happiness and satisfaction with life.

Show question

Question

What does the individual level focus on?

Show answer

Answer

Positive behavioural patterns people develop over time, such as courage. Also, the ability to understand one’s creative potential and work towards excellence.

Show question

Question

What does the societal level focus on?

Show answer

Answer

The development, creation and maintenance of positive institutions and relationships.

Show question

Question

Who is the founder of positive psychology?


Show answer

Answer

Martin Seligman.

Show question

Question

What are the three kinds of life experiences positive psychology says we can have?

Show answer

Answer

The pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life.

Show question

Question

What is the goal of PERMA theory?

Show answer

Answer

Achieving well-being.

Show question

Question

What are the five components of the PERMA model?

Show answer

Answer

Positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments.

Show question

Question

In the PERMA model, what do ‘relationships’ specifically refer to?

Show answer

Answer

A relationship is one wherein you feel supported, loved, and valued by others.

Show question

Question

How is meaning defined in the PERMA model?

Show answer

Answer

Meaning is defined as belonging and/or serving something greater than ourselves, i.e., having a purpose in life.

Show question

Question

What are some examples of gratitude interventions?

Show answer

Answer

Having a gratitude journal, interacting with others, and actively expressing your gratitude.

Show question

Question

What is an example of a kindness booster intervention?

Show answer

Answer

Prosocial spending, wherein you willingly buy someone something as a gesture of goodwill.

Show question

Question

What do empathy interventions focus on?

Show answer

Answer

Strengthening positive emotions in interpersonal relationships.

Show question

Question

What is the focus of optimistic interventions?

Show answer

Answer

Creating positive outcomes by setting realistic expectations.

Show question

Question

What is an example of a meaning-oriented intervention?


Show answer

Answer

Trying to find meaning in our daily activities.

Show question

Question

What are ethics in psychology?

Show answer

Answer

According to the APA Dictionary, ethics in psychology is defined as:


‘The principles of morally right conduct accepted by a person or a group or considered appropriate to a specific field. For example, in psychological research, proper ethics requires that participants be treated fairly and without harm and that investigators report results and findings honestly.’


Ethics ensure research is conducted fairly, honourably, and according to a moral code.

Show question

Question

Is neuroscience ethical in psychology?

Show answer

Answer

Yes and no. The ethics of neuroscience debate poses the ethical benefits of using neuroscience in psychology (including the rehabilitation of offenders, the betterment of treatment techniques, and understanding consciousness), but it also raises ethical concerns (pre-emptive incarceration or treatment of potential criminals based on previous findings on abnormal brain structures, infringement of human rights through forced treatment to alter innate behaviours, and the side effects of treatments).

Show question

Question

What four areas are the ethics in neuroscience concerned with?

Show answer

Answer

Research, therapy, the reason for the debate, and related theories (including cognitive and biological theories, neuromarketing, and free will).

Show question

Question

What did Olds and Milner (1954) find in their modified version of the Skinner Box?

Show answer

Answer

They found the rats would favour pressing the lever to stimulate the pleasure centre of the brain over eating, drinking, and raising their young, even if this meant death.

Show question

Question

How many times did the highest-scoring septal rat in the Olds and Milner (1954) study press the lever in 12 hours?

Show answer

Answer

7500

Show question

Question

What implications did Olds and Milner’s (1954) study have on neuroscience?

Show answer

Answer

Issues arose when this experiment was used on human patients. Usually, these were the mentally ill, and electrode stimulated brain areas were used in experiments to see if certain ailments could be cured (including homosexuality, which was classed as a mental disorder).

Show question

Question

What are the ethical benefits of neuroscience in psychology?

Show answer

Answer

The rehabilitation of offenders, the betterment of treatment techniques, and understanding consciousness.

Show question

Question

What are the ethical issues in the use of neuroscience in psychology?

Show answer

Answer

The use of pre-emptive incarceration or treatment of potential criminals based on previous findings on abnormal brain structures, infringement of human rights through forced treatment to alter innate behaviours, and the side effects of treatments.

Show question

Question

What did Raine et al. (1997) find in their study on brain abnormalities in murderers?

Show answer

Answer

They found murderers were characterised by reduced glucose metabolism in their:


  1. Prefrontal cortex
  2. Superior parietal gyrus
  3. Left angular gyrus
  4. Corpus callosum


They also found asymmetrical activity levels in:


  1. The amygdala
  2. The thalamus
  3. The medial temporal lobe

Show question

Question

What treatments have been created using neuroscience research?

Show answer

Answer

SSRIs, electrostimulation treatments, and deep brain stimulation are a few examples.

Show question

Question

What did Crick and Koch (1998) say was important in understanding consciousness in neuroscience?

Show answer

Answer

They argued science of consciousness should rely on the foundations of identifying its neural correlates. They also postulated consciousness provides helpful biological boosts that aid survival. 

Show question

Question

What did Koubeissi et al. (2014) find in their study on a 54-year-old epileptic woman?

Show answer

Answer

Stimulation of the claustrum electrode caused:


  • The complete arrest of volitional behaviour (wilful behaviour)
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Amnesia upon waking (without negative motor symptoms or aphasia).


They concluded that the claustrum is an important area associated with consciousness that can be disrupted. 

Show question

Question

How is understanding consciousness an ethical benefit in neuroscience?

Show answer

Answer

With this knowledge, we can approach different areas of the brain with a better idea of how they function. Those who have problems with consciousness can then receive better-informed care. We know where the seat of consciousness might theoretically be, and decisions about life or death and what it means to be alive can be made based on more knowledge about the brain (in the case of people in a persistent vegetative state, for example). 

Show question

Question

Who found that we can improve neurological functioning with transcranial direct stimulation, and how is this an ethical benefit?

Show answer

Answer

Kadosh et al. (2012) demonstrate a way to enhance the neurological functioning of human beings using neuroscience.

Show question

Question

What did Farah (2004) highlight about the issues with basing judicial systems on neuroscientific research?

Show answer

Answer

They pointed out that personal freedom is one of the first fundamental human rights, and infringing upon that with neuroscience to alter ‘innate’ behaviours raises genuine concerns. It is unethical to force people into treatments that will change their behaviours, especially considering prisoners are technically vulnerable people when imprisoned.

Show question

Question

What issues with neuroscientific treatments exist?

Show answer

Answer

Side effects such as memory and speech issues, the rising cases of suicides in those with depression taking antidepressants, and headaches, fatigue, and sickness (amongst other issues).

Show question

Question

What are brain organoids?

Show answer

Answer

Brain organoids are artificially grown stem cells used to produce brain structures to be studied outside of the body.

Show question

Question

How are brain organoids an ethical concern in neuroscience?

Show answer

Answer

Whilst this increased access to researching areas of the brain, the implantation of these organoids raises ethical concerns. We could technically implant a human brain organoid into a dog, and see how the dog would deal with this.

Show question

Question

How is neuromarketing an ethical concern in neuroscience?

Show answer

Answer

Considering how much information companies worldwide have on you now, they can target and influence your decisions and behaviours based on algorithms.


Nelson (2008) also found that 5% of scans used by financial firms found abnormalities, and these researchers are not required to report them to the participant. 

Show question

Question

What is a factor that has contributed to the emergence of contemporary debates in psychology? 

Show answer

Answer

The industrialisation of society has led to the emergence of contemporary debates in psychology.

Show question

Question

What is neuroethics? 

Show answer

Answer

Psychologists have established a field in psychology called neuroethics. The purpose of this field is to identify ethical, legal and the implications of neuroscientific research in society. 

Show question

Question

What are the five mainstream ethical issues in research that must be maintained? 

Show answer

Answer

The five mainstream ethical issues in research that must be maintained are:

  1. rights to withdraw
  2. confidentiality 
  3. informed consent 
  4. preventing psychological/ physical harm 
  5. researchers must not deceive particpants 

Show question

Question

How has the advancement of neuroimaging techniques had a positive effect on ethics in research? 

Show answer

Answer

The advancement of neuroimaging techniques has had a positive effect on ethics in research by making research less invasive. This has reduced some of the risks associated with previous research techniques. 

Show question

Question

What do the current debates in psychology mean? 

Show answer

Answer

The current debates in psychology meaning are the issues and debates of psychology that have arisen due to contemporary issues that have arisen due to the industrialisation and development of society.  

Show question

Question

How has the application of neuroscience to real-life settings affected individuals? 

Show answer

Answer

Neuroscientific research has been applied to real-life settings and social policies to advance the quality and duration of life. 

Show question

Question

What are some examples of the settings in which neuroscientific research has been applied to? 

Show answer

Answer

Examples of how neuroscience research is applied to contemporary society are:

  • in clinical settings 
  • in businesses 
  • in the workplace
  • in the legal system  
  • in creating social policies to prevent things such as crime or to help migrants integrate into society

Show question

Question

Why is the emergence of positive psychology considered controversial? 

Show answer

Answer

Positive psychology's originated in 1988. The discipline itself is a controversial topic in psychology itself. This is because it was initiated as a reaction of psychologists because of disagreements on psychology's focus on mental health and negative thoughts and behaviour. 

Show question

Question

Why may other approaches not consider positive psychology useful? 

Show answer

Answer

Other approaches in psychology argue that positive psychology over-emphasises the importance of understanding behaviour in terms of positive emotions, thoughts and behaviour. The approach does this whilst ignoring important factors such as the negatives ones that cause dysfunctional behaviour. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following terms is an appropriate way that other approaches would describe positive psychology? 

Show answer

Answer

Reductionist 

Show question

Question

Which type of setting did Seligman's work apply its research to? 

Show answer

Answer

Educational system 

Show question

Question

What is an advantage of using conditioning techniques to control behaviour in children? 

Show answer

Answer

An advantage of using conditioning techniques to control behaviour in children is it can be used to correct 'bad' behaviour

Show question

Question

What is a disadvantage of using conditioning techniques to control behaviour in children? 


Show answer

Answer

A disadvantage of using conditioning techniques to control behaviour in children is when children no longer receive rewards for good behaviour then they may no longer feel the need to engage in such behaviour 

Show question

Question

Why is the mother as the primary caregiver of an infant a controversial debate in psychology? 

Show answer

Answer

The mother as the primary caregiver of an infant is a controversial debate in psychology because research tends to assume women as caregivers. Nowadays, parental/ caregiver duties are shared between partners. Therefore, this research can be seen as sexist. It also discriminates against men who nowadays take a more active role in raising children. 

Show question

Question

Why is the reliability of eyewitness testimonies (including children) debated in psychology? 

Show answer

Answer

The questionability of the validity and reliability of eyewitness testimony is an ongoing debate in psychology. Although, they are useful to incarcerate perpetrators sometimes they may not be accurate. This is because it is easily influenced by external factors such as anxiety. This can lead to the wrong person being punished. Therefore, it is debated whether eyewitness testimonies should be used. 

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Current Debates in Psychology quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.