Individual Differences

Psychology often makes generalisations about people.  Depending upon your point of view this can be seen as a great strength of psychology or a weakness or probably both.

It is important that we recognise that there are as many differences between people as there are similarities

There has been a tendency in psychology to ignore the experiences of people from different cultures.  Two of the studies in this section attempt to explore the experiences of Black people within the Western world.

The first study by Gould (1982) is a review of the use of IQ testing.  Gould demonstrates how psychological arguments have been used to support racist arguments of White superiority.

The study by Hraba and Grant (1970) investigates the identity of American Black children.   Their study demonstrates that there has been a change in consciousness of Black children from 20 years previously.

A further issue that is often included in the section of individual differences is what psychologists refer to as abnormality.  However the concept of abnormality is also a highly controversial issue.   The judgement that somebody is abnormal is relative and is based on factors such as culture, class, religion, sexuality and so on.

The study by Rosenhan (1973) challenges the ability of professionals to classify abnormality.  The study by Thigpen and Cleckley (1954) also illustrates the controversy of diagnosing multiple personality.  



Candidates should:

        be able to describe and evaluate the individual differences approach in psychology;

        demonstrate a knowledge of some cultural variations in behaviour and experience;

        be able to evaluate the psychometric approach;

        consider the issues in the construction and application of psychometric tests;

        consider the ethnocentric nature of Western psychology;

        understand the difficulties involved in defining abnormality and normality;

        consider the practical, theoretical and ethical consequences of applying definitions of abnormality:

        understand that explanations of mental disturbance have arisen from more than one perspective;

        be able to evaluate attempts to gather empirical evidence on cases of mental and behavioural disturbances;

        consider the implications of research in the psychology of individual differences.


GOULD, S. J. (1982)

A Nation of Morons.

HRABA, J. & GRANT, G.  (1970)

Black is Beautiful:  A Re-examination of Racial Preference and Identification.

ROSENHAN, D. L. (1973)

On being sane in insane places


A case of multiple personality




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Below are the latest articles in the excellent BPS Research Digest.