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Issues and Debates – The Philosophy of Psychological Approaches

4. Holism Versus Reductionism

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about the holism versus reductionism debate, focusing in particular on: (i) the compatibility of reductionism with hard and soft determinism; (ii) defining reductionism as a method of understanding something by isolating each element and considering it individually; (iii) reductionism in research, which is very compatible with determinism, as you can predict outcomes after isolating and extracting factors; (iv) advantages and disadvantages of reductionism in research, including its potential limitations due to the complexity of human behaviour; (v) the holistic approach, which argues that things are more than simply a sum of their parts; (vi) the top down approach (rather than bottom up) in holism, which considers a breadth of influences and/or interpretations; (vii) the advantages and disadvantages of a holistic perspective, including the inherent difficulty in experimenting on things with this philosophical idea in mind.


In this course, Dr Ayoub Bouguettaya (University of Birmingham) explores psychological approaches with a focus on their philosophical bases. In the first lecture, we think about different philosophical views of psychological approaches, specifically free will, determinism, holism, and reductionism. In the second lecture, we think about the free will vs determinism debate, with a specific focus on the determinism aspect. In the third lecture, we think about free will in some more detail, considering whether it can be shown to exist or not exist. Next, we think about the holism vs reductionism debate and their two perspectives on whether objects and outcomes are a sum of their parts. In the fifth and final lecture, we think about some conclusions and controversies in this field, including an explanation for the verdict of guilt for each of the four individuals given in lecture one.


Dr Ayoub Bouguettaya is a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham. Dr Bouguettaya’s research interests are in social psychology and how knowledge from that field can be applied to others, particularly health, including how we can apply social identity theory to societal problems, as well as investigating the different perspectives one might take on those issues. Some of Dr Bouguettaya’s recent publications include 'The relationship between gambling advertising and gambling attitudes, intentions and behaviours: a critical and meta-analytic review' (2020) and 'The Effect of a Food Addiction Explanation Model for Weight Control and Obesity on Weight Stigma' (2020).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Bouguettaya, A. (2022, April 05). Issues and Debates – The Philosophy of Psychological Approaches - Holism Versus Reductionism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Bouguettaya, A. "Issues and Debates – The Philosophy of Psychological Approaches – Holism Versus Reductionism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Apr 2022,

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