Individual Differences

The individual differences perspective is an ever-growing aspect within modern psychology which looks at the uniqueness of individuals. This approach focuses on studying the differences between people rather than those things that we all have in common and therefore assumes behaviour can be largely explained in terms of personality traits, intelligence, normality, ways of thinking and emotional responses.

This scientific study of human behaviour argues that huge variations exist between individuals and to understand the complexity of human phenomenon we need to focus on the quantitative and qualitative differences between individuals.


Assumptions of the approach

  • Behaviour can be explained by focusing on the differences between individuals
  • Researchers should focus on dispositional explanations of human behaviour, where behaviour is caused by you as an individual, rather than the situation you are in
  • Every individual is unique

Core Studies

The three core studies covered by this approach are as follows:

Evaluation of the approach


+ Has developed several psychometric tests to measure differences between individuals in terms of their qualities (e.g. personality and intelligence)

+ Research is often high in ecological validity as they often take place in real life environments

+ Provides many useful practical applications to understand people with mental health problems, and therefore treat their abnormality


– Adopts an idiographic approach and therefore research lacks generalisability

– Takes a reductionist approach and ignore situational explanations of human behaviour

– Raises ethical issues of labeling people as different or abnormal

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