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What is Idiographic in psychology?

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August 28, 2012 4:13PM

Alternatively: 'What is the idiographic approach to psychology?'

In 1937 Gordon Allport (1897-1967), the famous American psychologist, conceived two approaches to psychology: an idiographic approach and a nomothetic approach. He did not create the terms 'idiographic' (from two ancient Greek roots which mean 'own writing') and 'nomothetic' (from an ancient Greek root which mean 'lawmaking'). Instead Wilhelm Windelband (1848-1915), a German philosopher, created them, in 1894. He created them about the aims of, respectively, the humanities (which include, among other disciplines, history) and science (which includes, among other sciences, physics).

The idiographic approach to psychology perceives people as being describable in terms of unique sets of characteristics. Psychologists who practice counseling psychology endorse this approach. Conversely the nomothetic approach to psychology perceives people as being describable in terms of universal laws. Psychologists who subscribe to behaviorism endorse this approach.