Typology is the classification of objects into groups, this blog will try to briefly examine whether some of the uses of typology in psychology have been appropriately used.
In the subject of childhood attachment, Ainsworth and Bell investigated the various types of attachment, through the ‘strange situation’ experiment. The children were then subsequently categorised into groups that included: secure, anxious avoidant and disorganised. However some would argue that attachment types are a spectrum, rather than discrete groups. There are also other issues with this experiment, such as only mothers were used, when the children may have been attached to other family figures.
Offender profiling is a technique sometimes utilised by the police in order to assist in the tracking down criminals. In the FBI method of criminal profiling, early on the offender is quickly categorised into either ‘organised’ or ‘disorganised’. Ressler et al. (1986) suggested that, “facets of the criminal’s personality are evident in his offense. Like a fingerprint, the crime scene can be used to aid in identifying the murderer”. Hence the classifications of organised and disorganized offenders, which was based on the interviews of just 36 offenders.
This classification was investigated by David Canter, who carried out a Smallest Space Statistical Analysis of 100 murders committed by 100 different serial killers. He found that all crimes of serial killers will have ‘organised’ characteristics, but there was not enough evidence to justify the ‘disorganised’ category.
Although tis is not the only example of groups being used to classify offenders Holmes and Holmes (1998) proposed 6 groups, which essentially ranged from disorganised to organised, but displayed more of a spectrum then the one utilised by the FBI. However there has not been enough evidence to justify the use of categories in offender profiling.
Another example that may be applied to this is that of learning styles. Frequently in schools and other learning institutions, great emphasis is placed on classifying the learning style of the child. Coffield et al. (2004) described at least 70 different learning schemes, and did not claom that their list was exhaustive. A research paper by Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer and Bjork (2009) investigated the effect that the use of specific learning styles had on learning. They found very limited evidence to support the theory, despite it being a widespread and commonly accepted idea.
Clearly there have been some good uses of classifying people into groups, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders’ being one example. However, I feel that its use in some cases may be reductionist and may lead to a simplistic view of behaviour.
Pashler,H., McDaniel,M., Rohrer,R., Bjork,R., (2009). Learning Styles.
Canter,D.(2004).The Organized / Disorganized Typology of Serial Murder: Myth or Model?