Case Study Definition in Psychology


A case study is a detailed examination of an individual, a group of people or a particular occurrence.

Case studies comprise of a one-on-one interview, questionnaires among other data collection forms. A case study involves studying a person’s life and experience to determine the cause of certain behaviors.

Case Studies in Psychology

In psychology, examiners record a person’s way of tackling different problems. They also consider a person’s attitude towards a particular thing. Most case studies are used in performing clinical research mainly to explain certain rare conditions.Usually, psychologists study a single case, but in other instances, a group of people is also applicable.

When examining more than one person, sampling has to be done first. For a case study to qualify as a study focus in future research, it must provide reliable and significant results.Do you need anatomy and physiology case study help?

Famous Psychology Case Studies

Different researchers carried out psychology case studies with the aim of investigating people’s personality, identity, upbringing and the forces of nature.

  • Henry MolaisonHenry MolaisonThis very private man had epilepsy from his childhood. After undergoing a brain surgery, he developed amnesia which later led to his death. This type of condition is whereby the brain fails to store or remember any information. Before his death, he was the focus of study among students and psychologists. His brain remains were preserved, and reports say that his life story will create a film.
  • Victor LeborgneThis French man was not able to speak regularly.

    He was nicknamed Tan’ because that was the only sound he would utter. Psychology perceived that speech ability was distributed through the entire brain. Victor was examined by the neurologist, Paul Broca. The neurologist noticed an abnormal portion of the left frontal lobe. Broca concluded that this part of the brain was responsible for language.

  • Phineas P.

    GagePhineas P. GageThis famous man was a construction foreman where he survived a terrible accident.

    A huge iron rod was passed through his head destroying the bigger part of the left frontal lobe. The experience affected his personality and behavior till his death. Researchers studied him to explain the role of the brain in determining people’s behavior. They attributed the change of behavior to his damaged brain parts.

  • GenieGenie is of the most recent examples of a child who grew up in social isolation.These type of children lack mental stimulation resulting to delayed mental development.

    They end up facing abuse. Genie grew up tied to a potty chair in her bedroom, whereby her father would beat her up if she made any sound. She delayed walking and ended up not learning how to speak.

After her rescue, she eventually learned how to speak and walk but never progressed to good quality language skills. Genie’s case showed the importance of social acceptance and involvement. The psychologist concluded that mental stimulation at a young age helps in the development of motor and sensory skills.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Case Studies in Psychology

Case studies show their significance to researchers and psychology students. The following are the strengths and weaknesses of case studies in psychology.Advantages:

  • It gives an opportunity for innovation.
  • They provide great ideas about people’s behavior.
  • They reveal more information than other research methods.
  • They help in carrying out scientific experiments.

  • A platform is offered to challenge some perceptions.
  • Case studies help in discovery of rare conditions.


  • Case studies do not offer accurate conclusions.
  • They are subject to bias since the researcher’s opinion is the only one that matters.
  • Information gathered from case studies cannot be generalized to the entire population.
  • It is very hard to come up with an exact cause of effect of a particular condition from one individual.

Evaluation of Case Studies in Psychology

When evaluating case studies, the following criteria are essential:

  1. A detailed description of your research topic.
  2. Hypothesis or inquiry questions.
  3. Methods and equipment to use during your study.
  4. A collection of data, description, and analysis.
  5. Conclusions and presentation of information.

Case Study Methods in Psychology

  1. Prospective Case Study Methods. This method of study is whereby examiners observe the target group or individual to determine certain factors. This process usually takes some time to obtain valid results. A researcher may scrutinize the behavior of a person for a lengthy period to determine possible causes of his actions.
  1. Retrospective Case Study Methods. In this system of case studies, researchers use existing information about their topic of research.

    For example, if they want to study about a certain condition, they start by looking at the factors contributing to that particular ailment. Then, they analyze the individual’s life and behavior to determine co-relating factors that may be contributing to the illness.

Types of Case Studies in Psychology

Below are the different sorts of case studies researchers may use:

  1. Explanatory Case Studies. This form of case study involves investigations following a precise cause. They explain why something happens in a particular way.
  2. Exploratory Case Studies.

    This type entails carrying out extensive research. It allows researchers to gather detailed information before constructing hypothesis and question towards the distinct topic of study.

  3. Descriptive Case Studies. This form focuses on a pre-existing theory about a phenomenon or behavior. Researchers carry out case studies to determine the relationship between gathered information and facts in the existing information.
  4. Intrinsic Case Studies.

    This type of case study is whereby a certain attribute is of interest to the researcher. The researcher knows well about the cause of the problem in existence and seeks to gather more information about the cause and its effects.

  5. Collective Case Studies. This type of study involves more than one person. A community may be facing a common problem, and hence researchers may want to study the whole sample.

    It determines a marked trait or behavior typical among members of that community.

  6. Instrumental Case Studies. This case study type allows researchers to interact more with the individual or group. Researchers gather information that is not readily observable to them by persuading the case study.