n. an in-depth assessment and investigation conducted on a target individual, family unit, or social group. It requires a researcher to collect multiple types of data that would prove to be useful in creating a complete biographical, psychological, physiological, and environmental background on the case.

What is a case study in psychology?What is the purpose of a case study?Types of psychology case studiesExamplesReferences:

What is a case study in psychology?

In psychology, a case study is a comprehensive, qualitative research of a single person or occasion that offers in-depth knowledge and insight into the subject’s behavior, experiences, and thought processes. Observation, interviews, and the investigation of records, papers, and other artifacts are frequently used in case studies.

What is the purpose of a case study?

A case study in psychology is designed to produce rich, comprehensive data that can be utilized to comprehend a specific phenomenon or person in deeper detail. Researchers can use case studies to investigate the complexity of human behavior and mental processes, spot trends and themes, and develop hypotheses for more study. They are a useful tool for psychology teaching and learning because they may be used to demonstrate concepts or theories in a practical setting.

Types of psychology case studies

A case study is a method used in psychology to gather comprehensive data that would help researchers better understand a particular occurrence or individual. Case studies are a useful tool for researchers because they let them explore the complexity of human thought and behavior, identify patterns and themes, and provide hypotheses for further investigation. Because they can be used to demonstrate ideas or theories in a real-world situation, they are a helpful tool for psychology teaching and learning.

The following are the five main types of case studies in psychology:

  1. Exploratory case studies: These case studies are designed to investigate new or under-researched areas within the field of psychology. The primary purpose of exploratory case studies is to generate hypotheses or initial theories, which can then be tested using more rigorous research methods.
  2. Descriptive case studies: Descriptive case studies aim to provide a comprehensive account of a specific individual, event, or phenomenon.
  3. Explanatory case studies: Explanatory case studies seek to identify the underlying causes or mechanisms responsible for a particular outcome or behavior. They often involve the analysis of relationships between various factors, with the goal of uncovering causal connections. These case studies may employ quantitative methods, such as statistical analyses or experiments, in addition to qualitative data collection techniques.
  4. Intrinsic case studies: Intrinsic case studies focus on a unique, rare, or unusual case that is of particular interest to the researcher. The primary goal of this type of case study is to gain a deep understanding of the specific individual or event, rather than generalizing the findings to a broader population.
  5. Instrumental case studies: Instrumental case studies use a specific case as a means to gain insight into a broader issue or to support or challenge a theory. In this type of case study, the focus is not on the individual case itself, but on the wider implications it has for understanding psychological phenomena.


  1. Phineas Gage: Phineas Gage was a railroad construction worker who survived a catastrophic brain injury in 1848 and is a well-known case study in the history of psychology. His example has been utilized to examine the connection between brain make-up and personality as well as the function of the frontal lobes in social cognition and judgment.
  2. Little Hans: Little Hans, a 5-year-old boy, was the subject of a psychoanalytic case study by Sigmund Freud in the early 20th century. The study aimed to explore the development of anxiety and phobias in children and provided support for some of Freud’s theories on psychosexual development and the Oedipus complex.
  • Genie: Genie was a young girl who was discovered in 1970 after being locked in isolation for most of her life. Her case has been used to study the effects of extreme social isolation on cognitive and linguistic development, as well as the critical period hypothesis in language acquisition.


Baxter, P., & Jack, S. (2008). Qualitative Case Study Methodology: Study Design and Implementation for Novice Researchers. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 544-559.

Creswell, J.W. and Poth, C.N. (2018) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design Choosing among Five Approaches. 4th Edition, SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks.

Hollweck, T. (2016). Robert K. Yin. (2014). Case Study Research Design and Methods (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 282 pages. The Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 30, 108.

CASE STUDY: “The goal of a case study is to examine a subject’s background, evaluate relationships, and understand thought processes and behaviors.”
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