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Theoretical Perspectives In Psychology Essay

5 Major Perspectives in Psychology

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The five major theoretical perspectives in psychology are biological, learning, cognitive, psychodynamic, and sociocultural perspectives. Each one of these perspectives searches for answers about behavior through different techniques and through looking for answers to different kinds of questions. Due to the different approaches, each perspective form their own assumptions and explanations. Some perspectives are widely accepted while others struggle for acceptance.
Biological perspective
"The premise behind the biological perspective in psychology is that all actions, feelings, and thoughts are associated with bodily events." Biological psychologists examine how all of the electrical impulses, hormones, and chemicals flowing through the body can effect behavior and how changes to these bodily functions can change behavior. They are concerned with how the aspects of biology effect peoples' emotions, learning abilities, and their perception of events.
One of the major theories of biological psychology is that "We cannot know ourselves if we do not know our bodies." Through application of this theory, biological psychologists strive to understand the relationship between the mind and body and they influence sickness or health. It is believed that poor health can lead to negative attitudes while poor attitudes can lead to poor health. Biological psychologists research and study the correlation of this theory in an attempt to help solve some mental and emotional problems.
Learning Perspective
The writings and findings of Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, and B.F. Skinner have done much for the advancement of modern psychology. Many of the important findings in psychology from their theory of behaviorism, later evolving into the social-learning theory or cognitive social-learning theory. Proponents of the learning perspective think that mentalism should be abandoned for behaviorism. Psychologists should concentrate on observation and direct measurement rather focusing on introspection.
Behaviorists believed that actions were responses to stimuli that were learned. The basic concept was that positive responses would be triggered by good stimuli while negative responses would could from bad stimuli. Actions that would produce positive results tended to repeated, while those that led to negative results tended to be avoided.
This concept led to a broadening of psychology. Many groups that were often overlooked by psychologists were being discovered and observed. Behavior became the dominant school of psychology in the U.S. until the 1960's.
Adversaries to this approach were repulsed by the concept that humans did not think or feel, but only thought that they did. Nonbehaviorists and behaviorists parted company. Behaviorists believed that feelings could not explain behavior.

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Out of behaviorism came the social learning theory, which taught that in addition to behavior, imitation and observation led to learning.
Cognitive Perspective
The cognitive perspective of psychology focuses on the thought process. Psychologists from this school argue that it is necessary to know what is going on in the mind to fully understand why a person will do the things that they do. By observing behavior, psychologists try to interpret what thought process led to the action. Critics who disapprove of this theory do so on the basis that in addition to perceptions, external forces must also be taken into consideration.
The objective of cognitive psychology is to understand how perceptions and interpretations relate to behavior. Why is that one person will turn to violence when insulted while another person will make excuses for that person rather than acting violently. Through the use of computers, research data can be further analyzed to discover the thought process used in behavior and in some instances, programs can even be written to help understand how humans will react in certain situations.
Psychodynamic Perspective
Many critics of the psychodynamic perspective do not think that this school of psychology has any bearing on academic psychology. Primarily based upon the fact that many of the psychoanalysis assumptions could not be verified, research psychologist was more related to philosophy rather than clinical science. Though not as scientific as the other perspectives, the psychodynamic perspective is none the less still associated with psychology.
When Sigmund Freud released his book The Interpretation of Dreams, it was met with very little success; but it eventually provided the foundation for psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis contends that urges and thoughts live in the unconscious and manifest themselves in events during normal everyday life. The goal of psychoanalysis is to dig into the unconscious to find the source of the disturbances.
Concerned more with therapy than scientific observation and research, psychodynamic psychologists probe the mind to find events, usually from childhood, that manifest feelings of fear, violence, love, etc. Aggressive feelings, or even sexual feelings, are located in this unconsciousness; and regardless of what a person does, they will come out during normal activities. By finding the root of these feelings, it can be understood why a person may act the way that they do. Also by discovering these events, it may be possible to help people channel the energy in a positive way or solve the problem.
Sociocultural Perspective
Unlike the other perspectives, the sociocultural perspective concentrates on an individual's or individuals' culture or society rather than the individual. To understand why people tend to show certain behavior traits, psychologists look at what effects the person's community might have on their thought process. Some of the questions pondered are if a person behaves a certain way to be accepted or commits an act because it is accepted amongst their society.
They mainly study how other people affect a person. Some studies look at how male and female roles relate to their respective emotion or how job status relates to their ambitions. In this perspective violence does not reside in instincts or brain waves, but instead, in cultural rules and political arrangements.
These five perspectives are similar in that all try to determine what cause certain behavior traits, though they all approach their explanations differently. The biological and cognitive perspectives both look at the physiological aspects of behavior. The learning and sociocultural perspectives look at how society affects a person's behavior. With the exception of the psychodynamic perspective, the other disciplines focus on a scientific approach, many of their theories being able to be tested for accuracy. Each of these perspectives has their strong supporters as well as their strong critics. Regardless of opinion, these are the main perspectives and more than likely a psychologist has roots in one of these psychological perspectives.

5 Major Perspectives in Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of how we think, feel and behave.  In this lesson, you'll get an overview of the five major perspectives that have guided modern psychological research.

Why do you act the way you do?  Have you ever wondered why some people are the life of the party and others prefer to curl up with a good book?  Or why you remember certain events but not others?  People have studied the mind and how it works since the time of the ancient Greeks, but the scientific study of psychology only dates back to a little over a hundred years ago.

Since Wilhelm Wundt opened the first psychology lab in 1879, psychologists have studied various aspects of human behavior, such as personality, brain functions and socio-cultural influences.  As psychology progressed, it began to tackle the question of why we do what we do from different angles, including: biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive and humanistic perspectives.  Let's look at each of these five main approaches that guide modern psychological research.

Biological Approach
Biopsychologists look at how your nervous system, hormones and genetic makeup affect your behavior. Biological psychologists explore the connection between your mental states and your brain, nerves and hormones to explore how your thoughts, moods and actions are shaped.

So what does that mean? It means that for the biological approach, you are the sum of your parts.  You think the way you do because of the way your brain is built and because of your body's needs.  All of your choices are based on your physical body.  The biological approach attempts to understand the healthy brain, but it also examines the mind and body to figure out how disorders like schizophrenia develop from genetic roots.

Psychodynamic Approach
The psychodynamic approach was promoted by Sigmund Freud, who believed that many of our impulses are driven by sex.  Psychologists in this school of thought believe that unconscious drives and experiences from early childhood are at the root of your behaviors and that conflict arises when societal restrictions are placed on these urges.

There are a lot of jokes about Freud and his now mostly outdated theories.  But have you ever thought that something about who you are today comes from your experiences as a child?   Say, you blame your smoking habit on an oral fixation that stems from being weaned from breastfeeding too early as a baby.  Well, that also comes from Freud's theories, and it was an idea that revolutionized how we see ourselves.

Behavioral Approach
Behavioral psychologists believe that external environmental stimuli influence your behavior and that you can be trained to act a certain way. Behaviorists like B.F. Skinner don't believe in free will. They believe that you learn through a system of reinforcements and punishment.

The behavioral approach is really effective when you don't care what someone thinks, as long as you get the desired behavior. The influence of these theories affects us every day and throughout our lives, impacting everything from why we follow the rules of the road when driving to how advertising companies build campaigns to get us to buy their products.

Cognitive Approach
In contrast to behaviorists, cognitive psychologists believe that your behavior is determined by your expectations and emotions. Cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget would argue that you remember things based on what you already know.  You also solve problems based on your memory of past experiences.

So, with this approach, we turn away from people as machines without free will and delve back into thoughts and feelings. How you act is based upon internal processes, and there is much more stress upon individuals.  From a cognitive perspective, your expectations of an upcoming party will affect how you feel and act while you're there and will color your memory of the night after you return home.

Humanistic Approach
Humanistic psychologists believe that you're essentially good and that you're motivated to realize your full potential. Psychologists from this camp focus on how you can feel good about yourself by fulfilling your needs and goals. The prominent humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers called his patients 'clients' and offered a supportive environment in which clients could gain insight into their own feelings.
In contrast to the behavioral approach, the humanistic approach works on individual empowerment.  Whether you are right or not, in a larger sense, you are motivated to be the best person you can be. All your choices come from trying to improve your life.  So, if you're trying to cut back on your nightly wine consumption, a humanistic therapist would be encouraging and supportive but won't directly advise you to quit or try to analyze why you drink in the first place.

Quick Review:
  • Psychology is the scientificstudy of human thought, feelingsand behavior.  
  • The five major perspectives in psychology arebiological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitiveandhumanistic.  
  • Each perspective provides its own view on the roots of why you do what you do.

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