Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D
Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India
An approach is a perspective (i.e. view) that involves certain assumptions (i.e. beliefs) about human behaviour, the way they function, which aspects of them are worthy of study and what research methods are appropriate for undertaking this study. There may be several different theories within an approach, but they all share these common assumptions.
The major perspectives represent fundamental assumptions that underlie the research questions and methods that are used in order to answer the questions of psychology. Most all perspectives define psychology as the discipline interested in studying human behavior and mental processes, but that covers a lot of ground and the causes of behavior and mental processes are not always clear.
Each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses, and brings something different to our understanding of human behavior. For this reason, it is important that psychology does have different perspectives to the understanding and study of human and animal behavior.
There are various different approaches / perspective in contemporary psychology.
The biological perspective is a broad scientific perspective that assumes that human behavior and thought processes have a biological basis. We are essentially complex biological systems that respond to both hereditary and environmental influences. Behavior is determined by brain structure and chemicals, and by inborn responses to external cues for survival and reproduction.
Biological psychologists explain behaviors in neurological terms , includes investigations into biochemistry of behavior associated with neurotransmitters and hormones, genetics and heritability, and the psycho-physics of sensation and perception. Examines the physical basis of psychological phenomena such as motivation, emotion and stress.
Theorists in the biological perspective who study behavioral genomics consider how genes affect behavior. Now that the human genome is mapped, perhaps, we will someday understand more precisely how behavior is affected by the DNA we inherit. Biological factors such as chromosomes, hormones and the brain all have a significant influence on human behavior.The biological approach believes that most behavior is inherited and has an adaptive (or evolutionary) function..
The biological perspective reduces humans to a set of mechanisms and physical structures that are clearly essential and important (e.g. genes). However, it fails to account for consciousness and the influence of the environment on behavior. Because the biological perspective relies on scientific methods, its scope of investigation is limited to variables that can be controlled. Research methods are quantitative and seek to produce findings that can be replicated and that are generalizable across populations.
The approach that has been most popularly associated with the discipline of psychology for the past century is the psycho-dynamic, psychoanalytic perspective. Sigmund Freud, who was medically trained in neurology, developed a theory of personality that made the assumption that human motivation was propelled by conflicts between instinctual, mostly unconscious, psychological forces.
Freud, explained the human mind as like an iceberg, with only a small amount of it being visible, that is our observable behavior, but it is the unconscious, submerged mind that has the most, underlying influence on our behavior. Freud used three main methods ,free association, dream analysis and slips of the tongue.
He believed that the unconscious mind consisted of three components: the Id, Ego,and Super Ego ‘ The ‘id’ contains two main instincts: ‘Eros’, which is the life instinct, which involves self-preservation and sex which is fueled by the ‘libido’ energy force. ‘Thanatos’ is the death instinct, whose energies, because they are less powerful than those of ‘Eros’ are channeled away from ourselves and into aggression towards others.
The ‘id’ and the ‘superego’ are constantly in conflict with each other, and the ‘ego’ tries to resolve the discord. If this conflict is not resolved, we tend to use defense mechanisms to reduce our anxiety. Psychoanalysis attempts to help patients resolve their inner conflicts.
However, it has been criticized in the way that it over emphasizes of importance of sexuality and under emphasized of the role of social relationships. The theory is not scientific, and can’t be proved as it is circular. Nevertheless psychoanalysis has been greatly contributory to psychology in that it has encouraged many modern theorists to modify it for the better, using its basic principles, but eliminating its major flaws.
Psycho-dynamic Perspective sees behavior as arising from unconscious needs, conflicts, repressed memories, and childhood experiences. Psycho-dynamic theory sees behavior as arising from unconscious needs, conflicts, repressed memories, and childhood experiences.People’s actions are determined by the way their thoughts, feelings and wishes are connected in their minds.Many occur outside of conscious awareness. The mental processes may conflict, leading to compromises among competing motives (ID ‘now’, ego ‘reasoning’, superego ‘conscience’).Sigmund Freud emphasised on unconscious mental forces.Many of the associations between feelings and behaviour or situations that guide our behaviour are done unconsciously.Uses dreams, free associations, sexuality, subconscious mind .
This perspective believes that behavioural tendencies in humans have evolved because they helped our ancestors to survive and rear healthy offspring. It supports Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection – the most adaptive behavioural traits are those that helped our ancestors adjust and survive in their environment. Behavior is determined by natural selection.
The Evolutionary approach explains behavior in terms of the selective pressures that shape behavior. Most behaviors that we see/display are believed to have developed during our environment of evolutionary adaptation to help us survive.
Observed behavior is likely to have developed because it is adaptive. It has been naturally selected, i.e., individuals who are best adapted survive and reproduce. Behaviors may even be sexually selected, i.e., individuals who are most successful in gaining access to mates leave behind more offspring.The mind is therefore equipped with ‘instincts’ that enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce.
The humanistic perspective arose in reaction to the deterministic and pessimistic psychoanalytic view and the mechanistic behavioral perspective, to support more optimistic views that humans are motivated by their potential to be creative and productive in response to their social and environmental conditions. Humanism is hopeful, focuses on subjective, conscious experience, tries to solve human problems and emphasizes the human potential to grow in a positive manner. . Humanistic perspective focuses on the influence of self-concept, perceptions, and interpersonal relationships, and on need for personal growth. It focuses on the individual and assumes people are motivated to reach their full potential The humanist philosophy respects diversity and confronts reality as it is, both the painful and pleasurable, the good and the bad. The humanistic perspective centers on the view that each person is unique and individual, and has the free will to change at any time in his or her lives.
The humanistic perspective suggests that we are each responsible for our own happiness and well-being as humans. We have the innate (i.e. inborn) capacity for self-actualization, which is our unique desire to achieve our highest potential as people.
Because of this focus on the person and his or her personal experiences and subjective perception of the world the humanists regarded scientific methods as inappropriate for studying behavior.
Behavioral Perspective is different from most other approaches because they view people (and animals) as controlled by their environment and specifically that we are the result of what we have learned from our environment. Behaviorism is concerned with how environmental factors (called stimuli) affect observable behavior (called the response).
The behaviorist approach proposes two main processes whereby people learn from their environment: namely classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning by association, and operant conditioning involves learning from the consequences of behavior.
Behavioral Perspective also believes in scientific methodology (e.g. controlled experiments), and that only observable behavior should be studied because this can be objectively measured. Behavioral Perspective rejects the idea that people have free will, and believes that the environment determines all behavior. Behaviorism is the scientific study of observable behavior working on the basis that behavior can be reduced to learned S-R (Stimulus-Response) units. In an attempt to bring scientific method to bear on the understanding of human behavior, John B. Watson, using ideas he had gleaned from the likes of Ivan Pavlov and others, decided to declare that psychology should only concern itself with observable behavior. A science of behavior was built on only observable behavior. Assumptions about underlying psychological causes of behavior were not admitted. The unconscious was declared fictitious and its study, a waste of time. Serious psychology would focus on observable, controllable, behavior.
Behavioral Perspective is an attempt to bring scientific method to bear on the understanding of human behavior, John B. Watson, using ideas he had gleaned from the likes of Ivan Pavlov and others, decided to declare that psychology should only concern itself with observable behavior. A science of behavior was built on only observable behavior. Assumptions about underlying psychological causes of behavior were not admitted. The unconscious was declared fictitious and its study, a waste of time. Serious psychology would focus on observable, controllable, behavior.
Focuses on the way objects or events in the environment come to control behaviour through learning (E.g. Classical or Operant Conditioning). : Behavior is primarily shaped by learning. In accordance with the laws of behavioral learning, we respond to stimulus cues and to our history of rewards and punishments.
It is based on the observation that behaviour can be controlled by environmental influences that either increase (reinforce) or decrease (punish) their likelihood of occurring. Uses observations of environment and is focused on the short term change.
Behavioral Perspective has been criticized in the way it under-estimates the complexity of human behavior. Many studies used animals which are hard to generalize to humans and it cannot explain, for example the speed in which we pick up language. There must be biological factors involved.
It is an extremely scientific approach and typically uses lab experiments to study human behavior. The cognitive perspective suggests that much of human behavior is significantly influenced by cognitive processes and is thus amenable to our thoughtful control. In response to the empty organism theory of behaviorism, the cognitive perspective developed explanations for human behavior that suggest that human behavior is at times thoughtful and can be controlled by thought processes. Human behavior is mediated by thought processes like memory and attention, belief systems, attitudes and language. Cognitivists believe that humans bring scanning tools that are at the leading edge of neuroscience.
Cognitive Psychology revolves around the notion that if we want to know what makes people tick then the way to do it is to figure out what processes are actually going on in their minds. In other words, psychologists from this perspective study cognition which is ‘the mental act or process by which knowledge is acquired.’
The cognitive perspective is concerned with “mental” functions such as memory, perception, attention etc. It views people as being similar to computers in the way we process information (e.g. input-process-output). For example, both human brains and computers process information, store data and have input and output procedure.
This had led cognitive psychologists to explain that memory comprises of three stages: encoding (where information is received and attended to), storage (where the information is retained) and retrieval (where the information is recalled).
People are information-processing systems.Behavior is the result of our mental interpretations of our experience. . Belief systems, value systems, thought processes, reason and intelligence have a significant impact on why we do the things we do and act the way we act. It focuses on the way people perceive, process and retrieve information. Rene Descartes’ early philosophical questions led many cognitive psychologists to emphasise the role of reason in creating knowledge.Modern-day cognitive psychologists use experimental procedures to infer the underlying mental processes in operation.
Socio-cultural perspective tries to distinguish universal psychological processes from those that are specific to particular cultures. The environment and all its factors had a great impact on the development of higher order functions
The social/cultural perspective in psychology suggests that People are social animals, so human behavior must be interpreted in its social context behavior is heavily influenced by culture, by social norms and expectations, and by social learning.
Human behavior is influenced by social context, environmental cues, social pressures and cultural influences. Anyone who has attended a football game will recognize that human behavior is susceptible to influence of the crowd mentality. We are all shaped by the context of our environment and influenced by the perception of authority in our social order. Social psychologists suggest that these forces are very powerful and explain a great deal about the causes of human behavior and thought processes.
There are many different perspectives in psychology to explain the different types of behavior and give different angles. Only with all the different types of psychology, which sometimes contradict one another , overlap with each other or build upon one another can we understand and create effective solutions when problems arise so we have a healthy body and a healthy mind.
The fact that there are different perspectives represents the complexity and richness of human (and animal) behavior. No one perspective has explanatory powers over the rest.
The biological perspective reduces humans to a set of mechanisms and physical structures that are clearly essential and important . However, it fails to account for consciousness and the influence of the environment on behavior A scientific approach, such as behaviorism or cognitive psychology, tends to ignore the subjective experiences that people have.
The humanistic perspective does recognize human experience, but largely at the expense of being non-scientific in its methods and ability to provide evidence. The psycho-dynamic perspective concentrates too much on the unconscious mind and childhood. As such, it tends to lose sight of the role of socialization and the possibility of free will.