psychology perspectives

The 7 Major Perspectives in Modern Psychology (Explained)

Perspectives in Psychology

Psychology is the study of people’s minds and behavior. Many psychologists defined and have presented different looks towards the interests and explanations of human behavior. Reason this, many perspectives in psychology emerged.

Starting from Aristotle to the modern definition of psychology, no single view has emerged as the correct way of viewing human behavior and mental processes. Nowadays viewpoints of founders of psychology have blended so much that they no longer exist as a separate school of thought.

The major perspectives in psychology that emerged are cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, humanistic, biological, socio-cultural, and evolutionary.

1. Cognitive Perspective

One of the important psychological perspectives is the cognitive perspective of psychology. It focuses on the processing, organizing, storing, and retrieving of information and is concerned with the higher mental processes such as thinking, memory, etc.

The cognitive perspective is the newly developed area explaining human behavior developed during the 1960s. The foremost contributors to this perspective are George Miller (1920), Jerome Bruner (1915), and Ulrich Neisser (1928).

Cognition covers the higher intellectual process as perceiving, believing, thinking, remembering, knowing, deciding, and so on. The word “Cognito” means “I think”. Cognition is a mental process in which the information is obtained, processed, transferred, stored, retrieved, and used. It examines thinking, how we know and understand words, solve problems, make decisions, uses language, communicates our thoughts to others.

For example, if someone stops us on a highway, and if we perceive him to need help (his car is broken), we might stop offering assistance and remember that someone once helped us in a similar situation. On the other hand, if we think that he is planning to rob at gunpoint or remember a bad accident with a similar situation, we would not assist him. This suggests cognition helps to analyze the situation. From this perspective, cognition plays a vital role in guiding behavior.

2. Behavioral Perspective

Another, one of the importance of psychological perspectives is the behavioral perspective of psychology. It is based on observable behavior without giving importance to mental processes such as thinking, which emphasizes that learning plays a key role in controlling and influencing all behaviors.

The behavioral perspective of psychology suggests only shown behaviors are observable and not mental processes. It was J.B. Waston who had introduced the idea of behaviorism, the work of Ivan Pavlov that influences him.

Watson, then opined that human behavior can be measured through observable behavior, and not by the study of mind or consciousness. He formed and practiced these principles for animals which were later opened for humans.

Later, these psychology perspectives were followed by the B.F. Skinner, one of the greatest contemporary psychologists. Skinner uses behavior in a very simple way. He used to cure diseases and change the behavior of animals in a variety of settings. The principles of Skinner’s are also used to train dolphins, seals, and other animals found in the circus or at home.

3. Psychodynamic Perspective

Sigmund Freud developed the psychodynamic technique, used to study abnormal behavior. Freud felt the root of psychological problems are motives of sexual and aggressive nature which stay at the unconscious level of the mind.

The term psychodynamic is used because these unconscious motives and conflicts influence our behavior even though we do not know they exist. They are revealed in disguised, symbolic ways such as in dreams, in slips of the tongue, and sometimes in psychological problems. Freud also focused on early childhood and emphasized that early experiences have major influences on personality development. The psychodynamic perspective is widely known for treating maladaptive behavior by bringing the unconscious causes of distress to the conscious level.

4. Humanistic Perspective

It emphasizes the psychological health of human beings, through psychotherapy, focusing on the individual’s free will, values, and goodness of people.

The humanistic perspective of psychology was developed by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Viktor Frankl during the 1950s and 1960s. This perspective has a very different view on human beings compared to psychoanalysis and behaviorism psychology perspectives.

This perspective focuses on freedom in controlling human behavior. According to them, each person is a unique individual and experiences the world differently. One of the most important humanistic principles is that all human beings have a basic powerful inborn tendency to grow and improve to their fullest potential, and a desire to take control of their own lives.

Humanistic psychologists are the “least scientific” of all perspectives of psychology. The principle they focus on is very difficult to investigate scientifically because it characterizes by philosophical aspects of human life.

5. Physiological or Biological Perspective

It mainly focuses on the physiology involved in all forms of behavior and mental processes. Uses research tools to investigate the functioning of the brain and nerve impulses and focuses mainly on the role of heredity in normal and abnormal behavior patterns.

Every human behavior is related to physiological changes within the body. The working relationship between the body, behavior and mental processes is the focus of the biological perspective. The physiological perspective describes the role of nerve cells in different aspects of an individual’s behavior in emotion, reasoning, problem-solving, intelligence, speaking, etc.

In recent years, physiological psychologists are focusing on the influence of heredity on personality characteristics and abilities. They are also concentrating on behavior genetics to determine how much genes and environmental influence individual differences.

Karl Lashley especially focused on the continuous activity of the brain and its interaction with the environment and a dynamic composite of the interacting systems. Lashley emphasized fatigue, lower motivation, and poor recall as the three factors that are especially important in forgetting.

6. Evolutionary Perspective

It focuses on how natural selection favors traits that promote the continuation of one’s genes. How does evolution influence behavior tendencies and how that behavior or structure aids in adapting to the environment?

An evolutionary perspective is based on the work developed by Charles Darwin (1859) who popularized the theory of evolution almost 150 years ago. The evolutionary perspective focuses on the role of the physical structure and behavior play in the adaption process of an organism to the environment.

Darwin, in his theory of evolution, popularized three basic components variance, inheritance, and selection.

  • Variation refers to the fact that organisms belonging to a given species vary in different ways. Every human being has individual differences, differing in shape, size, intelligence, personality, health, and so on.
  • Inheritance refers to the fact that some of these variations can be passed from generation to generation
  • Selection refers to the particular behavior the organisms have adapted to best suit their environment.

7. Socio-Cultural Perspective

The main focus point is, how behavior and thinking vary across diverse cultures.

The way human beings socialize and develop from their early life to old age is explained through a perspective in psychology known as the socio-cultural perspective. Socio-cultural psychology explains how our personality, beliefs, attitude, skills, and values are shaped by our culture ethnicity, gender, religion, and other important socio-cultural factors. Socio-cultural aspects are concerned with how people interact, are interdependent, and inter-coordinate with each other to influence and to be influenced by each other.

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