The purpose of this paper is to explain how the human mind and behavior are understood through the lens of psychology, and how the discipline has changed from the initial idea of its founder Wilhem Wandt’s who believed that science should be the study of consciousness. It attempts to explain how psychology is divided into multiple approaches, each having its own unique explanation, method, and theory, promoted by different theorists. It will focus on six different positions which include: behavioral, psychoanalytic, humanistic, cognitive, biological, and evolutionary perspectives. These are considered the major perspectives that guide modern psychological research.
Perspectives in Psychology
Psychologists looked at why people act the way they do from varying angles, one being observational, termed the behavioral perspective or behaviorism. This theory founded by John B Watson explains that only observable behavior can be studied scientifically. (Weiten) These theorists believe that human and animal behavior is a direct result of some interaction with the environment and that a person learns through a system of rewards and punishment. They firmly believed that one cannot study scientifically the things that cannot be seen such as thoughts and feelings, therefore the study of consciousness was dismissed.
Another approach founded in the 19th century was that of a psychoanalytic perspective. This approach was founded by psychologist Sigmund Freud whose study was focused on the unconscious determinants of behavior. The premise of this theory is that people are unaware of the factors that trigger their behavior, feelings, and mental health.
Some psychologists were not intrigued by the behaviorism and psychoanalytic theories, and so the Humanistic perspective emerged. The theory focused on the unique qualities of human behavior, such as free will, and how people can achieve growth and individual potential. The humanists suggest that people are naturally good from birth but are inclined to deviate from this natural disposition which can be caused by mental and social issues.
On the heels of the humanistic perspective were two other approaches, the first being the cognitive approach. With this approach, psychologists were concerned with understanding what happens in people’s minds that links stimulus and response and argued that people remember things based on what was already known. It looked at how we receive information and how we store and process it.
In addition, was the biological perspective. This theory focused on the genetic makeup and nervous system of humans and animals and how it affects behavior. Psychologists explored how one’s mood, thoughts, and actions are connected with the nerves, brain, hormones, and state of mind. It promotes that all of our choices are based on our physical bodies.
Evolutionary psychology is the youngest approach that focuses on behavior, thoughts, and feelings. The theorist believes that the behavior of people and animals is influenced by genes and mechanisms designed to work in tandem for our survival.