FOUNDATIONS OF PSYCHOLOGY
PSY 300 – General Psychology
Instructor: Kaisa Freeman
10 March 2014
For as long as psychology has been around, scientists have disagreed on the best approach for studying consciousness. With its roots in philosophy, and biological studies linking it to behavior, psychology lacks a paradigm that is agreed upon by most members of the scientific community. Because of this disagreement, psychology has “splintered into several schools of thought, or what we call perspectives” (Kowalski, 2011). The purpose of this paper is to examine the major underlying assumptions of the four major perspectives of psychology. They are the psychodynamic perspective, the behaviorist perspective, the cognitive perspective, and the evolutionary perspective. Furthermore, this paper will identify the four primary biological foundations of psychology linked to behavior.
The first of the major perspectives in psychology is the psychodynamic perspective. In the late 19th century Sigmund Freud developed “a theory of mental life and behavior and an approach to treating psychological disorders known as psychoanalysis” (Kowalski, 2011). It is that theory and approach upon which the psychodynamic perspective is based, making three primary assumptions. Those assumptions are: 1) people’s actions are determined by the way thoughts, feelings, and wishes are connected in their minds; 2) many of these mental events occur outside of conscious awareness; 3) these mental processes may conflict with one another, leading to compromises among competing motives – therefore, people are unlikely to precisely know the chain of psychological events that leads to their conscious thoughts, intentions, feelings, or behaviors. Kowalski, 2011 The psychodynamic perspective is still widely used today and, according to the American Psychological Association, “is effective for a wide range of mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, panic and stress-related physical ailments” (Shedler, 2010).
The second major perspective in psychology is the behaviorist perspective, also known as behaviorism. With origins in the early 20th century, behaviorism was the dominant psychological perspective from the 1920s through the 1950s (McLeod, 2007). Behaviorism stands in stark contrast to the psychodynamic perspective in that behaviorists assert that “the behavior of humans, like that of other animals, can be understood entirely without reference to internal states such as thoughts and feelings” (Kowalski, 2011). Without giving any consideration to the internal processes of the study subject, behaviorists rely on experimentation and the application of the scientific method to obtain quantifiable data. It is the belief of behaviorists that behavior is the result of environmental stimuli and that psychology is a science and should be studied in a scientific manner (McLeod, 2007).
By the end of the 1950s the dominant perspective of psychology was beginning to shift from behaviorism to cognition (McLeod, 2007). The cognitive perspective focuses on the way people perceive, process, and retrieve information (Kowalski, 2011). Much like behaviorism, cognitive psychology uses a scientific approach and relies on experiments to gather data and formulate theories. The differences is “cognitive psychologists use experimental procedures to infer mental processes at work” (Kowalski, 2011). The cognitive perspective has dominated psychology for the past 40 years because it uses the scientific validity of empirical data to support theories on the internal processes of the human mind. Additionally, it was cognitive psychologists that first introduced the terms “input” and “output” and used the computer as a metaphor to better understand the internal processes of the brain (McLeod, 2007).
The last of the four major perspectives in psychology is the evolutionary perspective. “Evolutionary psychology is a...
References: Evolutionary Psychology. (2014). Retrieved 10 March 2014, from Science Daily website:
Genetics. (2005). The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition.
Kowalski, R., Westen, D. (2011). Psychology, 6th Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, NJ
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