Key Perspectives of Psychology

Topics: Classical conditioning, Sigmund Freud, Anal stage Pages: 8 (2369 words) Published: December 5, 2013
Key Perspectives of Psychology

Psychology seeks to understand and explain thought, emotion and behaviour through scientific investigation. It studies both humans and animals. It relates to who we are as human beings, our capacity to think, reason and understand how life really works, it even throws light on the stresses we face. As infants we are unable to survive without others, we learn to adapt socially from the moment we are born. As a result of this social interaction we develop a sense of self. We learn to communicate, verbally and non verbally, and develop shared beliefs to create a sense of society and we rely on mutual understanding to co exist.

There are 3 key perspectives, Behaviourism, Psychodynamics and Humanism. Each has its own assumptions and explanations and each investigates/researches using different techniques eg Surveys, Questionnaires, Lab Experiments and Counselling.


Behaviourists focus on understanding how and why behaviour happens. Either a theory seeks confirmation through experimentation or a general law is derived by a variety of data. It uses scientific experiments that are observable and measurable, no speculation about mental processes is made.

Main concepts:

Classical conditioning
Learning comes from association and experience. Reflexes and instincts can be conditioned to respond to neutral stimuli eg sound, sight, smell.

Operant conditioning
From reactions (consequences) to experiences, humans and animals learn to avoid or embrace those experiences. The responses are voluntary not reflex. Operants can be Reinforcers, positive and negative and Punishers.

Social learning theory
Learning is developed by observing peoples behaviours and attitudes and how they are received by others. It attempts to understand the exchange and interaction between behavioural and environmental effects and tries to explain moral development.

Pavlov's dogs - (Mcleod, S. A. 2007)

(Source Pavlov used classical conditioning to create a conditioned reflex response (salivation in expectation of food) from a neutral stimulus (bell). The bell was associated with the food by introducing them together. He found that a higher order of conditioning was possible, and a second neutral stimulus could be associated with the first conditioned stimulus Eg A buzzer which buzz’s at the same time as the bell. Stimulus discrimination occurred with sounds similar to the bell. Extinction may happen and dogs may lose the association with the bell after a time without food being introduced, and spontaneous recovery can develop later.

Humans can be classically conditioned to a higher degree and therefore it can be used to desensitise and treat phobias - conditioning them by associating them with posititve stimuli. Advertisers use conditioning to sell products. Unethically, Nestle, whose baby milk ads associated better health and well being of babies with bottle milk, conditioned 3rd world mothers to use their costly products instead of healthier and free breast-milk.

Skinners Box - (Mcleod, S. A. 2007)


Skinner discovered operant conditioning using rats in a box. He used a positive stimulus (food) to encourage the rats to push a lever to get more food by positive reinforcement which  strengthened their behaviour.  The rat had learned that its behaviour had consequences. Negative reinforcement meant that they learned to push the lever to stop an electric current, this reward also strengthened its behaviour. Punishment, either giving an electric shock or removing food, weakened behaviour and rats stopped pushing the lever. Operant conditioning is often used to modify the behaviour of children at home or in schools using rewards eg if the child behaves well they receive sweets; or punishment eg if the child misbehaves they are told to...

Bibliography: Pavlovs Dogs case study: Mcleod, S. A. (2007). Simply Psychology;Pavlov. Retrieved 14 November 2011, from
Skinner Box case study: Mcleod, S. A. (2007). Simply Psychology;Skinner | Operant Conditioning. Retrieved 14 November 2011, from
Little Hans case study: Mcleod, S. A. (2008). Simply Psychology; Little Hans. Retrieved 14 November 2011, from
Rat man case study: (Vol. 10) by James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press, 1955 from
Maslow and Rogers: (Mcleod, S. A. (2007). Simply Psychology;Humanism. Retrieved 13 November 2011, from
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