psychological perspectives

Topics: Psychology, Free will, Determinism Pages: 6 (1829 words) Published: April 22, 2014
Psychological Perspectives: Essay 2

Psychology is a study which involves scientifically monitoring behaviour and mental processes in an attempt to understand and resolve them. In this second assignment I aim to discuss and evaluate the competing ideas of free will and determinism, whilst also assessing both biological and environmental reductionism as ways of explaining human behaviour.

Firstly free will is fundamental to the understanding of most common sense theories of psychology. It is the ability to make a choice between certain behaviours, implying that behaviour is partly random and does not have a cause, therefore it cannot be predicted. Free will assumes that we have the power to choose our behaviour, for example we have a free choice over our decision to commit a crime. Most people will feel that they posses free will as it gives them a sense of personal responsibility. This fits in with society’s view as the legal system is focused around the idea of holding people accountable for their actions. The individual’s behaviour is not seen as being determined by causual influences or external events, such as conditioning, therefore it is seen as an act which is free from external coercion. (The Student Room, 2013)

One of the main psychological approaches focusing on free will In order to explain human behaviour was humanism. The humanistic approach believes that humans are unique and plan their own actions. Humanism highly criticized other approaches believing that they didn't view the person as whole and could be seen as dehumanizing. Humanism suggested that people make their own choices with free will and a natural basic human motive. This idiographic perspective focuses on how we view ourselves, believing that we behave in a certain way with a desire to achieve self-actualization. Humanistic theories take experiences, choice and freedom into consideration understanding that human beings have an innate desire to develop, grow and change. This theory was greatly influenced by the work of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow who rejected the methods of intense scientific research and experiments. Instead experiments were conducted at an individual level with methods such as diary accounts and unstructured interviews and questionnaires to understand how the person felt or thought. (Mcleod, 2013) (Cherry, 2013)

Humanistic therapies such as client-centred therapy are based on the assumption of free will, with the therapist helping the client the exercise free will in order to decide what is best for themselves whilst maximising the rewards in their life. This indicates that owning your own behaviour is the key to healthy psychological development and only when the individual takes self responsibility is personal growth achievable. Other strengths of free will can include the sense of empowerment. It is liberating to think that we have the control over our own lives with the option to make individual choices. It also provides a sense of total moral responsibility whilst adding meaning to ethics, ensuring the deserving are punished and praise and blame can be distributed accordingly. Unlike other theories free will emphasises the individual suggesting the behaviour is free and undetermined by our past. (Cherry, 2013)

Although a strong concept for understanding the route of human behaviour, free will also faces criticism. The assumption of free will is only focused on humans being morally good and can not be tested scientifically; this makes it more difficult to be accepted within society. Psychologists believe that if everyone exercised free will then it could become dangerous and provoke destructive behaviour, whilst total moral responsibility can be seen as a huge burden on the individual. Free will behaviour is not accepted by religious believers and is often criticized for being situational, meaning it doesn’t account for...
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