Psychology is the study of the mind and mental processes. The field was developed in the 1800s until this point the mind was not understood and many people who suffered from mental illnesses were forgotten about. This was until Sigmund Freud developed the first psychological theory known as psychoanalysis.
This was important because it meant that mental processes could be understood. This was followed by Behaviourism which was established by John B. Watson. Behaviourism was a scientific attempt at trying to understand the mind. The biological approach is an attempt to explain the mind through biology and the last main approach is cognitive which is mostly concerned with understanding mental processes. Psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud. Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who was trying to treat people suffering from hysteria.
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It was during this time that he discovered that many of the mental processes involved in this were not conscious. Freud figured that what caused mental illnesses was something that the patient was unaware of.. He argued that that the reason people suffer from mental illness is that they have repressed a memory into the unconsciousness and in order to treat mental illness that memory has to be brought into the consciousness and be discussed through talking therapy. The main points of psychoanalysis are that the mind is made up of three parts, the first part conscious this is the part of the mind in which active thoughts are being stored. The preconscious is where thoughts and memories that are not being actively thought about and they can be brought into the conscious. Lastly the unconscious is where thought and memories that people are unaware of, this is where thoughts and feeling that make people uncomfortable are stored, but they still influence people. The next important point of psychoanalysis is the parts of the personality.
The personality according to psychoanalysis, is made up of three parts the ego, superego and id. The id is the part of the mind that develops first, it focuses on imitate gratification. The next part is the superego, this part of the mind focuses on morality and societal norms.
The last part of the personality is the ego, the ego is the part of the personality which manages the conflict between the superego and id by comprising and is the ego is also rational. The final point of psychoanalysis is psychosexual stages of development, the part of Freud’s theory focuses on how sexual development influences people according to Freud there are 6 stages, the fist is oral which is from 0-18 months, next is anal which lasts from 18-36 months, Phallic from 3-6 years, Latency from 6 to puberty lastly genital which is from puberty onwards. (Macleod, 2016) (McLeod, 2009) (McLeod, 2017)Freud’s theory has strengths one is that it was the first psychological theory. This is important because it allowed for people suffering from mental illness to be treated for the first time and it also allowed for increasing understanding of how the mind works. Furthermore, it meant that more psychological theories could be developed. Another strength of psychoanalysis is that it focused on child development and childhood, it is now known that childhood plays a very important role in psychological development. (McLeod, 2017)However, psychoanalysis does have weaknesses such as the fact that it is unscientific, Freud did not use the scientific method when developing his theory.
Freud, he did not use empirical evidence when he developed his theory meaning that it is unproveable. Furthermore, this means that it cannot be disproven as it is not based in science. Another weakness of psychoanalysis is that it has a narrow focus, it ignores societal and cultural factors which are known to play a role in people’s psychological development. (McLeod, 2017)Psychoanalysis is useful in therapy, as Peter Fonagy (2015) argues that it is helpful in treating people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, among others. This could be because it helps to deal with repressed memories. Behaviourism was developed in reaction to psychoanalysis, behaviourists view psychoanalysis as being unscientific. Behaviourism tries to explain people’s behaviour using the scientific method and using empirical data and evidence. These ideas were first put forth by Watson who argued that psychologists must be scientific.
‘Psychology as the behaviourist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science’ (Watson, 1913) Ivan Pavlov was a Russian scientist who was studying the digestive systems of dogs. He found that anytime food was placed in front of a dog it salivated. Palov then rang a bell every time the dogs where given food.
Soon the dogs began to salivate when the bell rang as they associated it with food. This is called classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is when an organism learns to react to two different stimuli in a way that one stimulus gets the same reaction that the other one did. These ideas were expanded upon by B.F Skinner, who created the skinner box, in this box there was a lever and if it was pressed it would dispense a food pellet. Skinner tested this on rats, the rats kept pressing the lever as they were getting food. This became known are operant conditioning the idea that an organism learns from previous actions and their consequences. This leads on reinforcement and punishment, positive reinforcement is when a stimulus is given when an action is performed this stimulus should reinforce the action so it is more likely to be performed again, such as a rat pressing a lever and getting food, the food is the stimulus which reinforces the action, pressing the lever.
Negative reinforcement is when a stimulus is removed to reinforce a behaviour. Punishment on the other hand is about trying to prevent behaviour from happening, positive punishment is when a stimulus is introduced to prevent the behaviour from happening, for example yelling at a misbehaving child. Negative punishment is when a stimulus is removed to prevent behaviour, such as taking away a child’s toys to prevent a certain action. (Cherry, An Overview of Behavioral Psychology, 2018) (Watson, 1913)One advantage of behaviourism is that it uses the scientific method, this means that it is possible recreate and tests methods, this means that behaviourism is more reliable and scientific. Another strength of behaviourism is that it focuses on behaviour that can be tested and measured this is an advantage as it means that behaviourism can be proven or disproven. (McLeod, Behaviorist Approach, 2017)A weakness of behaviourism is that it is often accused of being reductionist when it comes to explain human behaviour to just responses this is often seen as being too simple. Another weakness is that a lot experiments were based of animals which are different from humans so many of actions that were observed in animals may not apply to humans.
(McLeod, Behaviorist Approach, 2017)Behaviourism has had an impact on therapy, it has contributed to helping people deal with anxiety, through exposure therapy which involves exposing a patient to a stimulus which causes anxiety without having the unconditnoed stimulus helping the patient to work through their anxiety safely. (Grohol, 2016)The Biological approach attempts to explain mental processes through biology such as evolution, genetics and physiology. Physiology is about explaining how the body works such as the nervous systems, evolution in terms of the biological approach is about mental processes explained through evolution that human behaviour can be explained by evolutionary factors. The biological approach is based off of Darwin’s theory of evolution that developing favourable traits leads to that organism surviving and those traits being passed on. Psychologists that support the biological approach would argue that the same principles that apply to evolution would also apply to psychology. The body is made up of neurons, these neurons transmit and receive information.
The nervous system can be broken down into two systems. The central nervous system which is made up of neurons in the brain and the spine. The Peripheral Nervous system is what connects the rest of the body to the brain and spine. It can be broken down into two parts. The somatic nervous system which is made up of sensory and motor nerves and the autonomic nervous system which is made up of internal organs, this in turn can also be broken down into the sympathetic nervous system which expends energy and the Para-sympathies nervous system which does the opposite which helps to conserve energy. The endocrine system is important as it governs the release of hormones these help in to govern the fight or flight response which is when an organism runs away from a threat or fights it.
The brain is made up of different component parts which govern different bodily functions such as the cerebellum which is important for muscle control and balance. Genes are also important when it comes to the biological approach as they house the genetic material that makes up every living organism. If a gene is faulty is may mean that a person is more likely to suffer from mental illnesses. (Cherry, 2018)One strength of the biological approach is that it brings in biology which is a science. This means that it is possible to measure and test the findings. Another strength is that it allows for researchers to understand mental health issues better due the fact the brain changes when there is problem.
(McLeod, 2015)However, there are weaknesses of the biological approach, one weakness is that it is reductionist much like behaviourism. The biological approach reduces thoughts, emotions and behaviours to neurons firing and genes. Another weakness of the biological approach is that experiments may have low ecological validity this means that results from studies conducted in a lab environment may not apply outside of that environment. (McLeod, 2015)The biological approach has many useful applications such as treating mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. As the biological approach leads to the development of certain drugs which can be used to help treat these mental illnesses.
(McLeod, 2015)The last major psychological approach is the cognitive approach. The cognitive approach is concerned with understanding how people take in and process information. This means that cognitive psychologists would study mental structures such as memory and thinking. The cognitive approach developed in the 1950s as a reaction to behaviourism.
Behaviourism is only interested in the reaction to a stimulus, whereas the cognitive approach looks to understand how and why people react that way to the stimulus. Most cognitive psychologists would agree that the brain is like a computer taking in information and processing it. The main mental processes that cognitive psychology is concerned with is language, attention, memory, perception and thinking. One important idea in cognitive approach is the idea of a schemata. A schema is information that a brain has on something, for example a schema of a table would include, information about a table such as it sits on four legs and it has a flat top. Schemas are always being updated with new information. Schemas are used to identify objects; every time people see something new a scheme is created and if more information is found it updates it. (Cherry, 2018) (Cherry, Cognitive Psychology, 2018) One advantage of the cognitive approach is that it explains many different aspects of human behaviour as well as how and why they happen unlike the behaviourist approach which does not care about why and how mental processes happen.
Another strength of the cognitive approach is that it helps psychologists to understand how thought processes change thought different stages of life. However, some weaknesses of the cognitive approach are that it is too simplistic humans are very complicated beings and are far more complex than computers so to compare humans to computer is too simple. Another weakness of the biological approach is that it ignores cultural factors people in different countries often behave differently this is not taken into account by the cognitive approach and neither is genes, genes often influence people’s behaviours and thought processes. The cognitive approach has had a massive impact on education it completely changed how people view learning and child development. The cognitive approach states that children go through different developmental stages, this meant that education could be tailored to suit each developmental group and provide them with a better education. In conclusion, there are 4 different approaches to psychology, psychoanalysis which was created by Sigmund Freud it deals with the mind and personality one of its strengths was that it brought awareness of psychology, however it is unscientific.
Behaviourism is concerned with thought processes, one advantage is that it is scientific and can be measured however, it is seen as being too simplistic. Biological is the study of mental processes through evolutionary biology, it gave a natural understanding of mental processes however it is reductionist. Lastly cognitive tries to understand why and how mental processes happen, one strength is that gives and understanding of mental processes at different stages of life however, it is seen as too simple. So overall no one approach is right or wrong.