Introduction and Perspective (worth 30 points)
Learning Objective 1a
Each of the major perspectives in psychology provides insight and a unique way of explaining human behavior, thought, and emotion.
Step 1:ReviewTextbook 1.3: History of Psychology and Main Perspectives and carefully review the Main Perspectives Key Words Chart to prompt your memory of the main concepts of each perspective.
Main Perspectives Key Words Chart
self-actualization (reaching one’s full potential)
nervous system, especially the brain
behavior and consequences
unconditional positive regard/empathy/congruence
universality and diversity
survival of the fittest
id, ego, and superego
rewards and punishments
person’s unique worldview/capacity to “choose” how to think and act
Individualist and Collectivist cultures
ego defense mechanisms
laws of learning
concern regardingconditions of worth
relevance of cultural factors
Step 2:Create and post a written response that addresses the following prompts:
In your first paragraph, please include the following:
Introduce yourself to your classmates.
Explain the academic degree and area of study you are currently pursuing.
Describe your career goals and explain what you believe the ideal but also realistic job in your career would look like. If you would like to search information about your ideal job, please consult the following link:
Explain the personal or professional challenges you anticipate in your career-of-interest.
Most professionals in the field of psychology are eclectic, drawing on more than one approach to capture their perspective in psychology. In the next paragraph of your post, please include the following:
Identify at least *two* of the main approaches that are most relevant to the career-of-interest you identified and explain why.
If a friend asked you why the main approaches are relevant to understanding human psychology, how would you thoughtfully respond to your friends question? Module 01/PSY1012Textbook/Chapter01/PSY1012Ch01Sct03.html
The History of Psychology and Main Perspectives
The approaches that psychologists have used to assess the issues that interest them have changed dramatically over the history of psychology. Perhaps most importantly, the field has moved steadily from speculation about behavior toward a more objective and scientific approach as the technology available to study human behavior has improved (Benjamin & Baker, 2004).
Overview of the Schools of Psychology
School of Psychology Description Important contributors
Structuralism Uses the method of introspection to identify the basic elements or structures of psychological experience Wilhelm Wundt
Attempts to understand why animals and humans have developed the particular psychological aspects they currently possess Charles Darwin
Psychodynamic Focuses on the role of our unconscious thoughts, feelings, and memories and our early childhood experiences in determining behavior
Behaviorism Based on the premise that it is not possible to objectively study the mind; therefore, psychologists should limit their attention to the study of behavior itself Ivan Pavlov
John B. Watson
B. F. Skinner
Humanism Based on the premise that people work toward personal betterment Carl Rogers
Cognitive The study of mental processes, including perception, thinking, memory, and judgments Hermann Ebbinghaus
Sir Frederic Bartlett
Cross-cultural The study of how the cultures in which people live influence thinking and behavior Fritz Heider
Plato and Aristotle Image Source
The earliest psychologists, so-to-speak, were the Greek philosophers Plato (428347 BC) and Aristotle (384322 BC). These philosophers asked many of the same questions that todays psychologists ask. They questioned the distinction between nature and nurture and the existence of free will. Plato argued on the nature side, believing that certain kinds of knowledge are innate or inborn, whereas Aristotle was more on the nurture side, believing that each child is born as a blank slate (in Latin a tabula rasa) and that knowledge is primarily acquired through learning and experience.
Rene Descartes Image Source
European philosophers continued to ask these fundamental questions during the Renaissance. For instance, the French philosopher Ren Descartes (15961650) also considered the issue of free will, arguing in its favor and believing that the mind controls the body through the pineal gland in the brain (an idea that made some sense at the time but was later disproven). Descartes also believed in the existence of innate natural abilities. A scientist as well as a philosopher, Descartes dissected animals and was among the first to understand that the nerves controlled the muscles. He also addressed the relationship between mind (the mental aspects of life) and body (the physical aspects of life). Descartes believed in the principle of dualism, which states that the mind is fundamentally different from the mechanical body. Other philosophers, including Thomas Hobbes (15881679), John Locke (16321704), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778) also pondered these issues.
The fundamental problem these philosophers faced was they had few methods for settling their claims. Most philosophers did not conduct any research on these questions, in part because they did not yet know how to do it, and in part because they were unsure if it were possible to objectively study the human experience. Dramatic changes came during the 1800s with the help of the first two research psychologists: the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt (18321920), who developed a psychology laboratory in Leipzig, Germany, and the American psychologist William James (18421910), who founded a psychology laboratory at Harvard University.
Structuralism: Introspection and the Awareness of Subjective Experience
Wundts research in his laboratory in Liepzig focused on the nature of consciousness itself. Wundt and his students believed that it was possible to analyze the basic elements of the mind and to classify our conscious experiences scientifically. Wundt began the field known as structuralism, a school of psychology whose goal was to identify the basic elements or structures of the psychological experience. Its goal was to create a periodic table of the elements of sensations.
Structuralists used the method of introspection to attempt to create a map of the elements of consciousness. Introspection involves asking research participants to describe exactly what they experience as they work on mental tasks, such as viewing colors, reading a page in a book, or calculating a math problem. A participant who is reading a book might report, for instance, that he saw some black and colored straight and curved marks on a white background. In other studies, the structuralists used newly invented reaction time instruments to systematically assess both what the participants were thinking and how long it took them to do so. Wundt discovered that it took people longer to report what sound they had just heard than to simply respond that they had heard the sound. These studies marked the first time researchers realized there is a difference between the *sensation* of a stimulus and the *perception* of the stimulus.
Perhaps the best known of the structuralists was Edward Bradford Titchener (18671927). Titchener was a student of Wundt who came to the United States in the late 1800s and founded a laboratory at Cornell University. In his research using introspection, Titchener and his students claimed to have identified more than 40,000 sensations, including those relating to vision, hearing, and taste.
Wundt & Titchener
Wilhelm Wundt (seated at left) and Edward Titchener (right) helped create the structuralist school of psychology. Their goal was to classify the elements of sensation through introspection.Image Source: Wundt and Titchener
An important aspect of the structuralist approach was that it was rigorous and scientific. The research marked the beginning of psychology as a science because it demonstrated that mental events could be quantified. The structuralists also discovered the limitations of introspection. Even highly trained research participants were often unable to report their subjective experiences. When the participants were asked to do simple math problems, they could easily do them, but they could not easily answer *how* they did them. The structuralists were the first to realize the importance of unconscious processes. They noted that many important aspects of human psychology occur outside our conscious awareness, and that psychologists cannot expect research participants to be able to accurately report all of their experiences.
Functionalism and Evolutionary Psychology
In contrast to Wundt, who attempted to understand the nature of consciousness, the goal of William James and the other members of the school of functionalism was to understand why animals and humans have developed the particular psychological aspects they currently possess (Hunt, 1993). For James, thinking was relevant only to behavior. James (1890) stated, My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing.
James and the other members of the functionalist school were influenced by Charles Darwins (18091882) theory of natural selection, which proposed that the physical characteristics of animals and humans evolved because they were useful, or functional. The functionalists believed Darwins theory applied to psychological characteristics too. Just as some animals have developed strong muscles to allow them to run fast, the human brain, so functionalists thought, must have adapted to serve a particular function in the human experience.
James & Darwin
The functionalist school of psychology, founded by the American psychologist William James (left), was influenced by the work of Charles Darwin (right).Image Sources: James and Darwin
Although functionalism no longer exists as a school of psychology, its basic principles have been absorbed into psychology and continue to influence it in many ways. The work of the functionalists has developed into the field of evolutionary psychology, a branch of psychology that applies the Darwinian theory of natural selection to human and animal behavior (Dennett, 1995; Tooby & Cosmides, 1992). Evolutionary psychology accepts the functionalists basic assumption, namely that many human psychological systems, including memory, emotion, and personality, serve key adaptive functions.
A key component of evolutionary psychology is fitness. Fitness refers to the extent to which having a given characteristic helps the individual organism survive and reproduce at a higher rate than do other members of the species who do not have the characteristic. Fitter organisms pass on their genes more successfully to later generations, making the characteristics that produce fitness more likely to become part of the organisms nature than characteristics that do not produce fitness.
Despite its importance in psychological theorizing, evolutionary psychology also has some limitations. One problem is that many of its predictions are extremely difficult to test. Unlike the fossils that are used to learn about the physical evolution of species, we cannot know which psychological characteristics our ancestors possessed or did not possess. Because it is difficult to directly test evolutionary theories, the explanations we apply tend to be construed after the fact to account for observed data (Gould & Lewontin, 1979). Nevertheless, the evolutionary approach is important to psychology because it provides logical explanations for why we have many psychological characteristics. Also, evolutionary psychology contributed to the study of the biological basis of behavior and mental processes. The biological perspective to psychology studies the ways in which brain structures, as well as brain processes, including hormones, neurotransmitters, and genetics contribute to psychological functioning. This perspective also addresses the contributions of the endocrine and nervous systems.
Perhaps the school of psychology that is most familiar to the general public is the psychodynamic approach to understanding behavior, which was championed by Sigmund Freud (18561939) and his followers. Psychodynamic psychology is an approach to understanding human behavior that focuses on the role of unconscious thoughts, feelings, and memories. Freud developed his theories about behavior through extensive analysis of the patients that he treated in his private clinical practice. Freud believed that many of the problems that his patients experienced, including anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction, were the result of the effects of painful childhood experiences the person could no longer remember.
Sigmund Freud and the other psychodynamic psychologists believed that many of our thoughts and emotions are unconscious. Image Source
Freuds ideas were extended by other psychologists whom he influenced, including Carl Jung (18751961), Alfred Adler (18701937), Karen Horney (18551952), Anna Freud (1895-1982), and Erik Erikson (19021994). These and others who follow the psychodynamic approach believe that it is possible to help the patient if the unconscious drives can be remembered, particularly through a deep and thorough exploration of the persons early childhood experiences. These explorations are revealed through talk therapy in a process called psychoanalysis.
The founders of the school of psychodynamics were primarily practitioners who worked with individuals to help them understand and confront their psychological symptoms. Although they did not conduct much research on their ideas, and although later, more sophisticated tests of their theories have not always supported their proposals, psychodynamics has nevertheless had a substantial impact on the field of psychology (Moore & Fine, 1995). The importance of the unconscious in human behavior; the idea that early childhood experiences are formative; and the concept of therapy as a way of improving human lives are all ideas derived from the psychodynamic approach that remain central to contemporary psychology.
Although they differed in approach, both structuralism and functionalism were essentially studies of the mind. The psychologists associated with the school of behaviorism, on the other hand, were reacting in part to the difficulties psychologists encountered when they tried to use introspection to understand behavior. Behaviorism is a school of psychology that is based on the premise that it is not possible to objectively study the mind, and therefore psychologists should limit their attention to the study of behavior itself. Behaviorists believe that the human mind is a black box into which stimuli are sent and from which responses are received. They argue that there is no point in trying to determine what happens in the box because we can successfully predict behavior without knowing what happens inside the mind. Furthermore, behaviorists believe that it is possible to develop laws of learning that can explain most behaviors.
American behaviorist John B. Watson (18781958) was influenced in large part by the work of the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (18491936), who discovered that dogs would salivate at the sound of a tone that had previously been associated with the presentation of food. Watson and other behaviorists began to use these ideas to explain how events that people and other organisms experienced in their environment (stimuli) could produce specific behaviors (responses). For instance, in Pavlovs research the stimulus (either the food or, after learning, the tone) would produce the response of salivation in the dogs.
John Watson Image Source
Ivan Pavlov Image Source
In his research, Watson found that systematically exposing a child to a fearful stimulus in the presence of objects that did not themselves elicit fear could lead the child to respond with a fearful behavior to the presence of the previously unfeared stimulus (Watson & Rayner, 1920; Beck, Levinson, & Irons, 2009). In the best known of his studies, an 8-month-old boy named Little Albert was used as the subject. Here is a summary of the findings:
The boy was placed in the middle of a room; a white laboratory rat was placed near him, and he was allowed to play with it. The child showed no fear of the rat. In later trials, the researchers made a loud sound behind Alberts back by striking a steel bar with a hammer whenever the baby touched the rat. The child cried when he heard the noise. After several such pairings of the two stimuli, the child was again shown the rat. Now, however, he cried and tried to move away from the rat. In line with the behaviorist approach, the boy learned to associate the white rat with the loud noise, resulting in crying.
The most famous behaviorist was Burrhus Frederick (B. F.) Skinner (19041990), who used the principles of behaviorism and brought them to the attention of the public. Skinner used the ideas of stimulus and response, along with the application of rewards or reinforcements, to train pigeons and other animals. He used the general principles of behaviorism to develop theories about how best to teach children and how to create societies that were peaceful and productive (Skinner, 1957, 1968, 1972).
B. F. Skinner was a member of the behaviorist school of psychology. He argued that free will is an illusion and that all behavior is determined by environmental factors. Image Source
The behaviorist research program had important implications for the fundamental questions about nature and nurture and about free will. In terms of the nature-nurture debate, the behaviorists agreed with the nurture approach, believing that we are shaped exclusively by our environments. They also argued that there is no free will, but rather our behaviors are determined by the events that we have experienced in our past.
The behaviorists made substantial contributions to psychology by identifying the principles of learning. Although the behaviorists were incorrect in their beliefs that it was not possible to measure thoughts and feelings, their ideas sparked new explorations that helped further our understanding regarding the nature-nurture debate and the question of free will. The ideas of behaviorism are fundamental to psychology and have been developed to help us better understand the role of prior experiences in a variety of areas of psychology.
The Humanistic Approach
In the 1950s, humanistic psychology joined the psychodynamic and behavioral perspectives into the forefront of psychology. Humanistic psychology, pioneered by Carl Rogers (1902-1987) and Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), highlights the notion of self-actualization, reaching our fullest potential. Our self-actualizing tendency highlights each individuals unique potential, growth, and process toward personal betterment. While Maslow applied humanistic principles to a theory of motivation and a hierarchy of needs and drives, Rogers applied humanistic principles to a theory of personality and a therapeutic approach. In his theory of personality, Rogers emphasized self-concept, the set of perceptions and beliefs we hold about ourselves. He emphasized our tendency to act in accordance with our developing self-concept. When our experiences conflict with our self-concept, our sense of incongruence and self-distortion may emerge.
Abraham Maslow Image Source
Carl Rogers Image Source
In 1951, Rogers named his therapeutic approach Client-Centered Therapy, a therapy grounded in humanistic principles. For instance, the term client replaced the term patient. Client-centered therapy emphasizes the core conditions of unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence. Unconditional positive regard refers to valuing others without placing conditions on their worth, and treating clients with genuine respect. Empathy refers to developing an understanding of a client from his or her worldview and perspective, instead of imposing ones own. Congruence means genuinely and honestly communicating with the client from the base of empathy. Because the humanistic approach focuses on each persons unique worldview and perspective, the pathway for cultivating anothers growth is by developing an empathic understanding of his or her perspective. Rogers also emphasized the relevance of free will and choice, and he believed that non-directive therapeutic techniques cultivated the clients self-actualizing tendency and active participation in his or her psychological growth.
The Cognitive Approach and Cognitive Neuroscience
Science is influenced by the technology that surrounds it, and psychology is no exception. Beginning in the 1960s, growing numbers of psychologists began to think about the brain and about human behavior in terms of the computer, which was being developed and becoming publicly available at that time. The analogy between the brain and the computer, although by no means perfect, provided part of the impetus for a new school of psychology called cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology is a field of psychology that studies mental processes, including perception, thinking, memory, and judgment.
Although cognitive psychology began in earnest in the 1960s, earlier psychologists had also taken a cognitive orientation. Some of the important contributors to cognitive psychology include the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (18501909), who studied the ability of people to remember lists of words under different conditions, and the English psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett (18861969), who studied the cognitive and social processes of remembering. Bartlett created short stories that were in some ways logical, but also contained some very unusual and unexpected events. Bartlett discovered that people found it very difficult to recall the stories exactly, even after being allowed to study them repeatedly, and he hypothesized that the stories were difficult to remember because they did not fit the participants expectations about how stories should go. The idea that our memory is influenced by what we already know was also a major idea behind the cognitive-developmental stage model of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (18961980).
In the argument that our thinking has a powerful influence on behavior, the cognitive approach provided a distinct alternative to behaviorism. According to cognitive psychologists, ignoring the mind itself will never be sufficient because people interpret the stimuli they experience. For instance, when a young man turns to a young woman on a date and says, You are so beautiful, a behaviorist would probably see the compliment as a reinforcement. Yet, the young woman may question his intentions. She might try to understand why the young man is making this particular statement at this particular time and wonder if he might be attempting to influence her through the comment. Cognitive psychologists maintain that when we take into consideration how stimuli are evaluated and interpreted, we understand behavior more deeply.
Cognitive psychology remains influential, and it has guided research in such varied fields as language, problem solving, memory, intelligence, education, human development, social psychology, and psychotherapy. The cognitive revolution has been given even more life as the result of our ability to see the brain in action using neuroimaging techniques. Neuroimaging is the use of various techniques to provide pictures of the structure and function of the living brain (Ilardi & Feldman, 2001). These images are also used to diagnose brain disease and injury.
Another school with a substantial impact can be broadly referred to as the cross-cultural approach. The field of cross-cultural psychology is the study of how the social situations and the cultures in which people live influence thinking and behavior. Cross-cultural psychologists are particularly concerned with how people perceive themselves and others, and how people influence each others behavior. For instance, social psychologists have found that we are attracted to others who are similar to us in terms of attitudes and interests (Byrne, 1969); that we develop our own beliefs and attitudes by comparing our opinions to those of others (Festinger, 1954); and that we may modify our beliefs and behaviors to conform to others (Asch, 1952).
An important aspect of cross-cultural psychology are social norms, the ways of thinking, feeling, or behaving that are shared by group members and perceived by them as appropriate (Asch, 1952; Cialdini, 1993). Norms include customs, traditions, standards, and rules, as well as the general values of the group. Many of the most important social norms are determined by the culture in which we live, and these cultures are studied by cross-cultural psychologists. A culture represents the common set of social norms, including religious and family values and other moral beliefs that are shared by the people who live in a geographical region (Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, & Nisbett, 1998; Markus, Kitayama, & Heiman, 1996; Matsumoto, 2001).
Psychologists have found a fundamental difference in social norms between Western, individualist cultures (including those in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand) and East Asian, collectivist cultures (including those in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India, and Southeast Asia). Norms in individualist cultures are primarily oriented toward *individualism,* which is about valuing the self and ones independence from others. Children in individualist cultures are taught to develop and to value a sense of their personal self, and to see themselves in large part as separate from the other people around them. Children in individualist cultures feel special about themselves; they enjoy getting gold stars on their projects and the best grade in the class. Adults in individualist cultures are oriented toward promoting their own individual success, frequently in comparison to (or even at the expense of) others.
Norms incollectivist cultures, on the other hand, are oriented toward interdependence or *collectivism.* In these cultures, children are taught to focus on developing harmonious social relationships with others. The predominant norms relate to group togetherness and connectedness, as well as duty and responsibility to ones family and other groups. When asked to describe themselves, the members of collectivist cultures are more likely than those from individualist cultures to indicate that they are particularly concerned about the interests of others, including their close friends and their colleagues.
Another important cultural difference is the extent to which people in different cultures are bound by social norms and customs, rather than being free to express their own individuality without considering social norms (Chan, Gelfand, Triandis, & Tzeng, 1996). Cultures also differ in terms of personal space, such as how closely individuals stand to each other when talking, as well as the communication styles they employ.
Specialty Areas of Psychology
Psychology is not one discipline but rather a collection of many specialty areas and subdisciplines. Also, many psychologists draw from multiple approaches to psychology as opposed to only one approach. For instance, a psychologist trained in both cognitive and behavioral approaches would be considered eclectic, drawing on more than one approach to psychology to help others. Also, both clinical psychologists and psychiatrists work to alleviate psychological symptoms in their clients. However, clinical psychologists use psychotherapies, while psychiatrists use medication therapies.
Because the field of psychology is so broad, students may wonder which areas are most suitable for their interests and which types of careers might be available to them.
Some Specialty Areas and Related Career Paths in Psychology
Psychology field Description Career opportunities
Biopsychology and Neuroscience This field examines the physiological bases of behavior in animals and humans by studying the functioning of different brain areas and the effects of hormones and neurotransmitters on behavior. Most biopsychologists work in research settings at universities, for the federal government, and in private research labs.
Clinical and counseling psychology These are the largest fields of psychology. The focus is on the assessment, diagnosis, causes, and treatment of mental disorders. Clinical and counseling psychologists provide therapy to patients with the goal of improving their life experiences. They work in hospitals, schools, social agencies, and in private practice.
Cognitive psychology This field uses sophisticated research methods, including reaction time and brain imaging, to study memory, language, and thinking of humans. Cognitive psychologists work primarily in research settings, although some (such as those who specialize in human-computer interactions) consult for businesses.
Developmental psychology These psychologists conduct research on the cognitive, emotional, and social changes that occur across the lifespan. Many work in research settings, although others work in schools and community agencies to help improve and evaluate the effectiveness of intervention programs.
Forensic psychology Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to understand the behavior of judges, attorneys, courtroom juries, and others in the criminal justice system. Forensic psychologists work in the criminal justice system. They may testify in court and may provide information about the reliability of eyewitness testimony and jury selection.
Health psychology Health psychologists are concerned with understanding how biology, behavior, and the social situation influence health and illness. Health psychologists work with medical professionals in clinical settings to promote better health, conduct research, and teach at universities.
Industrial-organizational and environmental psychology Industrial-organizational psychology applies psychology to the workplace with the goal of improving the performance and well-being of employees. These psychologists tend to work in businesses to help select employees, evaluate employee performance, and examine the effects of different working conditions on behavior. They may also work to design equipment and environments that improve employee performance and reduce accidents.
Personality psychology These psychologists study people and the differences among them. The goal is to develop theories that explain the psychological processes of individuals, and to focus on individual differences. Most work in academic settings, but the skills of personality psychologists are also in demand in business, such as in advertising and marketing.
School and educational psychology This field studies how people learn in school, the effectiveness of school programs, and the psychology of teaching. School psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools or school district offices with students, teachers, parents, and administrators. They may assess childrens psychological and learning problems and develop programs to minimize the impact of these problems.
Social and cross-cultural psychology This field examines peoples interactions with other people. Topics of study include conformity, group behavior, leadership, attitudes, and person perception. Many social psychologists work in marketing, advertising, organizational and systems design, and other applied psychology fields.
Sports psychology This field studies the psychological aspects of sports behavior. The goal is to understand the psychological factors that influence performance in sports, including the role of