Approaches to Psychology The Different Approaches

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Approaches to Psychology

The Different Approaches

  • The problems you wish to investigate are tied to a number of theoretical approaches to psychology

  • There are six basic approaches to the study of psychology (some psychologists also include a seventh approach)

Seven Approaches

  • 1. Evolutionary

  • 2. Biological

  • 3. Behavioral

  • 4. Cognitive

  • 5. Humanistic

  • 6. Psychodynamic

  • 7. Sociocultural


  • How do you explain the causes of depression?

  • How do you examine the personality of an assassin?

Application #2

  • How can we explain the power of cult leaders?

  • What social conditions exist that promote the rise of cults?

Application #3

  • How could you investigate the causes of mental illness?

Application #4

  • How could you explain the reasons for obedience to authority?

Application #5

  • How could you achieve a better understanding of why a person would commit suicide?

Application #6

    • Where would you look if you wanted to understand how and why some people seem so extraordinary and important in our society?

Overview of Each Approach

  • Biological: Focuses primarily on the activities of the nervous system, the brain, hormones, and genetics

  • Psychodynamic: Emphasizes internal, unconscious conflicts; the focus is on sexual and aggressive instincts that collide with cultural norms

Overview (cont.)

  • Behavioral: Examines the learning process, focusing in particular on the influence of rewards and punishments

  • Evolutionary: Investigates how primal survival instincts can influence behavior

Overview (cont.)

  • Cognitive: Focuses on the mechanisms through which people receive, store, and process information

  • Humanistic: Emphasizes an individual’s potential for growth and the role of perception in guiding mental processes and behavior

Overview (cont.)

  • Sociocultural: Explores how behavior is shaped by history, society, and culture

The Evolutionary Approach

  • Functionalism

  • Why we do what we do

  • The influence of Charles Darwin

Natural Selection

  • An evolutionary process in which individuals of a species that are best adapted to their environments are the ones most likely to survive; they then pass on these traits to their offspring

James’s Adaptation of Darwin’s Principles

  • “The most adaptive behaviors in an individual are the ones that grow stronger and become habitual.”

Key Points in the Evolutionary Approach

  • The adaptive value of behavior

  • The biological mechanisms that make it possible

  • The environmental conditions that either encourage or discourage behavior

The Adaptive Value

  • Evolutionary psychology examines behaviors in terms of their adaptive value for a species over the course of many generations

An Example from the Evolutionary Perspective

  • Male vs. Female: differences in visual-spatial ability

  • Hunting vs. gathering

Other Examples

  • Fear of snakes and spiders

  • Greater sexual jealousy in males

  • Preference for foods rich in fats and sugars

  • Women’s greater emphasis on a potential mate’s economic resources

Other Evolutionary Notions

  • Mating preferences, jealousy, aggression, sexual behavior, language, decision making, personality, and development

  • Critics

The Biological Approach

  • Behavior and mental processes are largely shaped by biological processes

  • It is not identified with any single contributor

The Biological Focus

  • The brain and central nervous system

  • Sensation and perception

  • Autonomic nervous system

  • Endocrine system

  • Heredity and genetics

Biological Focus (cont.)

  • The physiological basis of how we learn and remember

  • The sleep-wake cycle

  • Motivation and emotion

  • Understanding the physical bases of mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia

Major Contributors

Howard Gardner

  • Studied brain damage and neurological disorders

  • Created the theory of multiple intelligences

  • The different types of intelligence

Hans Eysenck

  • Importance of genetics

  • Intelligence is inherited

  • Personality has a biological component

  • Hierarchy of personality traits

Roger Sperry

  • Split-brain surgery

  • Techniques for measuring the different functions of the hemispheres of the brain

  • Application: epilepsy

William James

  • Humans are motivated by a variety of biological instincts

  • Instincts are inherited tendencies

  • The father of American psychology

Masters & Johnson

  • Study of human sexuality

  • They used physiological recording devices to monitor bodily changes of volunteers engaging in sexual activity

  • Insights into sexual problems

Judith Rodin

  • Study on obesity

  • Genetic predispositions

David McClelland

  • Achievement and motivation

  • Characteristics of high-achieving people

Stanley Schachter

Elizabeth Loftus

  • Study of memory

  • Eyewitness testimony

  • Myth or repressed memories?

Gustav Fechner

  • Psychophysics: the study of the relationship between sensory experiences and the physical stimuli that cause them

  • Revolutionized the field of experimental psychology

David Hubel

  • Nobel Prize winner (transforming sensory information)

  • Implantation of electrodes into the cortex of a cat

Erik Kandel

  • Molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner

  • Learning results in the formation of new memories

Hermann Von Helmholtz

  • Color vision: color receptors in the retina transmit messages to the brain when visible lights of different wavelengths stimulate them

Paul Ekman

  • Emotions and how the human face expresses them

  • Human emotions are universal

The Psychodynamic Approach

The Psychodynamic/ Psychoanalytic Approach

  • Examines unconscious motives influenced by experiences in early childhood and how these motives govern personality and mental disorders

  • Free association and psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud

  • The “Father of psychoanalysis”

  • The second mind, unconscious

  • Repression, free association, dream analysis

  • Theory of personality

Carl Jung

  • Analytical psychology

  • Personal and collective unconscious

  • Archetypes

Alfred Adler

  • Individual psychology

  • Striving for perfection, compensation, and the inferiority complex

  • Ordinal position

Anna Freud

  • Founder of child psychoanalysis

  • Defense mechanisms

Erik Erikson

  • A neo-Freudian

  • A strong need for social approval

  • Psychosocial development and crises

The Humanistic Approach

The “Third Force” in Psychology

  • Rejected the views of both behaviorism and psychoanalytic thought

  • Free will and conscious choice

The Humanists Revolt

  • Humanists felt that both behaviorist and psychoanalytic perspectives were dehumanizing

  • Humanists believed that behaviorism and psychoanalysis ignored personal growth

  • An optimistic view of human potential

More Differences

  • Choices are not dictated by instincts, the biological process, or rewards and punishments

  • The world is a friendly, happy, secure place

Carl Rogers

  • In the 1940s, humanism began to receive attention because of Rogers

  • Human behavior is governed by each individual’s sense of self

  • The drive for personal growth

Application of the Humanistic Approach

  • Greatest contribution comes in the area of therapy

  • Client-centered therapy

Abraham Maslow

  • Hierarchy of needs, theory of motivation

  • Becoming fully self-actualized

  • Emphasis on uniqueness

Albert Ellis

  • Creator of rational-emotive therapy

  • Self-defeating thoughts cause depression and anxiety

  • “I must be loved by all” is an unrealistic notion

Criticisms of the Humanistic Approach

  • Not all people have the same needs or meet them in a hierarchical fashion

  • The humanistic approach is vague and unscientific

The Cognitive Approach

The Cognitive Perspective

  • Studies people’s mental processes in an effort to understand how humans gain knowledge about the world around them

  • Cognito = Latin for “knowledge”

  • How we learn, form concepts, solve problems, make decisions, use language

What Is Cognition?

  • An “unobservable” mental process

  • The study of consciousness, physiological determinants of behavior

  • 1950s-1960s: new understanding of children’s cognitive development

Advocates of the Cognitive Approach

  • The manipulation of mental images can influence how people behave

  • The focus is not on “overt” behavior

  • The cognitive method can be studied objectively and scientifically

Wilhelm Wundt

  • He used “introspection” as a research technique

  • He set up the first psychology laboratory

  • Voluntarism

Edward Titchener

  • Structuralism

  • The mind is structured by breaking down mental experiences into smaller components

Jean Piaget

  • Child psychologist

  • Educational reforms

  • Children are not “blank slates”

Noam Chomsky

  • Infants possess an innate capacity for language

  • Transformational grammar

Albert Bandura

  • Social Cognitive Theory: a form of learning in which the animal or person observes and imitates the behavior of others

  • Cognitive learning theory/expectancies

Lawrence Kohlberg

  • How children develop a sense of right and wrong

  • He borrowed from Piaget

  • Moral questions

Albert Ellis

  • RET/Changing unrealistic assumptions

  • People behave in rational ways

  • Role playing

Hans Eysenck

  • Trait theory and personality development

Aaron Beck

  • A cognitive therapist

  • Maladaptive thought patterns cause a distorted view of oneself that leads to problems

Stanley Schachter

  • “Misery loves company”

  • Anxiety and companionship

Howard Gardner

  • Multiple forms of intelligence

The Behavioral Approach

What Is Behaviorism?

  • Focuses on observable behavior and the role of learning in behavior

  • Behaviorism continues to influence modern psychology

  • The role of reward and punishment in learning

Applications of Behaviorism

  • Aggression

  • Drug abuse

  • Self-confidence issues

  • Overeating

  • Criminality

John Watson

  • The father of behaviorism

  • Psychology should become a science of behavior

  • Environment molds the behavior of us all

Ivan Pavlov

  • Nobel Prize winner

  • Psychic reflexes

  • Classical conditioning

B.F. Skinner

  • A strict behaviorist

  • Operant conditioning: rewards and punishments

Edward Thorndike

  • Studied animal thinking and reasoning abilities

  • The puzzle box, instrumental learning

  • Laid the groundwork for operant conditioning

The Sociocultural Approach

Why Has Psychology’s Focus Been So Narrow?

  • Cross-cultural research is costly, difficult, and time consuming

  • Psychology has traditionally focused on the individual, not the group

  • Cultural comparisons may foster stereotypes

Sociocultural Issues

  • Ethnicity

  • Gender issues

  • Lifestyles

  • Income

  • The influence of culture on behavior and the mental process

Stanley Milgram

  • Classical experiment on obedience to authority

Solomon Asch

  • 1950 conformity study showed that people tend to conform to other people’s ideas of truth even when they disagree with those ideas

Harry Harlow

  • Challenged drive-reduction theory

  • Surrogate mothers

  • Contact comfort

Albert Bandura

  • Social learning and modeling

  • Learning and aggression

Arthur Jensen

  • Cultural differences in IQ

  • Is IQ inherited?

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