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A psychological approach is a basic set of assumptions and beliefs about an organism, and a way of explaining how it operates/functions, with evidence to support this. Different psychologists have different ideas about what makes us, us and there are 5 major approaches in psychology. I have chosen to compare and contrast the Psychodynamic and Behavioural approaches. The Psychodynamic approach claims there are psychological forces [psycho] that drive us forward [dynamics].

It studies the interrelationship of the different parts of the mind, personality or psyche and how they relate to mental, motivational and emotional drives, particularly at a subconscious level. This approach believes most of our behaviour is determined by unconscious thoughts, desires and memories and tries to interpret our behaviour in relation to those innate emotional processes. The seed of Psychodynamics was sewn by Ernst von Brucke in 1874; adopted by Freud and later adapted by Jung, Adler and Erikson

One of the main focuses in psychodynamics was the link between the emotions and conflict in the id [which holds the raw animal drives; was inaccessible to conscious thought, selfish and demanded instant gratification] the ego [the logical part that controlled the drives of the id and allowed its desires to be expressed in a socially acceptable way] and the superego [where our ‘highest’ ideals and outside expectations were internalised; the source of our morals] Freud likened the structure of personality to an iceberg.

Only the tip [10%] the ego part, is in our conscious grasp. The other 90% lies under the surface in the preconscious and unconscious. He felt that these 3 constantly battled with one another, to maintain a balance and that the outcomes of these conflicts moulded our personality. He also believed our psyche resided in 3 levels of consciousness. The conscious, which held our thoughts that we were aware of. The pre-conscious that held unconscious thoughts which could become conscious and the unconscious which harboured wishes and desires that we were unaware of.

Freuds’ main theory was that the main motivating force behind human behaviour is an unconscious drive for sexuality and that we held two other forces. Eros [life force] the desire to live and procreate, and Thanatos [death force] the risk taking part of us. He believed there were 5 stages of psychosexual development from age 0-puberty, and that an over or under indulgence in any of these stages could cause a fixation in adult life and create a particular type of personality.

This is where many of his followers broke away from him, for example Carl Jung whose structure of personality was ego, persona and self, Alfred Adler who emphasised social factors and childhood experiences, and Erik Eriksson who also felt Freud put too much emphasis on sexuality and neglected social forces in development. Freud also firmly believed that childhood experiences moulded us into whom we became as adults and any bad experiences were saved in our unconscious where they either remain buried, r found a way into our conscious.

If they remained buried, it could affect our emotional wellbeing in the form of neurosis or psychosis. Psychoanalysis is the therapy that came out of Freuds’ theories. It states that all human behaviour is motivated by something, but these motivations were often unconscious. It was the therapy technique he used to cure patients with psychological problems, and supported his hypothesis with studies like little Hans [Oedipus conflict] and Anna O, whose conflict Freud resolved. He also provided other case histories of patients, attempting to explain their behaviour using psychoanalytic explanations.

Freud also used techniques like regression, hypnosis, dream analysis [as he believed dreams often had metaphorical meanings] and free association where patient spoke freely allowing him to look for clues of a patient’s disorder. He felt that parapraxes were also the workings of the unconscious. Behaviourist propose that behaviour can be studied and defined without looking too much into the mental state and that only studies of measurable behaviour should be seen as scientific, therefore the ‘thought’ part of the equation should be ignored.

Behaviourists focus on the influence of the environment and feels we are shaped by our interactions with it. Around the 1920’s John Watson was responsible for changing the study of psychology from that of conscious experience to the study of behaviour. He separated psychology from philosophy, steered it towards biology and rejected Freuds’ theories about unconscious as they could not be observed. Behaviourists did not reject the existence of consciousness and a mind but felt these concepts were impossible to study so couldn’t give a great deal towards a scientific approach in psychology.

They felt the human body was a machine and watched what went into it (stimulus) then measured what came out (response) Watson and his colleagues state that behaviour is moulded by experience and relied heavily on Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory. Pavlov initially discovered that dogs’ behaviour followed a pattern of stimulus and response. He then carried out experiments which developed a conditioned response to a stimulus that was paired with an original unconditioned stimulus.

He went on to find that other behaviours like discrimination, spontaneous recovery and extinction developed. This research also worked with humans. Behaviourists theorized that all human behaviour could be explained as a complex series of highly conditioned reflexes and as humans are related to other organisms through evolution, their behaviour could be understood by looking at animals and that general rules could apply to both. They felt that humans and animals were related physiologically and behaviourally.

Behaviourists see learning as a change in behaviour that is bought about by altering links between stimuli and response and that however complicated a behaviour, it was possible to break it down and analyse it in basic stimulus-response units (reductionism). Also, by observing external behaviour, a clear hypothesis could be tested and re-tested with experiments. Ivan Pavlov [Pavlov’s dogs] Edward Thorndike [cat in the puzzle box], John Watson and Clark Hull all studied learning in the form of conditioning.

Thorndike’s ‘Law of Effect’ focused on voluntary behaviour that increased or decreased depending on consequence [operant conditioning]. This is learning to repeat through reinforcement, meaning behaviour could be shaped. It was later researched by Skinner with the rats and pigeons and the Skinner box. He studied the stimuli that generate behavioural responses. No mental processes were considered. Behaviourists focus on 3 ways of learning. Classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning.

Social learning was demonstrated with Banduras ‘Bobo Doll’ – learning new behaviour through observation but not necessarily repeating it. Their focus on behaviour led them to see whether behaviour that was not desirable could be changed. Their input to therapy has been longer lasting than other areas of psychology and includes desensitisation [Wolpe] which reduces the link between stimulus and response, flooding, which involves exposing a client to the feared object, and aversion which deals with curing addictions

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