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Outline the major theoretical perspectives in Psychology and evaluate two of these paradigms by Catherine Graham (word count:1585) Introduction Psychology is a diverse subject and can be divided into five significant theoretical perspectives. These are Biopsychology, Psychoanalysis, Cognitive Psychology, Humanism and Behaviourism. Looking at them in this order they can be arranged under the two headings of nature and nurture or somewhere in between. The following attempts to give an overview of these and then a more detailed appraisal of Psychoanalysis and Humanism.

Outline of major perspectives The original approach to psychology, Biopsychology has been around since early Greek times and is now a branch of neuroscience. Biopsychologists study the biological and physical aspects of the mind, believing that all behaviour and thought processes including emotion are a product of genetic, physiological, hormonal and neurochemical determined factors. They believe that abnormal behaviour is caused either by injury or by physical disorders.

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Preferred treatment for abnormal behaviour is drugs, electroconvulsive therapy (subjecting the brain to a weak electric current) and psychosurgery (surgical procedure carried out on the brain). In complete contrast to Biopsychology, the next perspective to emerge in the early 19th century was Behaviourism. From this viewpoint psychology should be the study of behaviour as it is objective and observable making it favourable as a science. Behaviourists believe that human behaviour is learned and so shaped by environmental and social factors.

This is known as stimulus response and the idea is to predict and therefore control behaviour. Failure to learn adaptively or to learn maladaptive responses is the cause of abnormal behaviour and treatment consists of desensitisation (successive exposure to anxiety provoking stimulus under relaxed conditions), aversion therapy (unpleasant or painful stimuli), flooding (highly anxiety provoking stimuli), behaviour shaping (unlearn and relearn), and token economy (rewarding).

By the beginning of the 20th century, Psychoanalysis was becoming widely discussed as a challenge to Behaviourism and a major alternative. The personality here is based on three parts, the id, the ego and the superego. The id (unconscious) is responsible for instinctual behaviour, the demands arising from within the biological body. The ego (conscious) ensures external reality is considered and is rational and logical, and the superego (subconscious) determines right from wrong and develops to internalise our personal set of moral values.

Normal behaviour is determined as a sufficient balance of the conflict between the id, ego, and superego. In addition to this, Psychosexual stages of development (the physical desire for sensuous pleasure) play a vital role in shaping the individual and exist from birth. Abnormal behaviour is a materialisation of early childhood conflicts and treatment is therapist defined by uncovering and working through them, to achieve balance.

Some of the different types of therapy are free association, where the subject is given a word and asked to reply with the first word that comes to mind, dream interpretation, and transference therapy that involves displacing of an emotion onto another person, usually the therapist. Humanism evolved from the 19th and early 20th century approach of existentialism. As the name suggests, it is specifically concerned with the human animal, the characteristics of the individual experience and their personal view of events. A major contributor to Humanism was Abraham Maslow, who developed the ‘hierarchy of needs’ concept.

He proposed that we are subject to two sets of motivational states or forces: (1) those that ensure survival by satisfying basic physical and psychological needs such as love, belonging, safety and esteem; and (2) those that promote our self-actualisation such as realising one’s full potential. “Becoming everything that one is capable of becoming. ” Maslow (p. 97, Gross) 1970. Current and past experiences are equally important to the development of self-concept and in particular self-esteem. The need for higher level individual growth can only be met once the mandatory lower levels of growth have been met.

Problems are defined as an inability to accept and express one’s true nature, to take responsibility for one’s own actions and to make authentic choices. Carl Rogers (1951) believed that our individual interpretation of external stimuli was responsible for our behaviour. No one else can know this interpretation and as such we are the best experts on ourselves. As a result of this he developed his client centred therapy where the therapist is reflective and non-judgemental and does not interpret or advise except to encourage or clarify.

By exploring present experiences with the client, the therapist helps them to rediscover their whole self and then proceed towards self-actualisation. During the mid 20th century, Cognitive Psychology emerged as psychologists began comparing the human mind to a computer, selecting, coding, storing and retrieving information when required. The correct function of these processes and ability to use, monitor and control them determines behaviour. Jean Piaget (1970) looked at the development stages of intelligence as a common predictable process within us all.

These four stages which all children pass through in the same sequence are Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete operational and Formal operational. How we each internalise these schemas or building blocks of behaviour depends on how we interpret the four cognitive stages. Problems occur when the individual believes unrealistic or irrational ideas about themselves and is unable to use the correct mental processes. Treatment forms rational-emotive therapy (confrontation and encounter and to think and act accordingly), Zen meditation (restful mind) and behaviour self-control.

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