Major Theoretical Perspectives in Psychology
Emily FellinLuzerne County Community College
There are several psychological perspectives and theories, that are used to explain and predict a wide range of behaviors. Each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses, allowing each one to bring something different to the understanding of human behavior. Three concepts in the psychology field that have always intrigued me the most, are the psychodynamic perspective, behaviorist perspective, and the sociocultural perspective.
The first interesting perspective is the psychodynamic approach, linking back to Sigmund Fraud. This theory is based on the view that human behavior is motivated by the unconscious, inner forces that an individual has little realization or control over. A major theory based on the psychodynamic perspective that interests me the most, is that the unconscious mind consists of three components, the ‘id’, ‘ego’, and ‘superego’, that shape the personality.
The second perspective is the behaviorist viewpoint. Behavioral theories suggest that human behavior can be explained by the learning processes and shaped by the environment. This approach to psychology emerged with the work of John B. Watson, who focused on a more concentrating on observable and measurable behaviors, through modifying the environment in which people operate.
Lastly, is the sociocultural perspective emphasizing the social and cultural influences on one’s behavior. This perspective is associated to Lev Vygotsky, who claimed that human development progresses with the depending on peers and guardians, and their influence. Vygotsky is the theorist who developed the major theories, scaffolding and zone of proximal development, two common theories still used and referred to in the early childhood field.
I believe having multiple psychological perspectives on hand to refer to, are important because they allow topics in the psychology field to be viewed in a variety of ways, for example, violence. If one were to focus on the psychodynamic perspective pertaining to violence, they would view human aggression as an instinctive drive, related to the person and not the situation. Yet, if a professional were to stress a behavioral point of view, they would look at how environment variables reinforce such violent measures.
I have a habit of nail picking, looking at this behavior in a psychodynamic perspective, I wonder which anxiety promoted event, occurred in my childhood to cause this behavior. When it comes to training my dog, I am often reminded of the behaviorist theory, and reward my dog, to strengthen and repeat certain behaviors. From what I understand and through observations that I have made as a daycare teacher, I have concluded that the sociocultural perspective is a major part of a child’s learning process and development. Now, I find myself more aware that children, through their interactions, noises to actions, and older peers and adults, learn cognitively.
In the professional field, I believe that all perspectives and theories help when it comes to diagnostics, treatments, research, and learning. For example, the use of behavioral therapy would help identify behaviors or problems, with the intent to replace them with the incorporation of concepts, such as operant conditioning and classical conditioning. Contrarily, group therapy may help someone, based on the sociocultural perspective of treatment.
While there are many different perspectives in psychology to explain the wide variety of behaviors, they can be viewed from a different number of angles. None of the perspectives give way to more explanation than any of the others. Having a larger, much better understanding about humans and their behavior gives an understanding of others, and ourselves, that is much simpler.