Psychology's five major perspectives explained
Why do you feel the way you feel, think the way you think and behave the way you do? Here are 5 possible explanations.
- Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior, but did you know there are actually 5 different perspectives to psychology?
- The earliest study of human psychology can be traced back to 400-500 BC.
- The biological approach, the psychodynamic approach, the behavioral approach, the cognitive approach, and the humanistic approach offer valid yet opposing ideas on why humans behave the way we do.
Human beings are fascinating. Have you ever wondered why some people can remember certain dates really well and others can't? Or why you are a home-body while your best friend is usually the life of the party? What makes us think, feel, and behave the way we do?
According to Simply Psychology, psychology is "the scientific study of the mind and behavior." The art of studying the psychology of humans can be traced back to as early as 400-500 BC, while modern psychology is said to have started in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt opened the first psychology lab.
Wundt's laboratory would become a focus for those with a serious interest in psychology. First, opening its doors to German philosophers and psychology students, then for American and British students, as well. Wundt's aim was to record thoughts and sensations and to analyze them into their constituent elements in much the same way a chemist would analyze chemical compounds, in order to get to the underlying structure.
Psychology’s five major perspectives: Why are you the way you are?
There are five approaches to human psychology - which one do you trust most?
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The study of psychology has progressed greatly, thanks to Wundt and other pioneers. Over the years, psychologists began to study all aspects of human behavior from personality traits to brain functions. Eventually, the studies began to look at the same human behaviors from various angles including biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic perspectives. These became known as the "five major perspectives" in psychology.
The biological approach
The biological approach to psychology focuses on examining our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from a strictly biological point of view. In this approach, all thoughts, feelings, and behaviors would have a biological cause.
This approach is relevant to the study of psychology in three ways:
- Comparative method: different species of animals can be studied and then compared to each other. This helps us better understand human behavior.
- Physiology: the study of how the nervous system and hormones work, how the brain functions, how changes in the structure and/or function can affect our behavior. For example, how prescribed drugs to treat depression can affect our behavior through their interaction with the nervous system.
- Investigation of inheritance: the study of what we inherit from our parents (through genetics). For example, whether high intelligence is inherited from one generation to the next.
Each of these is inherently important to how we study human psychology from a biological point of view, and it's suggested that behavior can be largely explained through biology.
The psychodynamic approach
The psychodynamic approach to psychology is most well-known for its ties to Sigmund Freud and his followers. This approach includes all theories in psychology that see humans functioning based on the interaction of drives and forces within the person, particularly unconscious and between the different structures of the personality.
Freud developed a collection of theories (most of which were based on what his patients told him during therapy) that formed the basis of the psychodynamic approach.
The psychodynamic approach can be best described in basic assumptions that:
- Our behavior and feelings are powerfully affected by unconscious motives.
- Our behavior and feelings as adults are rooted in childhood experiences.
- All behavior has a cause, and that cause is usually an unconscious one.
- Personality is made of three parts (ID, ego, and super-ego).
The behavioral approach
The behavioral approach to psychology focuses on how one's environment and external stimuli impact a person's mental states and development. More importantly, it focuses on how these factors specifically "train" us for the behaviors we exhibit later on.
People who support this approach to psychology over others may believe that the concept of "free will" is an illusion because all behaviors are learned and based on our past experiences. In other words, that we've been conditioned to act the way we act so nothing is ever truly our own choice.
The cognitive approach
The cognitive approach to psychology shifts away from conditioned behavior and psychoanalytical notions to the study of how our mind works, how we process information, and how we use that processed information to drive our behaviors.
This approach focuses on:
- The meditational processes that occur between the stimulus and our response to the stimulus.
- Human beings are information processors and all learning is based on the relationships we form with various stimuli.
- Internal mental behavior can be scientifically studied using experiments that show us how we react to certain stimuli.
In other words, the cognitive approach focuses on how our brains react to the environment around us and how our cognitive brain has very specific ways of processing certain stimuli which can explain why we think, feel and behave in certain ways.
The humanistic approach
The humanistic approach to psychology was considered something of a rebellion against what psychologists saw as the limitations of the behaviorist and psychodynamic theories of psychology. It's the idea that we should approach psychological studies uniquely for each individual because we are all so vastly different.
This approach focuses on:
- The idea that we all have free will.
- The idea that people are all basically good and that we have an innate need to make ourselves and the world better.
- That we are motivated to self-actualize, grow, and thrive.
- That our experiences are what drive us.
This approach puts emphasis on the uniqueness of every person and every situation, suggesting that the other studies can never be fully accurate as there is such a wide range of thoughts, feelings, and human behaviors that can adapt and change as we do.
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The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- A 2020 Michigan State University study examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life.
- This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- There are several ways you can attempt to stay active and socially connected while battling depression, according to experts.
The study suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rated of depression later on in life.
Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/msu-tsn093020.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 Michigan State University study</a> examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life. The results of this study suggested teens who have a larger number of friends in adolescent years may be less likely to suffer from depression later in life. These findings were especially prominent in women.</p><p>This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. This data asks students to select up to 5 male and 5 female friends and indicate how often they felt depressive symptoms. </p><p>MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Molly Copeland and lead author Christina Kamis (Sociology doctoral candidate at Duke University) published the study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in September. </p><p><strong>Female teenagers may struggle more with depression during their teen years but show fewer depressive symptoms later in life.</strong> </p><p>For female adolescents, popularity can lead to increased depression during their teen years. However, this ultimately may lead to lasting benefits of fewer depressive symptoms later in life. "Adolescence (is) a sensitive period of early life when structural facets of social relationships can have lasting mental health consequences," Copeland wrote, adding that "compared to boys, girls face additional risks from how others view their social position in adolescence."</p><p>Throughout this study, men showed no association between popularity and depressive symptoms, however, they did show benefits from naming more friends. As for why this is, Copeland has a theory: perhaps the expectations on young girls (compared to young boys) as well as the roles that lead to popularity can create a kind of stress and strain felt more prominently by girls than boys. </p><p>While this does create more difficult teen years for young girls, the stress and strain may lead to giving these girls a psychological skillset that benefits them later in life, allowing them to deal with stressful situations more easily.</p><p>The study also suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rates of depression later on in life. </p><p><strong>Results from both men and women followed a U-shaped trajectory of depressive symptoms.</strong></p><p>The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s. This was particularly more noticeable in women, who showed a steeper decline in symptoms between the ages of 18-26, followed by a more rapid increase in symptoms in their early 30s. </p>
How to stay social while battling depression<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MjA3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMyNDY1N30.e1ULIJ5QYXh4H1SGUPUTJqYBCnX2XWp6InjPRr-2Bdw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C22%2C0%2C22&height=700" id="832fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b360bb24fb8d6025680bfffb52fd5982" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="depression support group illustration" />
Attending support groups, planning activities with family or even just a weekly phone call to a friend can help alleviate depression.
Credit: Mascha Tace/Shutterstock<p>Although maintaining relationships can help you cope, it can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you're experiencing depression.</p><p>As Dr. Jennifer L. Payne (an assistant professor/co-director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore) <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/staying-socially-active-with-depression/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tells Everyday Health</a>: "One of the common symptoms of depression is social isolation." </p><p>Payne goes on to explain that you can "soak up some energy" by simply being around other people, moving around, and staying active.</p><p><strong>Creating a daily schedule and planning activities ensures action. </strong></p><p>While it may be easy to turn down last-minute plans, it's more difficult to cancel plans you've already committed to with friends and family. While it's important not to overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule, creating a minimal daily schedule that involves seeing friends and family or doing activities that you've previously enjoyed can ensure you stay active and often makes you feel more accomplished at the end of each day. </p><p><strong>Support groups and social networking with people who understand. </strong></p><p>While depression can very easily make you feel isolated and alone, surrounding yourself with others who may be struggling with depression as well can help in multiple ways. You will have peer support from people who relate to how you're feeling plus the added benefit of being around people, which can raise your spirits. </p><p><strong>Keeping a journal (and setting goals) can help you feel accomplished. </strong></p><p>Keep a thought journal and detail certain daily or weekly goals (such as a plan to call a friend on Monday or to visit your local coffee shop for a change of scenery on Thursday). These small, achievable goals not only get you out of the house and/or interacting with others, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once they are complete. </p><p><strong>Random acts of kindness, such as volunteering, will make you feel good. </strong></p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/kindness-benefits-james-doty?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1596517476" target="_self">Being kind is good for your health</a> in many different ways. Doing something nice for others can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Similar to exercise, kindness, and altruism can also release endorphins, creating a <a href="https://www.quietrev.com/6-science-backed-ways-being-kind-is-good-for-your-health/#:~:text=Kindness%20releases%20feel%2Dgood%20hormones&text=Doing%20nice%20things%20for%20others,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Chelper's%20high.%E2%80%9D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temporary sense of euphoria</a> that can help combat depressive symptoms. </p>