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Major Perspectives in Modern Psychology

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

psychology approaches essay

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

psychology approaches essay

Verywell / Emily Roberts

  • Psychodynamic Perspective
  • Behavioral Perspective
  • Cognitive Perspective
  • Biological Perspective
  • Cross-Cultural Perspective
  • Evolutionary Perspective
  • Humanistic Perspective

Psychological perspectives are different ways of thinking about and explaining human behavior. Psychologists utilize a variety of perspectives when studying how people think, feel, and behave.

Some researchers focus more on one specific school of thought, such as the biological perspective, while others take a more eclectic approach that incorporates multiple points of view.

No single perspective is "better" than another. Instead, each simply emphasizes different aspects of human behavior.

This article explores seven of the major perspectives in psychology, where these perspectives originated, and how they attempt to explain psychological issues. It also provides examples of key ideas from each psychological perspective.

Major Perspectives

The early years of psychology were dominated by a succession of these different schools of thought. If you have taken a psychology course, you might remember learning about structuralism, functionalism , psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanism—all of which are different schools of psychological thought.

As psychology has grown, the number and variety of topics psychologists investigate have also expanded. Since the early 1960s, the field of psychology has flourished. It continues to grow rapidly, as has the depth and breadth of subjects studied by psychologists.

Psychological Perspectives Today

Few psychologists identify their outlook according to a particular school of thought. While there are still some pure behaviorists or psychoanalysts, the majority of psychologists today categorize their work according to their specialty area and perspective.

Purpose of Psychological Perspectives

Why are there so many different perspectives in psychology? It is important to remember that every topic in psychology can be looked at in many ways. For example, let's consider the subject of aggression.

  • A professional who emphasizes a biological perspective would look at how the brain and nervous system impact aggressive behavior.
  • A professional who stresses a behavioral perspective would look at how environmental variables reinforce aggressive actions.
  • A professional who utilizes a cross-cultural approach might consider how cultural and social influences contribute to aggressive or violent behavior.

Here are seven of the major perspectives in modern psychology .

1. The Psychodynamic Perspective

The psychodynamic perspective originated with the work of Sigmund Freud . This view of psychology and human behavior emphasizes the role of the unconscious mind , early childhood experiences, and interpersonal relationships to explain human behavior, as well as to treat mental illnesses.

Much thanks to Freud's work and influence, psychoanalysis became one of the earliest major forces within psychology. Freud conceived of the mind as being composed of three key elements: the id, the ego, and the superego .

  • The id is the part of the psyche that includes all the primal and unconscious desires.
  • The ego is the aspect of the psyche that must deal with the demands of the real world.
  • The superego is the last part of the psyche to develop and is tasked with managing all of our internalized morals, standards, and ideals.

While the psychodynamic perspective is not as dominant today, it continues to be a useful psychotherapeutic tool.  

2. The Behavioral Perspective

Behavioral psychology focuses on learned behaviors. It was founded on the work of psychologists such as Edward Thorndike and John B. Watson.   Behaviorism dominated psychology in the early twentieth century but began to lose its hold during the 1950s.

Behaviorism differs from other perspectives because it focuses solely on observable behaviors rather than on emphasizing internal states.

Today, the behavioral perspective is still concerned with how behaviors are learned and reinforced. Behavioral principles are often applied in mental health settings, where therapists and counselors use these techniques to explain and treat a variety of illnesses.

3. The Cognitive Perspective

During the 1960s, a new perspective known as cognitive psychology emerged. This area of psychology focuses on mental processes like memory, thinking, problem-solving, language, and decision-making.  

Influenced by psychologists such as Jean Piaget and Albert Bandura , the cognitive perspective has grown tremendously in recent decades.

Cognitive psychologists often utilize an information-processing model (comparing the human mind to a computer) to conceptualize how information is acquired, processed, stored, and utilized.

4. The Biological Perspective

The study of physiology played a major role in the development of psychology as a separate science. Today, the perspective is known as biological psychology (also called biopsychology or physiological psychology). The point of view emphasizes the physical and biological bases of behavior.

Researchers with a biological perspective on psychology might look at how genetics influence behavior or how damage to specific areas of the brain affect personality.

The nervous system, genetics, the brain, the immune system, and the endocrine system are just a few subjects of interest to biological psychologists. Over the last few decades, the perspective has grown significantly with advances in our ability to explore and understand the human brain and nervous system.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans give researchers tools to observe the brain under a variety of conditions. Scientists can now look at the effects of brain damage, drugs, and disease in ways that were not possible in the past.

5. The Cross-Cultural Perspective

Cross-cultural psychology is a fairly new perspective that has grown significantly in the last twenty years. Psychologists and researchers in this school of thought look at human behavior across different cultures.

By looking at these differences, we can learn more about how culture influences our thinking and behavior.   For example, researchers have looked at how social behaviors differ in individualistic and collectivistic cultures .

  • In individualistic cultures (such as the United States) people tend to exert less effort when they are part of a group—a phenomenon known as social loafing .
  • In collectivistic cultures (such as China), people tend to work harder when they are part of a group.

6. The Evolutionary Perspective

Evolutionary psychology focuses on the study of how the theory of evolution can explain physiological processes.   Psychologists who take this perspective apply the basic principles of evolution (like natural selection) to psychological phenomena.

The evolutionary perspective suggests that these mental processes exist because they serve an evolutionary purpose—meaning that they aid in human survival and reproduction.​​​

7. The Humanistic Perspective

In the 1950s, a school of thought known as humanistic psychology arrived. It was greatly influenced by the work of prominent humanists such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow .

The humanistic perspective emphasizes the role of motivation in thought and behavior. Concepts such as self-actualization are essential. Psychologists with a humanist perspective focus on what drives humans to grow, change, and develop their personal potential.

Positive psychology (which focuses on helping people live happier, healthier lives) is a recent movement in psychology with roots in the humanist perspective.  

A Word From Verywell

There are many ways to think about human thought and behavior. The different perspectives in modern psychology give researchers and students tools to approach problems and answer questions. They also guide psychologists in finding new ways to explain and predict human behavior. This exploration and deeper understanding can even lead to the development of new treatment approaches.

Fonagy P. The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapies: An update .  World Psychiatry . 2015;14(2):137–150. doi:10.1002/wps.20235

Malone JC. Did John B. Watson really "found" behaviorism? .  Behav Anal . 2014;37(1):1–12. doi:10.1007/s40614-014-0004-3

Glenberg AM, Witt JK, Metcalfe, J. From the revolution to embodiment: 25 years of cognitive psychology . Perspectives on Psychological Science . 2013;8(5):573-585. doi:10.1177/1745691613498098

American Psychological Association. Biological psychology . 

Lonner WJ. Half a century of cross-cultural psychology: a grateful coda . Am Psychol . 2015;70(8):804-14. doi: 10.1037/a0039454

Cosmides L, Tooby, J. Evolutionary psychology: a new perspective on cognition and motivation . Annu Rev Psychol . 2013;64:201-229. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131628

Waterman AS. The humanistic psychology-positive psychology divide: contrasts in philosophical foundations . Am Psychol . 2013;68(3):124-33. doi:10.1037/a0032168

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

How to Write a Psychology Essay

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

Before you write your essay, it’s important to analyse the task and understand exactly what the essay question is asking. Your lecturer may give you some advice – pay attention to this as it will help you plan your answer.

Next conduct preliminary reading based on your lecture notes. At this stage, it’s not crucial to have a robust understanding of key theories or studies, but you should at least have a general “gist” of the literature.

After reading, plan a response to the task. This plan could be in the form of a mind map, a summary table, or by writing a core statement (which encompasses the entire argument of your essay in just a few sentences).

After writing your plan, conduct supplementary reading, refine your plan, and make it more detailed.

It is tempting to skip these preliminary steps and write the first draft while reading at the same time. However, reading and planning will make the essay writing process easier, quicker, and ensure a higher quality essay is produced.

Components of a Good Essay

Now, let us look at what constitutes a good essay in psychology. There are a number of important features.
  • Global Structure – structure the material to allow for a logical sequence of ideas. Each paragraph / statement should follow sensibly from its predecessor. The essay should “flow”. The introduction, main body and conclusion should all be linked.
  • Each paragraph should comprise a main theme, which is illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence).
  • Knowledge and Understanding – recognize, recall, and show understanding of a range of scientific material that accurately reflects the main theoretical perspectives.
  • Critical Evaluation – arguments should be supported by appropriate evidence and/or theory from the literature. Evidence of independent thinking, insight, and evaluation of the evidence.
  • Quality of Written Communication – writing clearly and succinctly with appropriate use of paragraphs, spelling, and grammar. All sources are referenced accurately and in line with APA guidelines.

In the main body of the essay, every paragraph should demonstrate both knowledge and critical evaluation.

There should also be an appropriate balance between these two essay components. Try to aim for about a 60/40 split if possible.

Most students make the mistake of writing too much knowledge and not enough evaluation (which is the difficult bit).

It is best to structure your essay according to key themes. Themes are illustrated and developed through a number of points (supported by evidence).

Choose relevant points only, ones that most reveal the theme or help to make a convincing and interesting argument.

essay structure example

Knowledge and Understanding

Remember that an essay is simply a discussion / argument on paper. Don’t make the mistake of writing all the information you know regarding a particular topic.

You need to be concise, and clearly articulate your argument. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.

Each paragraph should have a purpose / theme, and make a number of points – which need to be support by high quality evidence. Be clear why each point is is relevant to the argument. It would be useful at the beginning of each paragraph if you explicitly outlined the theme being discussed (.e.g. cognitive development, social development etc.).

Try not to overuse quotations in your essays. It is more appropriate to use original content to demonstrate your understanding.

Psychology is a science so you must support your ideas with evidence (not your own personal opinion). If you are discussing a theory or research study make sure you cite the source of the information.

Note this is not the author of a textbook you have read – but the original source / author(s) of the theory or research study.

For example:

Bowlby (1951) claimed that mothering is almost useless if delayed until after two and a half to three years and, for most children, if delayed till after 12 months, i.e. there is a critical period.
Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fullfil the next one, and so on.

As a general rule, make sure there is at least one citation (i.e. name of psychologist and date of publication) in each paragraph.

Remember to answer the essay question. Underline the keywords in the essay title. Don’t make the mistake of simply writing everything you know of a particular topic, be selective. Each paragraph in your essay should contribute to answering the essay question.

Critical Evaluation

In simple terms, this means outlining the strengths and limitations of a theory or research study.

There are many ways you can critically evaluate:

Methodological evaluation of research

Is the study valid / reliable ? Is the sample biased, or can we generalize the findings to other populations? What are the strengths and limitations of the method used and data obtained?

Be careful to ensure that any methodological criticisms are justified and not trite.

Rather than hunting for weaknesses in every study; only highlight limitations that make you doubt the conclusions that the authors have drawn – e.g., where an alternative explanation might be equally likely because something hasn’t been adequately controlled.

Compare or contrast different theories

Outline how the theories are similar and how they differ. This could be two (or more) theories of personality / memory / child development etc. Also try to communicate the value of the theory / study.

Debates or perspectives

Refer to debates such as nature or nurture, reductionism vs. holism, or the perspectives in psychology . For example, would they agree or disagree with a theory or the findings of the study?

What are the ethical issues of the research?

Does a study involve ethical issues such as deception, privacy, psychological or physical harm?

Gender bias

If research is biased towards men or women it does not provide a clear view of the behavior that has been studied. A dominantly male perspective is known as an androcentric bias.

Cultural bias

Is the theory / study ethnocentric? Psychology is predominantly a white, Euro-American enterprise. In some texts, over 90% of studies have US participants, who are predominantly white and middle class.

Does the theory or study being discussed judge other cultures by Western standards?

Animal Research

This raises the issue of whether it’s morally and/or scientifically right to use animals. The main criterion is that benefits must outweigh costs. But benefits are almost always to humans and costs to animals.

Animal research also raises the issue of extrapolation. Can we generalize from studies on animals to humans as their anatomy & physiology is different from humans?

The PEC System

It is very important to elaborate on your evaluation. Don’t just write a shopping list of brief (one or two sentence) evaluation points.

Instead, make sure you expand on your points, remember, quality of evaluation is most important than quantity.

When you are writing an evaluation paragraph, use the PEC system.

  • Make your P oint.
  • E xplain how and why the point is relevant.
  • Discuss the C onsequences / implications of the theory or study. Are they positive or negative?

For Example

  • Point: It is argued that psychoanalytic therapy is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority.
  • Explain: Because psychoanalytic therapy involves talking and gaining insight, and is costly and time-consuming, it is argued that it is only of benefit to an articulate, intelligent, affluent minority. Evidence suggests psychoanalytic therapy works best if the client is motivated and has a positive attitude.
  • Consequences: A depressed client’s apathy, flat emotional state, and lack of motivation limit the appropriateness of psychoanalytic therapy for depression.

Furthermore, the levels of dependency of depressed clients mean that transference is more likely to develop.

Using Research Studies in your Essays

Research studies can either be knowledge or evaluation.
  • If you refer to the procedures and findings of a study, this shows knowledge and understanding.
  • If you comment on what the studies shows, and what it supports and challenges about the theory in question, this shows evaluation.

Writing an Introduction

It is often best to write your introduction when you have finished the main body of the essay, so that you have a good understanding of the topic area.

If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your introduction.

Ideally, the introduction should;

Identify the subject of the essay and define the key terms. Highlight the major issues which “lie behind” the question. Let the reader know how you will focus your essay by identifying the main themes to be discussed. “Signpost” the essay’s key argument, (and, if possible, how this argument is structured).

Introductions are very important as first impressions count and they can create a h alo effect in the mind of the lecturer grading your essay. If you start off well then you are more likely to be forgiven for the odd mistake later one.

Writing a Conclusion

So many students either forget to write a conclusion or fail to give it the attention it deserves.

If there is a word count for your essay try to devote 10% of this to your conclusion.

Ideally the conclusion should summarize the key themes / arguments of your essay. State the take home message – don’t sit on the fence, instead weigh up the evidence presented in the essay and make a decision which side of the argument has more support.

Also, you might like to suggest what future research may need to be conducted and why (read the discussion section of journal articles for this).

Don”t include new information / arguments (only information discussed in the main body of the essay).

If you are unsure of what to write read the essay question and answer it in one paragraph.

Points that unite or embrace several themes can be used to great effect as part of your conclusion.

The Importance of Flow

Obviously, what you write is important, but how you communicate your ideas / arguments has a significant influence on your overall grade. Most students may have similar information / content in their essays, but the better students communicate this information concisely and articulately.

When you have finished the first draft of your essay you must check if it “flows”. This is an important feature of quality of communication (along with spelling and grammar).

This means that the paragraphs follow a logical order (like the chapters in a novel). Have a global structure with themes arranged in a way that allows for a logical sequence of ideas. You might want to rearrange (cut and paste) paragraphs to a different position in your essay if they don”t appear to fit in with the essay structure.

To improve the flow of your essay make sure the last sentence of one paragraph links to first sentence of the next paragraph. This will help the essay flow and make it easier to read.

Finally, only repeat citations when it is unclear which study / theory you are discussing. Repeating citations unnecessarily disrupts the flow of an essay.


The reference section is the list of all the sources cited in the essay (in alphabetical order). It is not a bibliography (a list of the books you used).

In simple terms every time you cite/refer to a name (and date) of a psychologist you need to reference the original source of the information.

If you have been using textbooks this is easy as the references are usually at the back of the book and you can just copy them down. If you have been using websites, then you may have a problem as they might not provide a reference section for you to copy.

References need to be set out APA style :

Author, A. A. (year). Title of work . Location: Publisher.

Journal Articles

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (year). Article title. Journal Title, volume number (issue number), page numbers

A simple way to write your reference section is use Google scholar . Just type the name and date of the psychologist in the search box and click on the “cite” link.


Next, copy and paste the APA reference into the reference section of your essay.

apa reference

Once again, remember that references need to be in alphabetical order according to surname.

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Cognitive Approach Comparison Essay: Example Answer Video (16 Marks)

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In this video, we look at how to write a model answer to the following question: Outline the key features of the cognitive approach in psychology. Compare the cognitive approach with the psychodynamic approach. [16 marks]

  • Approaches in Psychology
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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Perspective — The Seven Perspectives Of Psychology


The Seven Perspectives of Psychology

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Essay On The Five Psychological Approaches

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Life , Learning , Psychology , Computers , Education , Environment , Environmental Issues , Brain

Words: 2250

Published: 11/15/2019



Over the years, psychology has become an important science, alongside more traditional sciences such as chemistry and physics. According to the American Psychological Association (2011), psychology is: “the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental health care services, "the understanding of behavior" is the enterprise of psychologists” (Support Centre, 2011).

There are various approaches to psychology, namely behavioural, cognitive, humanist, psychoanalytic and biological. The approaches vary widely, and have varied in popularity at different points in history.

Behavioural Approach

Behaviourists see all behaviours as responses to stimuli. They hold the view that what people do is determined by the environment in which they are based. According to behaviourists, the environment provides a stimulus to the person, and therefore such stimuli teach the person who to respond to future stimuli as they progress through their lives (Sammons, 2011a). Behaviourists are different to all other types of psychologists in that they argue that speculation regarding internal mental processes is unrequired in order to explain behaviour. Instead, they contest, it is sufficient to simply know which stimuli cause which responses. Behaviourists also contend that humans are born with just a select few innate reflexes, and that all complex behaviours have to be learned through gradual contact with their environment. Interestingly, they also argue that humans learn in an identical manner as other animals, as learning processes are the same across all species (Sammons, 2011a). The fundamental strengths of the behaviourist approach stem from the methods of study it employs. Research carried out by behaviourists is usually reliable, as they are diligent about objectivity, variable controls and accurate measurements. Moreover, it was the behaviourists that introduced the scientific method of study into the science of psychology. Nevertheless, the downside of these precise methods is that it can cause behaviour to be studied under artificial conditions which differ widely to normal everyday life. Furthermore, behaviourists tend to use animals as their research subjects. This is a point of conflict for many critiques as there are genetic influences on the learning of different animal species, based on their histories within evolution. For example, rats can be conditioned to react to tastes, but they cannot be conditioned to react to smells (Sammons, 2011a). This type of discrepancy means that cross-species generalisations should be made carefully, a fact which many behaviourists do not consider important. A larger criticism of behaviourism is that it fails to take into account the influence that mental processes have on learning. According to behaviourism, people only learn as a direct result of their experiences. Conversely, however, much research by other types of psychologists supports the notion that people can learn from observing the behaviour of others. Despite the criticisms, behaviourism has offered practical solutions to many problems regarding humans. Operant conditioning, for example, has been shown as a productive method of revising the behaviour of people who find it difficult to learn in more traditional ways. Furthermore, many individuals with phobias have been significantly helped by behaviour therapies such as systematic desensitization (Sammons, 2011a).

Cognitive Approach

Cognitive psychologists uphold the view that behaviour results from information processing (Sammons, 2011b). By using this term, cognitive psychologists are comparing human minds with computers. This is actually sensible as there are marked similarities between minds and computers. For example, as Alden Sammons (2011b) points out in The Cognitive Approach: The Basics, “both have inputs, outputs, memory stores and a limited capacity for how much information they can process at any one time” (Sammons, 2011b). The behaviour of a computer is decided by how it has been programmed and what information has been fed into it. Likewise, according to cognitive psychologists, the behaviour of a person is decided by the information that has been available to them within their environment, the methods with which they have learned to process the information, and the type of brain the person has and, therefore, their capacity for taking in the information. A strength of the cognitive approach is the use of scientific methods of study, somewhat like the behaviourist approach. However, also similarly to the behaviourists, some other psychologists view the experimental research as too unrealistic and not like normal everyday situations. The cognitive approach tackles some behaviourist shortfalls by providing an explanation, and giving credit to, the internal processes that influence people’s behaviour; this has been achieved largely through the computer metaphor. However, a criticism of the approach is that the dependence and use of the computer metaphor has caused cognitive psychologists to ignore the effect of emotions on human thinking and behaviour. It is also arguable that the information processing concepts that cognitive psychologists use fail to take into account the vast differences between humans in how they behave and think. Furthermore, the cognitive approach seems to neglect scientific facts about brain function and genetic influence on behaviour. Nevertheless, the cognitive approach has contributed positively to the development of treating psychological disorders. Cognitive therapies are some of the most successful methods of treating illnesses such as depression (Sammons, 2011b).

Humanistic Approach

The Humanistic Approach stresses the study of the person as a whole. Humanistic psychologists study the behaviour of humans by looking through the eyes of the observer and by looking through the eyes of the subject as well. Humanistic psychologists view a person’s behaviour as being inextricably linked to his internal feelings and his image of self (Humanism, 2011). Humanistic psychologists assume that phenomenology is key and that humans unequivocally possess free will. The humanistic term for the use of free will is Personal Agency (Humanism, 2011). Humanists also believe that people are fundamentally good, and that they have an inbuilt desire to improve themselves and the world. Both Rogers and Maslow viewed personal growth and improvement as a motive that is basic and innate to humans. A useful term in Humanism is self-actualisation, which, according to the Simple Psychology (2011) website, refers to “psychological growth, fulfilment and satisfaction in life” (Humanism, 2011). Unlike the behaviourist and cognitive approaches, Humanism discards scientific methodology such as experiments. Instead, humanistic psychologists tend to use qualitative research methods. Examples of such methods are open-ended questionnaires, unstructured observations and unstructured interviews. Qualitative research is especially useful when studying one individual and to gain complex information about how a person thinks or feels. The Simple Psychology (2011) website states that unlike behaviourists, humanists see humans as profoundly different from other species of the animal kingdom, primarily for the reason that humans are conscious and are “capable of thought, reason and language” (Humanism, 2011). Humanistic psychologists believe that research involving animals is practically useless in learning about humans. Furthermore, Humanistic psychologists do not use scientific approaches in their research as they consider it inadequate in studying the depth of conscious experience. Critics of the humanist approach disapprove of the seeming absence of objectivity and precision in their methods. As Alden Sammons (2011c) states in the Approaches to Psychology website, some psychologists view the humanistic methods as “unscientific, vague and open to bias and their attempt to ‘get inside’ other people’s way of perceiving the world as misguided and quite possibly pointless” (Sammons, 2011c). Other critics disagree with the positive light with which humanists view human nature. The humanist approach claims that people are inherently good, but they do not explain the evil that appears to exist in the world, and the unacceptable things that people do to each other.

Psychoanalytic Approach

Sigmund Freud was the creator of psychoanalysis and the psychodynamic psychological approach. This perspective stressed the impact of the unconscious mind on a person’s behaviour. Freud claimed that the human mind was made up of three basic elements; these were the Id, the Ego and the Superego (Psychoanalytic, 2011). According to About Psychology (2011), The ID referred to the part of a personality which is comprised of “unconscious psychic energy that works to satisfy basic urges, needs and desires” (Psychoanalytic, 2011). Freud described the Ego as the part of the personality that controls and maintains a balance between the Id and the Superego. The Superego is the part that is made up of a person’s internalized ideals that have been learned from other people and from the environment. A large number of Freud's observations and theories stemmed from clinical cases and case studies (Psychoanalytic, 2011). While these methods provided him with a depth of information, they also meant that generalising any findings to a larger number of people was problematic. Some critics believe that Freud’s theory, due to its nature, was impossible to prove wrong and was therefore considered unscientific. Furthermore, some psychologists argued that Freud’s methods were unscientific because his theory was based on studying atypical participants, by using case study methods he was not allowing his results to be objective and therefore, could be biased. Nevertheless, Freud’s theories dramatically altered how we perceive the human mind and behaviour, and the scientist was responsible for changing psychology and culture forever. Specifically, psychoanalysis has had a huge influence on a vast array of topics.

Biological Approach

Biological approach psychologists believe that human behaviour and experiences are direct results of nervous system activity. Therefore, Sammons (2011d) says that according to this approach, the things that a person feels, says and does are all caused by “electrochemical events occurring within and between the neurones that make up their nervous system, particular those in the brain” (Sammons, 2011d). A large number of biopsychologists agree that as a person’s genes determines the development of their brain, that person’s behaviour may have genetic influences. Also, due to an individual’s genes having been inherited as a result of evolution, many biopsychologists consider that evolution may contain answers and explanations for certain characteristics, both behavioural and psychological (Sammons, 2011d). There are various ways in which to study the involvement of biological processes in behaviour but, as Sammons (2011d) states in Approaches to Psychology, researchers tend to prefer methods which are “quantitative, objective and well controlled because these are most likely to produce valid scientific evidence” (Sammons, 2011d). Many different types of brain scanning technology can be useful in studying the structure and functions of a person’s brain. Examples of such technology are PET and MRI. Additionally, the nervous system can be looked at by surgically manipulating a person’s brain. Such research may be carried out on animals, as biopsychologists consider the human nervous system as similar to other mammals. The biological approach uses methods which are reliable, valid and scientific. Sammons (2011d) asserts that this credibility is further boosted by the approach’s emphasis on “objectively observable phenomena rather than subjective experiences” (Sammons, 2011d). Most psychologists perceive this as a strength, but some suggest that biopsychologists fail to take into account a person’s experiences, and how this affects their thoughts and behaviour. Another criticism of the biological approach is its tendency to use animals as study participants in order to draw conclusions about human behaviour. As each animal species’ nervous system reflects its evolutionary history, it can be dangerous to generalise across species. A significant objection to the biological approach is that is concentrates on genetic and biological impacts on human behaviour, while seeming to ignore social and cultural influences.

Despite the criticisms, the biological approach has positively contributed to

our perception of behavioural processes. Furthermore, it has contributed to many other fields such as surgery and medicine. Biological psychologists have offered credible explanations for various psychological disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, and many drug therapies for such illnesses have changed many people’s lives for the better.

Although very different from one another, all five approaches have offered important insights and developments to both the science of psychology and to society. When studying the approaches it is important to keep perspective of the wider context surrounding them.

Humanism. (2011). Simple Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/humanistic.html Psychoanalytic Approach to Psychology. (2011). About Psychology. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/psychodynamic.htm Sammons, A. (2011a) The Behaviourist Approach: The Basics. Approaches to Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.psychlotron.org.uk/newResources/approaches/AS_AQB_approaches_Beh aviourismBasics.pdf Sammons, A. (2011b). The Cognitive Approach: The Basics. Approaches to Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.psychlotron.org.uk/newResources/approaches/AS_AQB_approaches_Cog nitiveBasics.pdf Sammons, A. (2011c). Humanistic Approach: The Basics.” Approaches to Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.psychlotron.org.uk/newResources/approaches/AS_AQB_approaches_Hu manisticBasics.pdf Sammons, A. (2011d). Biological Approach: The Basics. Approaches to Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.psychlotron.org.uk/newResources/approaches/AS_AQB_approaches_Bio psychologyBasics.pdf Support Centre.(2001). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/support/about/apa/psychology.aspx#answer


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Essay Samples on Psychology

The majority of college students who have to deal with essays about Psychology are not necessarily future specialists in Psychology or Healthcare. Just think about modern business studies or marketing where leadership qualities must be studied. The same relates to Criminology or Forensic Research assignments where the use of psychology becomes essential. It provides modern learners with a plethora of ideas that can be explored. If you are stuck and need inspiration, focus on the free psychology essay examples that we provide for you. The list of subjects that are presented ranges from the theorists to case study samples to help you understand the difference between various essay types. Remember that your introduction part will always depend on your target audience and the level of knowledge they have. It means that you should provide statistical data or study reports only to an extent that will be sufficient for your methodology or academic objectives. See how it has been done in the free samples that we offer by reading actual writing. These are only provided as templates that you should use for inspirational and educational purposes. As you compose your own Psychology essay, keep things unique and always provide relevant references.

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Differences Between Psychological Approaches Essay

A perspective is an approach that bears particular assumptions or beliefs about the nature of the human behaviour. Each psychological perspective has its weaknesses and strengths as well as each psychological perspective having a different point of view on the understanding of human and animal behaviour. The knowledge and understanding of the psychological perspectives can contribute to the assessment and identification of the behaviour as well as the choice of intervention. However, one perspective cannot apply to every individual due to the fact that it can be relevant in one situation and irrelevant in another. Thus, a choice of the psychological approach will be determined by the context in which the behaviour occurs.

The psychodynamic perspective is the approach that is based on Freud’s works about human behaviour being determined by a feeling of subconsciousness. This psychological approach states that the visible issues that occur in children are caused by inner conflicts. Such problems may easily appear from early traumatic experiences in the past as well as badly-resolved relationships. Because of the lack of the inner resources, the majority of children cannot safely deal with trauma, thus, the dealing method is linked to improper behaviour ( Behavioural, emotional and social development unit 11. Psychological perspectives on behaviour 2012, p. 2).

Psychologists Watson, Thorndike, and Skinner greatly influenced the development of the behaviourist psychological perspective. The most relevant principle of the perspective is that the negative behaviour is suppressed while the positive is strengthened. According to the perspective, human behaviour is being learned by an individual, thus, it can be modified by the use of the punishment-reward system. The perspective emphasises the role of the environmental stimuli in determining the way individual acts. Generally speaking, it refers to learning – different changes that occur as a result of experiences. The choice of focus is the factor that makes the behaviourist perspectives unique from others (Glassman & Hadad 2013, p. 110).

According to the cognitive perspective, the cognitive processes that refer to understanding and reasoning have the most effect on the behaviour of an individual.

The cognitive perspective puts forward an idea that the cognitive processes of reasoning, interpretation or understanding are the events that have the most influence on the individual’s behaviour. In addition, the approach sets a goal to answer of the question of why the same factor affects various responses in various individuals. There is no relation to the processes of unconsciousness; thus, the cognitive perspective is very different from the psychodynamic one. Rather, the cognitive perspective is linked to the consciousness and thinking or reasoning about a particular situation. The difference from the behavioural approach lies in the fact that the cognitive approach is connected to the unmeasurable events that cannot be observed.

The humanist perspective is developed from the works of Maslow and Rogers. The idea of the perspective is about an idea of the behaviour being a centre of an individual, that is the consciousness of the identity. Theorists held a view that an individual could fulfil the potential with the help of the positive self-regard (positive view of themselves). However, this is only possible when an individual has an unconditional positive regard of other people if an individual feels respect and value from those people that surround them. Another aspect of the humanist perspective refers to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the hierarchy, the more basic human needs lay a foundation for the higher needs.

For example, an individual has to have his or her achievement recognised; however, it will be impossible if an individual is hungry. Maslow’s theory concluded that those people that were able to satisfy their needs can become self-actualisers. On the other hand, it was thought that the long periods when a certain need was not satisfied by an individual could lead to a fixation. For instance, a person who grew up in poverty and starvation may be surrounded by anxiety about the lack of food even if they could afford it and escape poverty (Sammons n.d., p. 1).

The idea of an ecosystem greatly influenced the ecosystemic psychological perspective. In such a system, every minor change will affect the system. The approach is characterised by the assumptions that the negative behaviour in individuals is affected by the social interactions. Moreover, negative behaviour is considered a link in a reaction chain between the individuals. For instance, the ecosystemic approach can be applied in the interaction between teachers, students, and the families of the students. The changes in the negative behaviour are only possible with the focus on each individual separately.

Explanations of Intellectual and Moral Development

Intellectual development is a progression that starts with ignorance or uncertainty to the intelligent confusion. For example, a majority of students entering college are tightly connected with the ignorant uncertainty. The system of beliefs that students have is greatly influenced by the system of beliefs of others. To support the validity of the belief system, students rarely applied any reasoning or critical thinking. The previous beliefs are being challenged by the life experiences, the opinions of other people, classmates, teachers. Thus, unless an individual closes to any life-changing experiences or challenges, the naïve belief system begins to change and develop in accordance to the new acquired knowledge.

In order for students to attain intellectual maturity, it is important for them to function effectively as professionals and recognise their progression from the ignorant certainty to the intelligent confusion. According to Perry’s model of intellectual development, an individual starts developing from the blind acceptance of authority to a stage-by-stage acceptance of multiplicity of the views and then to the awareness of the necessity for commitment to the uncertainty, and lastly, undertaking the commitments and recognizing the implications (Felder 2004, p. 270).

Perry’s model was challenged by the fact that his studies only accounted the male population and disregarded the female patterns of development. In Women’s Ways of Knowing, Belecky, Clinchy, Goldberger and Tarule (1997, p. 10) conducted a research in which they interviewed women about their life-changing experiences. As a result of the research, the foundings divided into five different perspectives that had similarities in the Perry’s model of development. On the other hand, the perspectives differed in the way the authors of the research underlined the gender differences in the development of an individual.

The levels of the Belencky model included silence, received knowing, subjective knowing, procedural knowing, and constructed knowledge. Moral development of an individual is connected with the formation of the value system that is based on the decisions about what is right or wrong, good or bad. The value system is made up of standards and assumptions that lead the process of the moral decision-making. There are several approaches that study the moral development of an individual; they are characterised in different ways.

The social learning approach is linked to the idea that each individual develops morality by studying the external rules that showcase the acceptable norms of the human behaviour. Thus, the social learning approach is linked to the behaviourist perspective. The approach puts forward an idea that the demands of the society and the instincts that exist within an individual are the pillars for the development of morality. The personality perspective towards the morality development offers a holistic approach while the cognitive development theories have suggested that the moral development is based on conditioning.

There is a certain difference in the approaches that study the moral development of an individual that can be formulated in a question: where an individual starts a journey of the moral development and where the journey ends. The debated topic of the modern Western society is the definition what is moral and what is immoral. With the rise of technological advanced and the scientific progress determining the moral frameworks of certain actions can become a complicated task. As an example, let’s examine the pre-natal testing. If there are any defects of the uterus found in the result of testing, the moral choice an individual to give birth to a child can become quite difficult.

To sum up, the study of the individual’s moral development is still relevant to the psychological circles. The significant rise in substance abuse, suicides, and teenage pregnancies are causing an increase of concern about the moral development of people, especially children. Parents or caretakers want to know how to properly raise their children so that they grow up moral individuals. With this issue, many turn with this question to developmental theorists. On the one hand, the guidelines for morally raising children provided by the theorists are sometimes hard to follow, thus, not every parent, caretaker or a teacher is able to devote a lot of time, resources, and efforts to strictly raise moral individuals. On the other hand, if children are being encouraged since birth, given a possibility and opportunity to develop and practice moral behaviour, most likely they will be able to form a moral behaviour that will guide them through life (Daeg de Mott n.d., p. 5).

Reference List

Behavioural, emotional and social development unit 11. Psychological perspectives on behaviour 2012. Web.

Belenky, M, Clinchy, B, Goldberger, N & Tarule, J 1997 , Women’s ways of knowing: the development of self, voice, and mind, Basic Books, New York.

Daeg de Mott, D n.d., Moral development, Web.

Felder, R 2004, ‘The intellectual development of science and engineering students part 1. Models and challenges’, Journal of Engineering Education , vol. 93, no. 4, pp. 269-277.

Glassman, W & Hadad, M 2013, Approaches to psychology , McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Berkshire.

Sammons, A n.d. The Humanistic approach: the basics . Web.

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