evaluate the four major schools in psychology ( Psychoananalytic, Behaviourist, Biological and Cognitive).

Psychoananalytic, Behaviourist, Biological and Cognitive


Psychology is a branch of science that is concerned with the mind and behavior of human in relation to the phenomena and conditions surrounding the individual. It is often termed as the science of Mental Life (James, 2007, p.1). In trying to explain what affects the mind and behaviors of individuals, psychologists have developed different views that have translated into schools in psychology. Among the major schools in psychology are Psychoanalytic psychology, Behaviorist psychology, Biological psychology (biopsychology), and Cognitive psychology (Cherry, 2011). Each of these schools of thought has been developed differently and has distinct characteristics. They all have strengths and weaknesses. The schools are also used distinctively in explaining different aspects of human behavior. An evaluation of these different schools of thought is the major concern in this paper.

Psychoanalytic psychology

Psychoanalytic psychology is among the earliest schools of thought in psychology. This school of thought postulates that the behavior of man is influenced by his unconscious mind and is greatly attributed to the works of Sigmund Freud of the late 1800s and early 1900s (Holinger, 2009). Psychoanalysis attempts to understand the behaviors of individuals as well as what motivates them to behave so through engaging them in free-talk sessions about their personal experiences (Holinger, 2009). The approach was mainly concerned with the experiences of man while in the unconscious or subconscious state. It was thus considered the dream psychology. Freud postulated that the human mind consisted of the id (primal urges), the ego (personality component that deals with reality) and superego (the personality component dealing will all acquired ideals and values) (Cherry, 2011; Kaslev, 2004). He believed that a larger proportion of the human psych (90%) is unconscious (Kaslev, 2004). Other psychologists like Ann Freud, Carl Jung, and Erik Erikson also had similar thoughts. The distinct human behaviors were then considered the effects of interplay between these different elements.

Psychoanalysis is often coupled with psychotherapy and is mainly aimed at helping patients to recover from their current difficult situations back to the mainstream in life (Holinger, 2009).

Some significance can be attached to this psychological approach. Through the theory, Freud helped in shaping the modern world and contributed to further development in psychology and related fields (Freud & Tridon, 2008, p.11; Kaslev, 2004). -the theory’s focus on the influence of the Unconscious mind contributed to significant developments in the other areas like art and culture. It was then possible to focus on the unconscious/subconscious mind, the dream world, as well as irrational behaviors of individuals (Kaslev, 2004). Nonetheless, this school of though was only theoretical. Freud developed this view after a study of dream patterns in himself and in his patients (Freud and Tridon, 2008, p.8). Besides, in as much as psychoanalysis is used to help patients recover from their adverse psychological situations, a lot of more research is still underway on the effectiveness of this approach (Holinger, 2009).

Behavioral psychology (Behaviorism)

According to this school of thought, the environmental factors surrounding an individual were the main determinants of human behavior and not the internal forces. As such, behaviorism assumed that scientific researches could be conducted on human behavior without reference to the internal states (Sternberg et al, 2008, p.8; Lycos Retriever, 2011). The theory was developed in the 1950s and could be attributed to J. B Watson although other individuals like Ivan Pavlov, and B.F Skinner also had similar views (Cherry, 2011). In the theory, it is believed that the behaviors of individuals can be measured, trained, and changed as per the prevailing conditions.

The school of thought is characterized by learning theories like classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is attributed to Ivan Pavlov who discovered a class of unconditioned response to certain stimuli (AllPsych, 2003). An individual can then learn through this mechanism. Operant conditioning is derived from the nature of an individual’s response to what is present in a given environment (AllPsych, 2003). Through operant conditioning, it is believed that an individual can learn naturally through his actions.

Behavioral psychology was developed to transform psychology into natural science. It also encompassed other social sciences traversing through social psychology to the field of sociology (Lycos Retriever, 2011). Sociology applies the demographic aspects of an individual like age, gender, and ethnicity in attempting to explain their behaviors. The theory is among the fundamental principles of pharmacological therapy and plays a significant role in psychology treatment (Lycos Retriever, 2011).Besides, at the time of its development, the theory was compatible with other theories and principles like logical positivism that was backed by physics and other disciplines in that period (Lycos Retriever, 2011). Nevertheless, the school of thought is believed to have certain flaws. The critics of the theory pointed out that it failed to explain the influence that internal processes could have on the behavior of an individual (Cherry, 2011).

Biological psychology

Biological psychology is also referred to as biopsychology/ physiological psychology. This school of thoughts incorporates biological/physiological processes and principles into the study of human behavior (Kalat, 2008, p.2). As one of the fundamental views in psychology, biopsychology holds that the human behavior can be understood well if one examines how such behavior has evolved together with the influence of the brain and the central nervous system can influence such behaviors (Kalat, 2008, p.2). According to the theory, every belief, feeling, or thought expressed by an individual is attributed to some physical event that has occurred in the individual’s brain and such behaviors evolved and are passed on to other generations. Significant scientific developments have been registered since the 1500s in understanding the processes and functioning of the central nervous system (Freberg, 2009, p.5). The behavior is biologically defined and the evolution genes and hormones over a long period adapt the behavior of an individual to a given environment (McLeod, 2007). As such, ‘we think and act as we do because we have certain brain mechanisms, and we evolved those mechanisms because ancient animals with these mechanisms survived and reproduced better than animals with other mechanisms’ (Kalat, 2008, p.2). Thus, the main characteristics of the theory include evolution, adaptation, reductionism, and comparative psychology. It is often characterized by a comparative analysis of different population group over a long period to understand the different behaviors.

The theory has several strengths. It is considered scientific and is highly applicable in other scientific fields. As such, it has led to other fields like comparative psychology and evolutionary psychology (McLeod, 2007). It is also characterized by a lot of empirical research to back the theories and principles involved. Nonetheless, the theory also has certain shortfalls. The theory is too deterministic and does not consider cognitive processes as factors influencing behavior (McLeod, 2007). It has little or no room autonomy. Similarly, the theory is reductionist. Biopsychology developed as a reduction of the cognitive theory to neuroscience (De Jong, 2002, p.448). Reductionism is an idea that very complex systems can be broken down into, and explained by, very simple events (Holah.co.uk, 2011). The school of thought then fails to give the true picture of very complex physical systems as well as how such systems interact with the environment to influence the behavior of an individual (McLeod, 2007). However, this theory is weak in the sense that it

Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology is a school of psychology that studies the mental/cognitive processes like how people think, perceive, learn, and remember (Cherry, 2011; Holah.co.uk, 2011). Just like behaviorism, the theory was developed in 1950s partly due to the weaknesses pointed out on behavioral psychology. Cognitive psychology is mainly concerned with hypothetical constructs in that we are not able to see how or what another individual thinks but we can deduce this thinking through the individual’s action (Holah.co.uk, 2011). It has been largely characterized by scholarly work on information processing, language, memory, and perception (Cherry, 2011). Cognitive psychologists are often interested in the functioning of the brain in input, storage and output of information (Holah.co.uk, 2011). The development of modern technology has had significant influence on cognitive psychology. Right from the 1950s when the theory emerged and in the contemporary society, cognitive psychology compares the human functioning to the computer system and operations of similar machines (Sternberg et al, 2008, p.11; Goldstein, 2007, p.13) although humans are far much complex than computers.

This school of psychology has certain strengths. Firstly, it applies a scientific approach in studying human behavior through laboratory experiments. With such experiments, the researcher has a high-level control over the variables that is appropriate in the establishment of a cause and effect relationship (Holah.co.uk, 2011). Similarly, this view is currently referred to as cognitive science and is helpful in understanding the brain as an information processing system (Holah.co.uk, 2011). Besides, cognitive psychology has contributed greatly to the development of modern treatment practices such as language therapy. An understanding of cognitive processes is essential in helping patients improve their memory or languages. On the other hand, cognitive psychology relies so much on self-report measures and observations thereby undermining the validity of such information (Holah.co.uk, 2011). The cognitive approach also fails to recognize other social and emotional factors that may affect cognition.

Reference List

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