Comparing Psychological Perspectives

Comparing Psychological Perspectives
Coming up next: Major Subfields of Psychology

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  • 0:00 Multiple Perspectives
  • 0:50 Psychodynamic Theory
  • 1:40 Behaviorism & Cognitivism
  • 2:30 Biological Psychology
  • 3:15 Sociocultural
  • 4:00 Humanism
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

There are many ways to look at human behavior and the workings of the mind. Consider the various perspectives used to learn about why human beings act the way we do and what influences us to go one direction rather than another.

Multiple Perspectives

Dana wants to take a college course in psychology, but she's stumped by the different types of courses listed. She sees some topics that are focused on our genes, while others look at the impact of factors like the place where a person grows up. Are these really all part of the same field of psychology?

There are, in fact, many possible perspectives to use when looking at human behavior and how the mind works. Some will claim that certain perspectives are more useful for helping human beings live better lives. However, those working in the field do not necessarily argue that there is only one right way to do psychology and all the other approaches are wrong. These perspectives are different ways of looking at the same overall topic. They have developed over time and influenced one another.

What this lesson will provide is an overview of each perspective and an opportunity to consider what each has to offer the field of psychology.

Psychodynamic Theory

When things aren't working right in life, how do you go about making them better? From a psychodynamic perspective, the things that aren't working right are likely due in large part to how childhood experiences and unconscious impulses affect behavior. You can remember the name of this perspective by thinking of how it explores the dynamics between a conscious mind and an unconscious mind.

Sigmund Freud was a famous contributor to psychodynamic theory. In the process of talking with a patient, he would use various techniques to address these underlying issues. He is known for looking in depth at such factors as one's relationship to parents. He and other psychodynamic theorists believe that very early experiences have a significant impact on a person's life as an adult.

Behaviorism and Cognitivism

A movement known as behaviorism has also had a significant impact on the field of psychology. Behaviorists are most interested in how a person's environment leads to certain behavior.

Behaviorists may study animal reactions to stimuli to try to understand human reactions better. For instance, how does a rat respond when presented with obstacles in a maze that provide a barrier between the rat and the food he wants? Are there connections between how animals react to these types of situations and how humans respond?

Cognitivism is often associated with behaviorism and originated as a response to it. A cognitive perspective is most interested in how a person mentally processes information, which ultimately affects how that person behaves. Similar to behaviorists, those researching cognitive processes may use experiments to study behavior.

Biological Psychology

So far, the approaches mentioned focus on what we can observe about behavior and the mind from outside of the person. What about the physical processes going on behind the scenes? For instance, can a person be born with a greater likelihood of developing a particular mental illness?

Biological psychology considers how genes, evolution, and environmental factors impact human behavior. Those with this perspective may be interested in studying certain species of primates, humanity's closest living relatives. They try to understand what influences the development of certain behaviors. These researchers may also look at aspects of the physical body not always considered in other perspectives, such as the impact of nutrition during pregnancy and infancy.

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