WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY IN A NUTSHELL?
The investigation of the mind
remained the absolute province of philosophy until
the nineteenth century. In fact, many of modern
psychological issues related to human's behavior can
be traced back to China, India and Ancient Greeks,
philosophers such as, Plato and Aristotle tried to
explain how people feel, behave and acquire
knowledge. Psychology was declared, for the first
time, as an independent field only in 1879, with
Wundt’s experimental laboratory).
Psychological Schools Include: Psychoanalysis,
Behaviorism, Cognitivist, and Humanism.
Psychoanalysis refers to
the theory and application of mind investigation.
The theory was conceptualized by the
Freud (1856 - 1939) in the 1890s Freud’s main premise was that adult’s
personality is shaped, and to a large extent,
determined by childhood memories and experiences. He
contended that emotional sickening symptoms, such as
are rooted in troubling memories-- buried in the
In addition, conflicts and
formation of mental disorders are based on specific
psycho-sexual stage in which the child was in
at the time. Each stage is characterized by
erogenous zone that is the source of the
libidinal/sexual instinct. The stages are: Oral,
Anal, Phallic, Latent, and Genital.
unconscious, repressed memories, almost always, have
some sexual content and associations.
unresolved conflicts between various
Structural Constructs may result in neurosis.
For example, conflict between the Id and Ego, may
lead to unhealthy personalities to develop. While
which operates solely on the
principle', seeks immediate gratification of
basic drives, (e.g. sex, aggression); the
which operates on the
principle', acts as a mediator between the
need to satisfy the Id's urges and realities’
constrains. For a person to cope with these inner
Mechanisms (e.g. Repression) are developed.
However, when defense mechanisms fail to serve the
person in adaptive ways, disturbances may develop.
Freud's theory was further
elaborated, by other psychoanalytic theorists and
clinicians. However, all theoretical schools share
some basic Freudian's assumptions. Specifically, all
recognize the strong influence of unconscious
elements on people's psyche, including mental
the many Freudian followers are:
Erich Fromm, Karen Horney, Harry Stack Sullivan,
Jacques Lacan, Margaret Mahler, Otto Kernberg, Erik
Erikson, Carl Young, Ainsworth, Wilfred Bion, John Bowlby, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and
Although it is beyond the scope of
this article, it is important to note that
each theorist added a remarkable contribution to the
psychoanalytic understanding of human's behavior.
Many diverted from the “Classical Freudian Theory"
that over stressed sexual drives, as well as, from
the premise that adult personality is mostly
determined by early childhood experiences and
fixations. Neo-Freudians illuminated other critical
elements for healthy mental growth. For example,
studied mental growth later, in adult life.
Psychoanalysis Has Been Criticized For:
Being pseudoscience since
it lacks scientific coherence of empirical
methodology. While other, well-established branches
of science are based on quantitative and
experimental research, Psychoanalysis is based
mostly on clinical
This means that none of the Psychoanalytic terms can
be empirically tested or refuted. For example,
modern research and technology cannot pinpoint any
of the mental structures (Id, Ego & Super Ego) Freud
referred to. Finally, another major critic is
related to the fact that psychoanalysis put too much
emphasis on sexuality, often neglecting other
relevant qualities of human's psyche.
BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGTY/ LEARNING PERSPECTIVE
Behavioral Psychology, also
known as the
Perspective, is a brunch of psychology that
became dominant during the early half of the 20th
century and eroded thereafter. The theoretical goal
of Behaviorism is prediction and control of
behavior. It is based on the premise that all things
organisms do, both animals and human, are
behaviors. Furthermore, pure Behaviorism
behaviors only, avoiding the study of inner
processes. This is partly because it is easier to
collect and quantify data when conducting research.
The school of Behaviorism
intended to create a comprehensive model of stream
of behavior- from birth to death. Prominent thinkers
in this field are: Ivan Pavlov, John B.
Watson, and B.F. Skinner.
(1849-1936), was a well- known Russian
physiologist, who among his much recognition
received the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1904.
Through his work, Pavlov discovered the phenomenon
of Classical Conditioning.
This discovery was based
on a series of research related to dog's reflexive
digestive system (where he proved that these
reflexes originate in the cerebral cortex of the
brain). Dogs learned that when a sound of a bell was
heard, food was coming. Thus, bell and food were
learned to be associated. This set the ground for
the study of:
Watson (1878- 1958), was an American
psychologist, who is considered the Father of Modern
Behaviorism. He argued that psychology should be the
science of observable behavior and rejected
Psychoanalytic Introspection as a form of
mind investigation. Inspired by Pavlov's work, and
in line with his views, Watson demonstrated
techniques of studying reactions to the environment,
utilizing objective and scientific methods.
"Psychology as the
behaviorist views, it is a purely objective
experimental branch of natural science (1913)".
One of Watson's famous, yet
controversial experiments was the study of:
Albert". He conditioned a small child to fear
a white rat through repeatedly pairing it with a
loud noise. Later, this fear was generalized to
other white, furry objects.
B.F. Skinner (1904-1990), was an
influential figure in defining Radical Behaviorism.
His school was also named:
Experimental Analysis of Behavior/ EAB. He is
one of the well-known behavioral scientists, whose
work contributed immensely to
Experimental Psychology. He is best acknowledged for
his theory of
Conditioning and the invention of
Box'. Skinner proved a rat learned to get
food by pressing a lever—thus operating of the
environment. In contrast to Classical Conditioning,
Learning by Association, in
Conditioning, the organism learns through
acting / operating on the environment.
on the Behavioral School:
There are several main
critics: In light of the multi-dimensional layers of
human’s psyche, Radical Behaviorism often seems to
be uni-dimensional and too simplistic. It tends to
neglect more complex processes such as: free will,
genetic influences, moods, thoughts, and feelings.
strict Behaviorism does not account for all
types of learning. For example, learning that occurs
without the use of
reinforcements or/and punishments. Finally,
since many of the Behaviorist's findings are based
on animal research, many by definition do not apply
to human's behavior.
In the early 50s, the
intellectual landscape began to change dramatically
and gave rise to modern scientific research of
cognition. Behaviorism was largely eclipsed as a
result of the
Revolution. Cognitive Psychology refers to
the process of acquiring knowledge (in Latin:
cognoscere means: “to know”). It incorporates
related disciplines like philosophy, neuroscience,
computer science, anthropology, and linguistics into
the understanding of human behavior and pathology.
It aims towards understanding the way people solve
problems, learn, speak, socialize with others,
remember, and perceive.
It is fundamentally and
radically different from both Behaviorism and
Psychoanalysis: In contrast to Behaviorism, which
focuses only on observable behaviors, Cognitive
Psychology is concerned with internal mental states.
And, in contrast to Psychoanalysis, which relies
heavily on subjective methods (e.g.
Introspection), Cognitive Psychology uses
measurable research methods to study mental
The school of Cognitive
Psychology is based on quantitative and scientific
methodology. For example, many cognitive researchers
use the: “computer- mind” analogy to explain how the
human’s mind operates. It is argued that the mind
store, process and retrieve information in a similar
manner to a computer. Others, emphasize that one's
emotion at a given time, depends on her
interpretation of the situation (for more info see:
Among the many marked
Cognitive Psychologists, who departure from the
prevalent Psychoanalytic and Behaviorist schools at
the first half of the 20s century were:
Aaron Beck, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Albert
Bandura & Noam Chomsky.
(Born 1921) is regarded as the Father of Cognitive
he focused on
depression and conceptualized it through
Schemas. Beck believed that depressive
schemas are mental structures built early in
as a result of a trauma (e.g. when a child
losses her parent). These schemas may remain
dormant for years, until the individual
encounters situations that resemble the
original ones, which then awakens it.
conceptualized the term:
It refers to negative beliefs about:
The self, future and the world. Thus a depressive
patient might feel that he is worthless, his future
is hopeless, and the world is unfair. A concrete
example of the Depressive
Triad would be: “I am worthless, I am not
going to get anywhere, and my future seems shady".
logical errors Beck emphasized include:
• Selective abstraction- when
conclusions are based
on some but not all evidence.
• Arbitrary inferences- when one draws a specific
without supporting evidence, or even in
the face of
• Minimization of positives life evens &
• Overgeneralization- is the
application of a general rule
based on a few isolated incidents.
• Personalization- is attributing external events
without evidence of a causal
• Dichotomous thinking-is
categorizing experiences into
one oftwo extremes good or bad.
Chomsky (born1928), a key cognitive
thinker in the subfield of psycho-linguistic, who
has had profound implications for modern psychology.
In many ways, he helped start the
Revolution of Psychology, by formulating the
Chomsky investigated the
development of innate structures for
that is- the human ability for creative, organized,
coherent, adaptive way of combining words and
phrases into intelligible utterances. His
Innate/biological Universal Grammar roles and
Language Acquisition. He claimed that humans
are genetically pre-programmed to learn language.
For example, Cooing, which appears at about 6 months
or so, is used by Infants all around the world,
including congenitally deaf babies.
This approach, which
incorporates biological aspects, is seen by many as
a direct critic to the established Behaviorist
Theories of the time. Through his review of:
Skinner's Verbal Behavior, he challenged the
behaviorist’s view of defining language as a learned
Vygotsky’s (1896 – 1934), known for
his theory of cognitive development. Vygotsky's
emphasized the role of social and cultural factors
in the family and child's milieu. He believed that
universal internal cognitive structures or schemas
are built first within the child, and then are
affected by her surroundings. "Scaffolding”,
a Vygotsky's term, refers to the assistance adults
give children in order to help them comprehend the
world. In this context, language is often seen as
primarily social. Thus, a child's language and
cognitive processes are immensely related to her
social relationships and culture. Scaffolding is
often used in modern educational systems.
(born 1925), considered personality
to be an interaction between three components: the
environment, behavior, and one’s psychological
processes (one’s ability to store images in minds
and language). He developed the
Learning Theory which is viewed as a bridge
between Behavioral and Cognitive theories. He
claimed that although behavioral practice and
reinforcement are important, they are not
necessary. That is, there are ample behaviors that
do not require
reinforcement or conditioning.
In addition, Bandura argued
that learning can take place via imitation,
observation, and modeling. It is possible to learn a
given behavior merely by watching a model perform
it. Bandura believed in “Reciprocal
Determinism”--the world and a person’s
behavior cause each other. For example, Aggressive
thoughts may result in aggressive behavior, which in
turn, may have an effect on causing others to have
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