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Foundations of Behavior Research Paper


An understanding of the historical perspectives of psychology is useful in helping us to better appreciate the modern day psychology. The essay endeavors to examine three theories of psychology: behaviorism, cognitive, and humanistic. Further, the essay shall also provide an example that represents each one of these three perspectives. The similarities and differences that characterize the three perceptive of psychology shall also be addressed, along with how each one of them influences psychology today.

Behaviorism theory of psychology

Such famous psychologists as B. F. Skinner and John B. Watson are strong advocates of behavioral psychology. The first half of the twentieth century saw behavioral theories heavily dominate the field of psychology (Baum, 2005). Behavioral techniques are nowadays being used more often for therapy. These modern techniques enable psychologists their o assist clients to comprehend the upcoming skills and behaviors better.

Behaviorism may be regarded as more of a philosophy whose position is that in order to be regarded as a science, there is need for psychology to emphasize more on that which can be observed, that is, behaviors and the environment, as opposed to that which is only available at an individual level-images, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions (Plotnik, 2005).

The latter are characterized by a certain level of immunity and subjectivity in as far as the issue of measurements is concerned and as such, they are less likely to result in an objective science.

An example of the behaviorism theory of psychology is the classical conditioning developed by Ivan Pavlov, and which builds on reflexes. Classical conditioning usually begins with a reflex and an unconditioned stimulus. Once the unconditioned stimulus is relayed, the desired response is received since it relates the given unconditional stimulus with a reflex.

Once this has been repeated a number of times, eventually, the actual response is elicited by the neutral stimulus. We then rename the neutral stimuli as the conditioned stimulus. On the other hand, we refer to the response as the conditioned response.

Cognitive theory of psychology

Cognitive theories endeavor to better explain the behavior of humans through a better understanding of their thought processes. In this case, the theories assume that as logical beings, humans are in a position to identify the most sensible choices. An example of the cognitive theory of psychology is the Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Jean Piaget is credited with having developed the Piaget Theory.

Although mainly referred to as the developmental stage theory, nonetheless, this theory is primarily involved with the nature of knowledge as well as the process of knowledge acquisition by humans, and its application. Through cognitive theories, psychologists are better able to study the different stimuli that motivate people. In addition, they are also able to study the problem solving ability of individuals their decision making processes, and processes of thinking.

Humanistic theory of psychology

The humanistic theories of psychology started to gain immense popularity in the 1950s. Prior to the 1950s, the prevailing theories in psychology stressed more on both the abnormal as well as psychological problems. On the other hand, the humanistic theories are more concerned with the basic goodness possessed by human begins.

The humanistic theories were developed by such famous humanistic theorists as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. The main focus of humanistic psychology was therefore on the potential of an individual. In addition, the theories also emphasized more on the issues of self-actualization and growth (Sun, 2008).

The humanistic theorists held the fundamental belief that individuals are by nature innately good. When people are noted to swerve from this natural tendency, this is taken as a start of a social and mental problem. An example of the humanistic theory is the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

This theory was developed by Abraham Maslow. In this theory, Maslow reveals how human beings place emphasizes on the immediate needs facing them and once these are fulfilled, they are no longer a priority and as such, attention shift to the next level of needs. This trend goes on in a hierarchical manner, until eventually an individual reaches the pinnacle of the hierarchy of needs: the self-actualization level of needs.

The aforementioned theories impact on modern day psychology in various ways. For example, the humanistic theory influences the role played by an individual. In this situation, people receive more credit from humanistic psychology that assists them in determining and managing their mental health state (Schunk, 2008). In addition, humanistic psychology plays an important duty in influencing therapy, education, and healthcare.

According to humanist theories, personal and mental growths are part of the natural conditions that humans experience in their lives. By and large, every individual harbors a desire to realize self actualization. To a majority of the psychologists, humanism is a way of life, as opposed to an actual science.

On the other hand, cognitive theories place more emphasis on mental processes in as far as the activities of memory perception, problem solving, language, and behaviors are concerned. Cognitive theories concentrate on cognitive methods such as thinking and judging. On the other hand, humanistic emphasizes on an individual’s subjective experiences. This is unlike the behaviorist theories that focus on the definitive factors that are responsible for the determination of behavior.

Reference List

Baum, W. M. (2005). Understanding behaviorism: Behavior, Culture and Evolution. Oxford: Blackwell.

Plotnik, R. (2005). Introduction to Psychology. London: Thomson-Wadsworth

Schunk, D. H. (2008). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. 5th Ed. New York: Pearson.

Sun, R. (2008). The Cambridge Handbook of Computational Psychology. New York: .

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