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02 Perspectives in psychology

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  • 1. Perspectives In Psychology
    In the social sciences, what we mean by the term perspective is: A school of thought united by common ideas and focused on particular issues.
    Related terms:
    Paradigm: A broad set of theoretical assumptions used to make sense of a particular topic.
    e.g.: In Physics, they use the paradigm of the atom
    So, different perspectives in Psychology use different paradigms of the mind
    Model: An abstract picture of the object under study; a metaphor used to explain a paradigm.
    e.g.: In Physics, they talk about particles in ‘orbit’, like satellites
    So, different perspectives in Psychology might compare the mind to a computer, or to a battlefield
  • 2. Five Key Perspectives
    Psychodynamic
    Behaviourist
    Cognitive
    Biological
    Humanistic
  • 3. Psychodynamic
    The Psychodynamic perspective derives from the work of Sigmund Freud and his students and followers.
    The Psychodynamic perspective is defined by its concept of the unconscious, the part of the mind that contains hidden desires and motivating forces.
    The main method of investigation in the Psychodynamic perspective in psychoanalysis, which attempts to uncover the unconscious elements that affect a person. E.g.: through the analysis of a person’s dreams.
    So, in Psychodynamic perspective, the model of the mind is as an iceberg, with only the tip (the conscious mind) visible.
    An appropriate paradigm would be to say the mind is like a battlefield, with different parts of the mind fighting for control.
  • 4. Behaviourist
    Behaviourism focuses on overt behaviour, and how a person’s behaviour is shaped by past experiences.
    Key thinkers include Pavlov, Watson & Skinner. All three conducted key experiments.
    Behaviourists do not consider the internal working of the ‘mind’, they only focus on explicit behaviour as that is the only evidence about a person that is empirical. To find empirical evidence, they conduct laboratory studies.
    While behaviorism eventually lost its hold on psychology, the basic principles of behavioral psychology are still widely in use today.
    Therapeutic techniques such as ‘behaviour modification’ and ‘token economies’ are often utilized to help children learn new skills, while ‘conditioning’ is used in many situations ranging from parenting to education.
  • 5. Cognitive
    The Cognitive perspective explores mental processes such as sensation and perception, memory, intelligence, language, thought, and problem solving.
    It was influenced by concepts in computer science. Particular issues include the process by which information is processed, stored, retrieved and manipulated to solve problems.
    Today, the cognitive perspective has many faces. Piaget was very influential in the field of cognitive development.
    The focus of this approach is to learn how children and adults mentally represent and reason about the world.
    According to Piaget, the child’s conception of the world grows more sophisticated as the child matures.
  • 6. Biological
    The Biological perspective focuses on the biological events and processes that underlie behaviour.
    Techniques used include CAT scans, PET scans, electrical stimulation of sites in the brain to show that these sites are involved in thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
    E.g.: through Biological psychology, we discovered:
    • Parts of the brain that are highly active when listening to music, solving math problems or experiencing certain psychological disorders.
    • 7. How the production of chemical substances in certain parts of the brain is essential to the storage of information (formation of memories)
  • Humanistic
    The Humanistic perspective emphasises the human potential: the ability of each person to become the best person he or she could be.
    In opposition to Behaviourism and Psychodynamics, Humanism believes that people are capable of free choice, self fulfillment, and ethical behaviour.
    Two of the earliest (and most famous) founders were Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. They focused on the aspects of human nature that make us uniquely human, and what people need to do to achieve their full potential, aka: self-actualisation
    This perspective is still influential in psychotherapy.
    Client-centred therapy is considered as a very ethical form of therapy. It is used to treat mental disorders as well as helping people make career choices, deal with workplace problems, even serve as a form of marriage counseling.
    Limitation: Little experimental research, people must be intelligent, verbal, and able to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a logical manner.
  • 8. So, the question is:
    How would the different psychological perspectives explain how and why the children from the ‘7 Up’ documentary changed over time?
    • What would they investigate?
    • 9. What methods of investigation would they use?
    • 10. What would they assume to begin with?
    • 11. What elements would they focus on?
    • 12. What might they conclude from this initial viewing?