Contemporary Modern Perspectives in Psychology


Psychology has made tremendous progress since its humble beginnings in the late 19th century. Some schools such as behaviorism and psychoanalysis have undergone a lot of changes but are still popular and have a large number of followers.

Contemporary or present day psychology is a combination of the best ideas drawn from the contributions of all its founders. Some new ideas or perspectives have been added too.

Psychology perspectives refer to how psychology approaches or looks at different topics within its field. Modern psychology looks at the various issues relating to human behavior from five perspectives. These five major perspectives discussed by Teachers Training Program are:

1. The Biological Perspectives.

2. The Behavioral Perspectives.

3. The Cognitive Perspectives.

4. The Psychoanalytic Perspectives.

5. The Subjectivist Perspectives.

The Biological Perspectives

Psychologists have for long been interested in studying the relationship between our biological (body) systems and behavior. They have been especially keen to know the role of the brain with regard to human behavior. The brain which contains over 10 billion nerve cells with infinite connections between them, is, perhaps, the most complex structure in the universe.

The biological approach is concerned with understanding the role played by our brain in various psychological processes such as emotion, reasoning, learning, motivation and so on. It seeks to describe the neurological process that underline behavior and mental processes. For example, the biological perspective would attempt to understand and look at depression in terms of what chemical are produced in the brain and whether they are any abnormal changes in the levels of neurotransmitters. It would also study face recognition with regard to role played by the particular region of the brain such as the left or right hemisphere.

Thus, biological approach attempts to know which are the specific areas of the brain that influence or affect our behavior and how the nerves system, the hormones secreted by the different glands and other changes in our body affect the way we think, feel and behave.

The Behavioral Perspective

The behavioral approach focuses on explaining nearly all behavioral in terms of stimuli and responses and as resulting from conditioning and reinforcement. For example, a psychologist with a behavioral perspective would attempt to explain obesity as an outcome of people’s tendency to overeat (a specific response), in the presence of a specific stimuli (such as watching television).

According to the behavioral approach, human behaviors that are rewarded or rein forced are likely to be repeated again in the future. An example by Pre Primary Teachers Training, when a child hits another child (aggressive behavior) and is able to get the toy of the other child (behavior is rewarded), then the child is more likely to act aggressively in the future.

The Cognitive Perspective

The cognitive approach focuses on mental processes such as perceiving, remembering, reasoning, deciding, and problem solving.

The cognitive approach recognizes that in order to fully understand human behavior it is very important to study the role played by mental processes. If we totally ignore the mental processes like the behaviorists did then we would be adopting a very narrow approach and would get an incomplete picture of the dynamics of human behavior.

Cognitive psychologists believe that it is possible to study mental processes objectively. According to them the human mind is similar to a computer and acts on information just as the computer does.

The Psychoanalytic Perspective

The psychoanalytic approach is based on the ideas of Sigmund Freud. This perspective emphasizes that unconscious processes influence our behavior. These unconscious processes comprise of beliefs, fears, and desires that a person is unaware of but which nevertheless influence his behavior.

According to the psychoanalytic approach, we are born with certain aggressive and sexual impulses that are forbidden from expressing them by our parents and the society. As a result they merely move out from awareness in to the unconsciousness. However, these impulses do not disappear but expresses themselves through socially accepted behaviors or in the form of mental illness and emotional problems. For example, a person may express his aggressive instincts by taking part in violent sports such as boxing and wrestling.

The Subjectivist Perspective

The subjectivist perspective emphasizes on the importance of perception. According to this approach human behavior does not depend on the objective world but it is a function of the perceived world.

The objective world is what truly exits in the real world. The perceived world is what the individual experiences and the meaning he gives to those experiences. How a person perceives the world or a situation depends on his culture, personal history, and present motives.

According to the subjectivist approach, perceptions are very important in understanding behavior because an individual’s behavior at any time is based in part on perceptions of the situation. Our responses to the various stimuli in the environment are based on our perceptions. We define reality based on our perceptions. For example, studies have found that people tend to overestimate the physical size of higher value coins than for coins of lower value.

An interesting psychological phenomenon that this approach highlights is native realism-the tendency of people to see their subjective construction of the world, as a true and accurate picture of the objective world.

According to Early Childhood Education Training the influence of the subjectivist approach has been strong in social and personality psychology. For instance, how people interpret other people’s behavior depends on their perception.

The different perspectives discussed above represents the different modern approaches to the study of psychology. They are not mutually exclusive but merely focus attention on different aspects of the same subject. In other words, the different approaches are merely different ways of studying the same phenomenon. Many psychologists take an electric approach. They take the best of each approach and use it to study complex psychological issues.

Out of the five perspectives discussed, with the exception of the biological perspective all other approaches (behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic and subjectivist) are purely psychological in nature. The biological approach, however takes, takes help from other fields such as physiology and other branches of biology.

The biological approach has often been described as reductionism. In reductionism psychological notions (ideas) are reduced to biological ones. That is, different psychological issues are explained with biological reasons.

However, it must be noted that is not possible to follow the reductionist path for all psychological issues. Psychological explanations are also very important. Psychological concepts, findings and principles serve as the starting point for biological scientists to conduct their research. For example, psychological findings regarding memory will direct biological researches to search for the different areas of the brain involved in it. Besides, any explanation of various psychological phenomenon without taking in to account our past and current environment would be an incomplete one.

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