Major Concepts in Psychology
Major Concepts in Psychology
Psychology is a relatively broad area of study. Over time, psychologists have developed diverse perspectives to explain human behavior. Each of this perspective is built on certain assumptions and therefore has its strengths and limitations. The objective of this paper is to discuss biological, learning, cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives of psychology and define some of the associated concepts.
The biological perspective of psychology suggests that human behavior is contingent on an individual’s genetic composition. In this context, the genetic makeup is considered to constitute the nervous system, endocrine system, and the DNA (Eysenck, 2013). From this perspective, an individual’s thoughts are first manifested biologically before they can be expressed physically. The idea that genetics have a significant impact on an individual’s behavior was first suggested by Charles Darwin in 1859. Scientists in this school of thought posit that an individual’s genetic code, their chromosomal composition, hormones, and their nervous system ultimately affect how they behave.
Since biological components are inherited, it therefore, follows that behavior is inherited. One example that biological psychologists have used to prove this perspective relates to variation in testosterone levels in fathers following childbirth. When a child is born, the testosterone level in the child’s father goes on a decline by 30% in quantity. The decline is physically manifested by a reduction of the level of aggression in the father and a corresponding decrease in the likelihood of the father engaging in extramarital sexual activity (McLeod, 2013).
The learning perspective is commonly referred to as the behaviorist perspective of psychology. The primary tenet of this perspective is that all human behavior is learned through active and passive interaction with the environment. The approach was advanced in 1913 following John Watson’s publication which first defined this perspective and the underlying assumptions. As highlighted herein, this perspective excludes the effect of all other factors in influencing behavior and asserts that the environment is the primary determinant for behavior.
Proponents of the behaviorist perspective propose that at birth, an individual’s mind is a blank slate. Consequently, an individual is simply a result of what they learn from their environment. The environmental factors are interpreted as stimuli which trigger specific behavior from an individual. Behavioral psychologists have developed two approaches explaining how the interaction between an individual and their environment precipitates learning; the classical and operant conditioning (Henton and Iversen, 2012).
A major criticism of the behaviorist approach is its over-simplification of the nature of the human behavior. The assumption that the behavior of man is only influenced by their interactions with the environment is flawed and inaccurate. An example of this is the association of a scent with an individual. Two persons, A and B, who are closely related, are able to learn the scent of each other over time. As a result, person A associates the scent with person B. If person A is blindfolded and the exposed to the scent, there is a natural tendency to imagine that person B is close by oblivious of the fact this may not be the case.
The cognitive perspective of psychology views the mind as a center for processing information. From this standpoint, proponents of this school of thought attempt to derive models of how the mind performs this function by comparing it to a computer. Some of the individual tasks that cognitive psychologists consider include memory, consciousness, thinking processes, and language interaction. Cognitive psychology became popular in the 1950s due to the looming dissatisfaction with other perspectives, mainly the behaviorist perspective. Development of more advanced experimental models and the growing body of literature comparing the human brain to computers also contributed to the increased popularity.
Essentially, cognitive psychologists focus on the origin of behavior. One of the assumptions of this perspective is that an individual’s thinking process is logical (Neisser, 2014). It, therefore, follows that the one’s thoughts influence their behavior. A conscious willingness to behave in a manner that is contradictory to an individual’s thoughts culminates into behavioral dissonance. On the other hand, conscious change in one’s thinking process in order to modify behavior can be used to manage disorders related to the individual’s psychology.
Cognitive psychologists argue that the human brain shares some attributes with computers especially with respect to how the two takes in information, process it and translates the data. On this basis, the scientists have derived a scientific model that explains the three fundamental stages of information processing in the brain; encoding, storage, and retrieval. Eyewitness accounts are one of the best examples of cognitive psychology. In a typical eyewitness account, for instance, the individual experiences an event first hand and stores the events in memory as they happened in real-time. When giving a witness statement, the witness retrieves the recorded information as it happened which proves the three fundamental functions of the brain.
The socio-cultural perspective focuses on explaining how the society affects an individual’s behavior. Socio-cultural psychologists suggest that human behavior is affected by their interaction with other persons in the society. Further, this perspective suggests that behavioral modification due to socio-cultural interaction begins at birth and progresses throughout the individual’s life. The socio-cultural perspective also proposes that children learn the art of solving problems through their interactions with the society and the adults around them. In addition, they learn the social norms and cultural practices which in turn modifies their behavior to comply with these norms (Mertz, 2013).
A typical example of this viewpoint may be derived by considering the transformation that inmate’s exhibit following their prolonged exposure to high aggression when serving their prison sentences. Mooney and Daffern (2013) document in their research comparatively high levels of aggression and violence in inmates between when they are sentenced and when they are released from prison. In prisons, the inmates are socialized to high aggression, irritability, and violence which ultimately leads to adverse behavioral modification post-incarceration.
Part 2: Explain why the following course objectives are important to understanding psychology using at least 3 scholarly articles to substantiate responses. You need to link each objective to psychology with detailed information
Definition of the Science of Psychology
At its most basic level, psychology is a study of human behavior and actions and how their thought processes affect their behavior. Science, on the other hand, is an area of study which relies on empirical data as the basis of an argument to explain certain occurrences. Empiricism is a concept which translates into the idea that knowledge is only obtained through human senses, which includes sight and smell. It, therefore, follows that for a concept to be termed as science, there should be material proof, visible or audible, that directs associates the cause and the effect.
It is because of the empiricism that researchers in science use experimental approaches to base their reasoning. Scientific inquiry may also be done through the development of theories and hypotheses. The primary tenet that is used to classify a subject as a science is the availability of empirical evidence to support a particular hypothesis. The empirical evidence should be obtained from direct observation, mainly through experimentation. The experiment should be carried out carefully following a logical approach and documented in a manner so that it can be replicated.
In conducting the experiment, the research should be objective and follow the underlying principle with no bias or unfounded interventions or modifications. Due to the imperfect nature of man, deliberate effort should be made to minimize the sources of error to the lowest practical level. Where applicable, the experiment should be also be guided by a valid hypothesis, made at the beginning of the experiment defining what the research aims to accomplish. Finally, the anticipated results should be predictable.
From this perspective, psychology is a science. The rationale for this conclusion is that psychology meets all the defining criteria used to define a science. There are many empirical experiments that have been developed over time to show that human behavior can be predicted accurately. Research has shown that human behavior is not random, but instead, it follows some distinct patterns which can be proven through empirical studies. An ideal example is in Ivan Pavlov’s study on classical conditioning. In his study, Pavlov, in his study empirically demonstrated how the brain can learn through association (Jozefowiez, 2014). Though this study used dog subjects, its results can be extrapolated to humans.
Distinction between a theory, a hypothesis and an operational definition
A theory is an assumption that attempts to explain a causal relationship between various variables (Krapp and Prenzel, 2011). Unlike a hypothesis, a theory is established and is supported by a body of literature and evidence gathered over time. However, a theory cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt because of the wide range of variables that are involved.
A hypothesis is a proposition based on experience and available evidence that could, in theory, explain a correlation between two variables (Poincare, 2012). In most cases, this involves a dependent and an independent variable. For a statement to become a hypothesis, it should be testable, to prove or disapprove its validity. Conventionally, a hypothesis should be stated in two opposing forms, a null and an alternative hypothesis.
An operational definition, on the other hand, is a set of descriptive details that define a particular variable. Where the variable cannot be quantified, the operational definition only describes aspects which can be measured. An everyday meaning of operational definition is a statement that defines a precise methodology that a researcher pursues in order to measure a particular variable. The differences among the three concepts lie mainly in whether the subject can be quantified scientifically and whether it is backed by scientific facts.
Explanation of how genes, chromosomes, DNA, and genomes all relate to one another and their importance to psychology
Genetically, the human body is made up of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). At its most basic level, DNA is a biomolecule that contains a ‘blueprint’ of the architecture of the human body (Dorman et al. 2016). It is a double-stranded structure with the strands containing complementary genetic code. A section of the DNA is called a gene and is passed down from parents to their offspring (Anders, 2016). The genes are packaged in precise units, called chromosomes, which code for a specific character.
From a biologic perspective of psychology, a behavior is inherited from the parents to the offspring. What this implies is that human behavior is contained in human genes in the DNA. Since each offspring has one chromosome from either parent, it follows that the behavior of a child is derived from the behaviors of both parents.
Identification and Description of the Major Structures of the Central Nervous System and their Primary Functions
The central nervous system is comprised of two major structures, the brain, and the spinal cord. Each of these two structures is further divided into a plethora of other structures each with defined functions. The brain has numerous functions which mainly revolve around control and coordination (Mai and Paxinos, 2011). Some of the individual functions include memory storage, rationalization, perception, and creativity. The spinal cord, on the other hand, is a conduit for relaying information between the brain and the peripheral body organs.
Each of the perspectives of psychology defined herein has a different orientation. While the biological perspective only focuses on the physiological component of psychology, the sociocultural perspective focuses on the social and cultural interactions and their effect on human behavior. The application of each perspective therefore varies with the orientation.
Anders, M. (2018). DNA, genes, and chromosomes. North Mankato: Capstone Press.
Dorman, J., Schmella, M., & Wesmiller, S. (2017). Primer in Genetics and Genomics, Article 1. Biological Research for Nursing, 19(1), 7-17.
Eysenck, M. (2013). Perspectives on Psychology. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
Henton, W., & Iversen, I. (2012). Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning: A Response Pattern Analysis. New York: Springer Science & Business Media.
Jozefowiez, J. (2014). The Many Faces of Pavlovian Conditioning. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 27(4), 526-536.
Keith, K., & Beins, B. (2012). History, perspectives and applications. New York: Facts on File.
Krapp, A., & Prenzel, M. (2011). Research on Interest in Science: Theories, methods, and findings. International Journal of Science Education, 33(1), 27-50.
McLeod, S. (2018). Psychology Perspectives | Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/perspective.html
Mertz, E. (2014). Semiotic Mediation. Saint Louis: Elsevier Science.
Mooney, J., & Daffern, M. (2014). The relationship between aggressive behavior in prison and violent offending following release. Psychology, Crime & Law, 21(4), 314-329.
Neisser, U. (2014). Cognitive Psychology: Classic Edition. New York: Psychology Press.
Paxinos, G., & Mai, J. (2012). The human nervous system. Oxford: Academic.
Poincaré, H. (2012). Science and Hypothesis. New York: Courier Corporation.