The Foundations of Psychology Essay

“Psychology is the scientific investigation of mental processes and behavior” (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p. 28). Psychologists practice examining biological makeup, experience and functioning, and cultural and historical moments in a person simultaneously (Kowalski & Weston, 2009). The foundations of psychology include five major schools of thought: (1) Structuralism and Functionalism, (2) Behaviorism, (3) Gestalt, and (4) Psychoanalysis (a2zpsychology, 2010).

The four schools of thought are used in psychology today to study questions about human behavior and allow scientists to study why these behaviors occur (Spear, 2007).Another school of thought of psychology is biopsychology, or behavioral neuroscience, and it is used to study the brain and the nervous system (Spear, 2007). The study of the brain is used to link biopsychology to human behavior (Spear, 2007). The Major Schools of Thought “Since the birth of scientific psychology over 100 years ago, four major schools have completed to become the predominant model for understanding human behavior” (Robins, 1998, para 2). These schools built distinct and contending approaches to the learning of mental processes (Magner, 2000).There are four major schools of thought, structuralism and functionalism, behaviorism, Gestalt psychology, and psychoanalysis (Kowalski & Weston, 2009).

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Structuralism is “is an early school of thought in psychology developed by Edward Titchener, which attempted to use introspection as a method for uncovering the basic elements of consciousness and the way they combine with each other into ideas”, (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p. 9). Structuralism identified and combined the basic elements and experience (Morris & Maisto, 2005).Psychologists studied the anatomy of the mind, in terms of how separate conditions combined to create multifaceted forms (Magner, 2000). Although structuralism is an important part in the groundwork of psychology, psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, replaced the importance of structuralism in psychological theories (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p. 301).

Functionalism was founded by William James. “argued that sensations cannot be separated from the mental associations that allow us to benefit from past experiences” (Morris & Maisto, 2005, p. 44).

James believed that an individual’s memories and stored ideas are what allows individuals to function in their own environment (Morris & Maisto, 2005). Behaviorism began with Watson that proclaimed that “purely objective experimental branch of natural sciences dedicated to the prediction and control of behavior” (Kutler, 2003). Skinner took Watson’s theories and emphasized it creating radical behaviorism (Kutler, 2003). Skinner added the concept of reinforcement and rewards to Watson’s theory (Morris & Maisto, 2005). This created the ability of learner to be active in the process of learning (Morris & Maisto, 2005). Skinners theory of motivation calls voluntary acts free operants; these are controlled by positive and negative reinforcers” (Kutler, 2003, para 3).

“According to Gestalt psychology, perception depends on the human tendency to see patterns, to distinguish objects from their backgrounds, and to complete pictures from a few clues” (Morris & Maisto, 2005, p. 44). Gestalt psychology is completely different from structuralism. Gestalt psychology was one of the most major schools of psychology in the twentieth century (Rush, n. d. ).Gestalt psychology examines stimuli as structural wholes and not as components that have been broken down from a whole (Magner, 2000). It teaches that the whole of any stimuli is better than the combination of all of its parts (Magner, 2000).

Psychoanalysis was also founded by Freud. “Psychoanalysis was based on the theory that behavior is determined by powerful inner forces, most of which are buried in the unconscious mind” (a2zpsychology, 2010, para 9). Freud believed that individuals repress any desires and needs that society would deem unacceptable (a2zpsychology, 2010, para 9). Personal disturbances are reated from these repressed feelings that can cause self-destructive behavior and sometimes even physical symptoms (a2zpsychology, 2010, para 10). Freud used free association to bring repressed feelings to the level of conscious awareness (a2zpsychology, 2010, para 10).

The use of association allows the therapist to gain clues into the persons true and repressed feelings (a2zpsychology, 2010, para 10). From the psychoanalysis theory, Maslow developed another approach to psychology that emphasizes the creation of goals that allows an individual to reach their full potential called the Humanistic theory (Morris & Maisto, 2005). a2zpsychology, 2010, para 9 ).

From psychoanalysts, Maslow developed another approach to psychology that emphasizes the creation of goals that will allow individuals to reach their full potential (Morris & Maisto, 2005). The Humanistic theory believes that “individuals are controlled by their own values and choices and not entirely by the environment, as behaviorists think, or by unconscious drives, as psychoanalysts believe” (a2zpsychology, 2010, para 12).The goal of humanistic theorists is to help individuals function successfully and reach their full potentials (a2zpsychology, 2010, para 12). The goal of the humanistic theory is to establish a system of values, and to develop an individual’s ability to love, fulfill, gain self-worth, and autonomy (Magner, 2000). Another subdivision of psychology is cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology “covers the whole range of human mental activity, from sensce perception to memory and thought” (Kutler, 2003, para 1).Cognitive psychology studies mental processes, perceptions, interpretations, and the store and retrieval of information from our brains (Morris & Maisto, 2005).

Cognitive psychology is different from behaviorism because cognitive psychologists believe in the scientific study of mental processes (Morris & Maisto, 2005). Biopsychology “Psychologists today are currently debating whether the emergence of neuroscientific perspective will transform the field, perhaps turning psychology into a subfield of biology” (Robins, Gosling, and Craik, 1998).Biological psychology is a form of psychology that studies the human brain and the workings of the nervous system (Spear, 2007). Biopsychology includes the study of the major systems including: the nervous, endocrine, peripheral, automatic, and central systems (Spear, 2007). The nervous system is one of the most important parts of the brain because it carries messages to the brain (Spear, 2007). Neural communication is the foundation of biopsychology (Santrock, 2005). When an individual has an experience neurons are stimulated and neuron communication occurs Santrock, 2005).Some of the neurons control movement in relation to the experience and “they will communicate again in the future when you recall the event and when a similar experience occurs” (Santrock, 2005, para 8).

The Endocrine system functions through hormones and glands (Spear, 2007). The peripheral system deals with the transmissions of the central nervous system, motor skills, and voluntary processes (Spear, 2007). The automatic nerve system involves life processes such as the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system (Spear, 2007).The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord that has nerve connections to muscles and organs (Spear, 2007). Biopsychology or behavioral neuroscience, “examines the physical basis of psychological phenomena such as motivations and historical movement” (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p. 28).

“The brain is the most important part of the central nervous system” (Spear, 2007). The brain is divided into the midbrain, the sub cortical forebrain, and the cerebral cortex (Spear, 2007). “Basic behavior functions are located in the cerebral cortex” (Spear, 2007, para 5).Biological psychology is the study of all these parts of the body and the effect they have on human behavior (Spear, 2007). Neuroscience is the study of the brain and psychobiology is the study of biological processes that create thoughts, feelings, and actions (Spear, 2007). “Psychology is the scientific investigation of mental processes and behavior” (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p. 28). Psychologists practice examining biological makeup, experience and functioning, and cultural and historical moments in a person simultaneously (Kowalski & Weston, 2009).

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