Psychology is the scientific study of the way the human mind works and how it influences behaviour, or the influence of a person’s character on their behaviour. There are 7 main approaches in psychology
The Biological Approach
The Behavioural Approach
The Cognitive Approach
The Social Approach
The Psychodynamic Approach
The Evolutionary Approach
The Cross-Cultural Approach
The Humanistic Approach
An approach is a view that involves certain beliefs and ideas about
human behaviour: the way they function, which aspects of them are worthy of
study and what research methods are appropriate for undertaking this study.
This essay will focus on the behavioural approach. Behaviourism (behavioural
psychology) is a theory of learning based on the idea that all behaviours are
acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the
environment. Behaviourists believe how we respond to the environment (stimuli) shapes
our actions. Behaviourism was first mentioned in the 1913 publication of John
B. Watson’s classic paper, “Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It.”.
He famously said: “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my
own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at
random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor,
lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless
of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and the race of his
ancestors” (Watson, 1924, p. 104).
Strict behaviourists believe that all behaviours are the result of
experience. The Behaviourist approach has 2 processes; Classical conditioning
and Operant conditioning. The classical conditioning theory involves learning a
new behaviour using the process of association. Two stimuli are linked together
to produce a newly learned response in a person or animal. The newly learned
stimulus is known as the conditioned stimulus and the learned behaviour is
known as the conditioned response. Classical conditioning (CC) was studied by
the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. By looking into natural reflexes and
neutral stimuli he conditioned dogs to salivate to the sound of a bell through
repeated associated with the sound of the bell and food. Different factors can
influence the classical conditioning process. Factors such as the significance
of the stimuli and the timing of presentation can play a key role in how
quickly an association is formed. When an association disappears, this is known
as extinction, causing the behaviour to weaken gradually or vanish. Factors
such as the strength of the original response affect how quickly extinction
occurs. The longer a response has been conditioned, the longer it could take
for it to become extinct.
Operant conditioning is the second process in the behaviourist approach.
B.F. Skinner created the term Operant conditioning (instrumental conditioning);
this is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behaviour.
Through operant conditioning, a connection is made between behaviour and a
consequence for that behaviour. Skinner believed that it is more productive to
study observable behaviour rather than internal mental events. The work of
Skinner based on the view that classical conditioning was too simplistic to be
an explanation of complex human behaviour. He believed that the best way to
understand behaviour is to look at what causes an action and the consequences.
Skinner identified three types of responses that can follow behaviour:
Neutral operant’s: responses from the
environment that do not alter or change the behaviour being repeated.
Reinforcers: responses from the
environment that increase the chance of a behaviour being repeated. Reinforcers
can be either positive or negative.
Punishers: responses from the
environment that decrease the chance of a behaviour being repeated. Punishment
His theory was influenced by the work of psychologist Edward Thorndike,
who had proposed what he called the law of effect. According to this principle,
actions that are followed by desirable outcomes are more likely to be repeated
while those followed by undesirable outcomes are less likely to be repeated. Operant
conditioning relies on the fact that actions that are followed by reinforcement
will be strengthened and more likely to occur again in the future. Actions that result in punishment or
undesirable consequences will be weakened and less likely to occur again in the
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common medical illness that
negatively affects the way you feel, think and how you behave. Depression
causes feelings of sadness, a loss of interest in activities that were once
enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can
decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. Symptoms of
Feeling sad or having a depressed
Changes in appetite — weight loss or
gain unrelated to dieting
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Loss of energy or increased fatigue
Feeling worthless or guilty
Difficulty thinking, concentrating or
Thoughts of death or suicide
Lack of motivation
contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
your hobbies and interests
difficulties in your home and family life
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a
mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing
a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given
week. In 2016 3.3 in 100 people suffered from depression.
There are several different types of depression:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Depression
that usually occurs in the winter. Related to the winter season.
Dysthymia –Dysthymia also known as persistent
depressive disorder (PDD) is a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive
and physical problems as depression, with mild but longer-lasting symptoms.
Prenatal depression – Also known as antenatal
depression, is a clinical depression that occurs during pregnancy.
Postnatal depression (PND) – Occurs
in the first weeks and months after becoming a parent. Postnatal depression is
usually diagnosed in women but it can affect men, too.
Treatment for depression usually
involves a combination of self-help, talking therapies and medicines. The treatment that will be
recommended will be based on the type of depression you have.
Behavioural psychologists use concept of learning theory to explain
human behaviour. According to behavioural theory, dysfunctional or unhelpful behaviour
such as depression is learned. Because depression is learned, behavioural
psychologists suggest that it can also be unlearned. In the mid 1970s, Peter
Lewinsohn argued that depression is caused by a combination of stressors in a
person’s environment and a lack of personal skills. The environmental stressors
cause a person to receive a low rate of positive reinforcement. Positive
reinforcement occurs when people do something they find pleasurable and
rewarding. According to learning theory, receiving positive reinforcement increases
the chances that people will repeat the sorts of actions they have taken that caused
them to receive that reward. According to Lewinsohn, depressed people are people
who don’t know how to cope with the fact that they are no longer receiving
positive reinforcements like they were before. Some depressed people become
positively reinforced for acting depressed when family members and social
networks take pity on them and provide them with special support because they
are “sick”. As a result they almost feel rewarded because they get to
do less and still receive support and extra help. Behaviourists didn’t focus on
people’s thoughts, perceptions, evaluations or expectations and instead focused
entirely on their outward, directly observable and measurable behaviour. They
did this because they believed internal feelings and thoughts were irrelevant
to the process of influencing behaviour, and too hard to measure with any accuracy.
Recent research shows that internal events such as perceptions, expectations,
values, attitudes, fears, desires, etc. do affect behaviour, and are important
to take into account when doing therapy.
Behaviourism allowed researchers to investigate observable behaviour in
a scientific and organised way but behaviourism failed by not accounting for
the unconscious mind’s thoughts, feelings, and desires that influence people’s
actions. More recently, biological psychology has highlighted the power the
brain and genetics play in determining and influencing human actions. The
biological approach believes that most behaviour is inherited and has an
adaptive function. Biological psychologists explain behaviours in neurological
terms; the physiology and structure of the brain and how this influences behaviour. Many biological psychologists have focused on
abnormal behaviour and have tried to explain it. An example of this is biological
psychologists believe that schizophrenia is affected by levels of dopamine (a
neurotransmitter). These findings have helped psychiatry take off and help
relieve the symptoms of the mental illness through drugs. However, Freud and
other psychologists would argue that this just treats the symptoms and not the
Behaviourism has been criticized
in the way it under-estimates how complex human behaviour is. Many studies used
animals which are hard to generalize to humans, and it cannot explain, for
example, the speed in which we pick up language. There must be biological