Behaviourist and humanist approaches

Through sciences like biology and chemistry we have discovered the function and reactions of the external. But only through psychology have we turned that inquisition inwards and revealed the most basic of questions like, “why does little sally cry uncontrollably when we leave her alone?” or “why does Frank cut the faces out of pictures?” Looking back over time it seems strange that we would establish the meaning of biological processes like the solar cycle, before we even fathomed the mental development of human beings.

Scientific Approaches differ, sometimes slightly, sometimes to a larger quantity, from psychological approaches. This is not to say it is impossible to use scientific approaches in psychology, more like it IS possible to both use scientific approaches and other means to achieve understanding of the mind and behaviour. For example Freud’s study on little Hans showed the basic outline of a Scientific Approach, (Case Study, Questionnaire, etc.) Freud used his own perception of the gathered empirical data and put forward theories based on his insight and some gathered evidence. Judging by how much understanding of mind and behaviour we have gained from said study it could be advantageous to sometimes trim the fat of scientific approaches and use human understanding over tried and tested methods.

Though there are some very obvious problems by following this system. For example, insight isn’t measureable, and therefore can’t be proven correct or incorrect, but remain a theory until scientifically proven, and there is no way yet to scientifically prove behaviour, for it is anomalous and sporadic and far too difficult to predict. This causes a circular problem: You can’t prove a theory without scientific fact, and you can’t gather scientific facts of said theory. If we, for example, take the behaviouristic approach’s explanation for aggressive behaviour amongst children and gather only scientific data, like, 95/100 children that behaved badly in experiment X have received reinforcement for bad behaviour in the past.

This study shows that 95% of children behave badly because they are reinforced to do so. Behaviourism is one of the more scientific psychological approaches so from a behaviourist perspective this is correct. Yet a lot of psychologists would disagree with the above statement one such argument would be, “This study shows only empirical data and does not account for the individual thought processes of the badly behaved children.” This argument is one that a humanist psychologist might support.

On the opposing end of the scale furthest away from behaviourists are humanists, who may use non-scientific methods for these few may believe that humans can’t be predicted like machines. The only way to find out the truth about behaviour is to take quantifiable data and reflect on experience to determine and predict behaviour. 95/100 children that behaved badly in experiment X MAY have received reinforcement for bad behaviour in the past, but what could’ve caused this AND past behaviour could be because 30/100 were from a poor background, or 65/100 have recently lost a grandparent to a mob of angry psychologists which causes them to act up in a psychological experiment because they don’t like psychologists.

This study shows recognition of human behaviour on an implicit level as opposed to a scientific level, by using scientific methods you wouldn’t receive any of this information and would throw out important information that can’t be quantified. This weakness in scientific method may, over time, augment as we understand more about human behaviour and one day, perhaps, we would be able to understand the mind well enough to enumerate behaviour and grasp behaviour in such detail that we could run simple yet advanced tests on humans to obtain an understanding of the mind behaviour and more.

Psychology at this point in time is immature and needs to develop more before we can account it an exact science, in the future we may be able to use scientific methods as easily in psychology as in chemistry or physics, but at this time, in my opinion, we would be better off following theories and hunches as well as scientific method.

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