Behaviourist and the cognitive approach

This essay will attempt to explore three approaches in psychology which will be the psychoanalytical, behaviourist and the cognitive approach. The main features of these approaches will be highlighted and there strengths and weaknesses will be evaluated. Qualifications within certain branches of psychology will also be explained. The psychoanalytical approach was founded in 1900 by both medical doctor and philosopher Sigmund Freud (1876-1939). The psychoanalytic approach aims to understand thoughts, feelings and behaviours by analysing unconscious mental processes formed by early childhood experiences.

Freud was interested in charting how the human affected the body, particularly in forms of mental illnesses. Here the psychoanalytic explores psychotherapist explores there unconscious to help the patient understand him or herself The psychoanalytic theory is concerned with the unconscious mind for this the mind can be described as being like an iceberg. Only the tip of the iceberg can be seen above the surface of the water, while the great remainder is hidden under the water.

The tip of the iceberg represents the part of the mind which is conscious this part being the only part that humans are directly aware of. The part of the iceberg just below the waters surface is described as being our preconscious, this being our dream state and recent experiences which we are able to remember with little effort. The base of the iceberg represents our unconscious mind; this is the part we are not normally aware of. It contains our instincts (sex and aggression), traumas, fears, and passions. The unconscious is said to have more influence over our behaviour than our conscious mind.

These unconscious thoughts and ideas can become conscious through the use of special techniques, such as free association, dream interpretation and transference, the cornerstone of psychoanalysis. Much of what is unconscious has been made so through repression, whereby threatening or unpleasant experiences are ‘forgotten’ they become inaccessible, locked away from conscious awareness. This is a major form of ego defence. The first, and perhaps the most familiar way of tapping into the unconscious is dream analysis, according to Freud dreams are full of symbolic fulfilments of wishes that can’t be fulfilled because they have been repressed.

These desires or wishes come out in our dreams as they are often forbidden in conscious mind. According to Freud our personalities are made up of three different components which are; the ID, the Ego and the Super Ego The ID is the unconscious part of the personality which is with us from birth. It operates on the pleasure principal which strives for pleasure and avoids pain. This part of the personality is very much influenced by our instincts. The Ego emerges from about the ages of two or three and is a conscious part of our personality.

It keeps a balance between the unrealistic ID and super ego, the ego allows us to live realistically without feeling to bad. The super ego is the third part to our personality which emerges at around the age of six. It’s as unrealistic as the ID in that it is very authoritarian like a built in watchdog, overall the super ego is our conscious. If we do something that we think is wrong the super ego punishes us with feelings of guilt. Whatever route is taken to the unconscious mind, according to Freud almost everything that is found there is related to sex.

He explains that all pleasure experienced is sexual pleasure even in the most fundamental acts such as a mother nursing an infant. Freud had a theory of adult personality development; this involved three psychosexual stages when young. Stage one is the oral stage, stage two is the anal stage, which takes place from the age of two where the child has pleasure with excretion. Stage three is the phallic stage where at around three and a half years old boys develop Oedipus complex and girls develop penis envy. The oral stage happens at birth up until 12 months.

This period is called the oral stage simply because the baby’s mouth is the centre of its universe. If you watch a baby’s behaviour you will no doubt find that the baby constantly puts things in its mouth, and seems to get much satisfaction from it. This is common behaviour among all young babies. Freud thought this happened because when we are born, a psychic energy known as libido is centred in our mouth. Libido fuels the ID. The act of babies sucking, biting and breast-feeding is seen as id-driven behaviours, this is the result of libido being centred in the mouth.

The pleasure got by such oral activities is proof of oral gratification demanded by the libido. According to Freud if a child becomes stuck in the oral stage through lack or excessive oral stimulation that child will grow into adult hood orally fixated. Those who smoke, nail bite, chew fingers or lip suck are seen to have an oral fixation. Freud is probably the best known psychologist in history and is undoubtedly had the biggest impact on psychology with his theories. However it could be said that Freud’s theories could be inaccurate, they cannot be tested properly because it is hard to measure things like ‘instincts’ and urges.

Most of Freudian theory is based on the ‘unconscious’, however the unconscious is invisible therefore it is impossible to prove its existence. The strengths of Freud’s theory can be seen in findings such as identifying sexual abuse in children, his methods and techniques for understanding why we think, feel and behave as we do lives on today in applied psychoanalysis and related psychodynamic theory and therapies. In 1915 psychology was dominated by Freud’s ideas which focused strictly on the mind in terms of understanding human behaviour. In reaction to this the behaviourist approach was introduced.

Behaviourism was founded in the 1920’s by John B Watson (1878-1958) it was he who claimed the psychology should be studied as a science like the natural sciences e. g. physics and chemistry. Behaviourism used the experimental method of research, mental processes were not considered in this approach. Behaviourists limited themselves to things that can be observed, and formulated laws concerning only those things. Behaviourism believes that when we are born we are born we are born with a blank slate (tabula rasa) everything we know in our mind is from learning in our environment.

Behaviourists like Watson and Skinner explained all human behaviour in terms of stimulus response connection. This view postulates that the subject matter of human psychology is only the behaviour of the human being. Behaviourism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor usable concept. Behaviourism focuses on the emphasis of learning. Behaviourists such as E. L Thorndire and B. F Skinner believe that behaviours are learned. The word learning in psychology means change in behaviour that occurs as a result of our experiences.

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There are a number of approaches in psychology and this essay will compare and contrast two of the major perspectives. These will be the cognitive and psychoanalytic perspectives; it will also give an example of how psychology can be applied …

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