Approaches to Psychology Essay
Approaches to Psychology
The psychoanalytic approach was started and developed mainly in Europe between 1900 and 1939 by Sigmund Freud, a Viennese doctor who specialized in neurology. As a doctor, he became interested in the field of hysteria – the manifestation of physical symptoms without physical causes – and became convinced that unconscious mental causes were responsible, and could be responsible for all mental disorders and even our personality.
He created the theory of personality, and based his ideas upon intensive case studies of a considerable range of patients, especially his infamous study on “Little Hans”, a young boy who Freud carried out psychoanalysis upon. Bowlby (1946) applied Freud’s theories when he used psychoanalysis on a large group of children with various ages on a study of habitual delinquency. The central emphasis is on dynamic, biological processes especially those taking place in the unconscious mind, and involves the idea of psychic determinism, i.
e. Freudian slips. Freud said that we all have instinctual drives – wishes, desires, needs, or demands, which are hidden and suppressed from the consciousness because society disapproves of their open expression. Freud proposes three main components of the mind; the id, the ego and the superego. The id operates on the pleasure principle and its goal is immediate gratification and reduction of tension caused by irrational impulses. The ego operates on the reality principle, and controls the id in its reaction with the world.
The superego operates on the idealisation principle, with norms and values of society being internalised. According to this approach, we all undergo psychosexual stages – oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital – which gradually motivate the individual to focus on the libido, and can be linked with the Oedipus complex. The libido is described as ‘psychic energy’ behind primary drives of hunger, aggression, sex and irrational impulses. Fixation at any of these stages can lead to behaviour in our adulthood reflecting earlier stages of our childhood, which are caused by unresolved conflicts.
For example, fixation at the oral stage can cause adult behaviour that is centred on the mouth (eating, smoking, etc. ) The purpose of psychoanalysis was as a therapy to treat mental disorder by means of treating the unconscious mind. The methods that Freud used for investigating the unconsciousness were by means of case studies, and deep analysis and interpretation. Free association involves the uninhibited expression of thought association, no matter how bizarre or embarrassing, from the client to the analyst.
Dream analysis involves the analyst attempting to decode the symbols and unravel the hidden meaning (the latent content) of a dream from the dreamer’s report (the manifest content). Freud used his theory to explain a number of topics. He explained that the development of personality came from fixations or defence mechanisms, and that aggression was caused by hydraulic drives and displacement. Abnormality was seen as the consequence of early traumas and repression, which subsequently could impair our moral and gender development, the latter being the result of the Oedipus complex.
The psychoanalytic approach has been greatly influential within psychology, in areas such as psychotherapy and developmental theories, and also beyond in art, literature and other sciences, some 100 years since Freud first developed his ideas. His theory has had some experimental support in certain areas, such as repression and fixation. Freud introduced the world to the concept of the unconscious, and regarded his case studies like ‘Little Hans’ and ‘Anna O’ as firm empirical support for his theory.
He thought his belief in determinism and detailed collection of data were scientific, yet many psychologists today argue that his theories and ideas are too biological, that is that they rely too much on the influence of basic instincts and physical drives. Most of Freud’s ideas and concepts came from only a handful of results on the study of children. Freud could have allowed his own prejudices to shape his analysis, leading to no objective measures. His close interventions and feedback to the child’s family could have changed the child’s behaviour and that of its family.
Psychoanalysis lacks rigorous empirical support, especially regarding normal development, and leads to reductionism, i. e. it reduces human activity to a basic set of structures, which can’t account for behaviour. Freud’s ideas have been accused of being irrefutable, and are therefore theoretically unscientific. Another approach to psychology is the behaviourist approach, which concentrates on the theory of learning and behavioural therapy, and tries to explain behaviour in terms of its relation to environmental events (stimuli), rather than any innate factors.
The view that behaviour should be the sole subject matter of psychology was first advanced by the American psychologist John B. Watson in the early 1900s. His position came to be called behaviourism. He believed that psychologists could not afford to “speculate” upon the unobservable inner workings of the mind, since they are too private to be studied scientifically. For the behaviourist, much of their research focuses on objectively observable behaviour, rather than any internal process. The approach proposes that behaviour is radical, and that it is caused and maintained in this way.
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