What are the 7 major perspectives of psychology?
The 7 perspectives of psychology that are at the forefront are neuroscience, evolutionary, psycho-dynamic, behavioral, cognitive, socio-cultural, and humanistic perspectives.
Psychology as a field is the study of the mind and the behaviors of people. Numerous psychologists have researched, analyzed, and developed frameworks and explanations of human behavior over the years. As a result, many perspectives on psychology have emerged.
The Neuroscience Perspective
The development of psychology as a dedicated science was greatly supported by the study of physiology. Today, the study of physiology as a perspective of psychology is considered as the neuroscience perspective (also known as the biological perspective, physiological psychology, or biopsychology). This perspective focuses on how our behavior is affected by our physical and biological characteristics.
Researchers that approach psychology from a neuroscience perspective study the influence of genetics on behavior and how injury and damage to some parts of the brain could potentially affect personality.
Related: What Is Neurotherapy: Benefits, Side Effects, Safety
Genetics, the nervous system, the immune system, the brain, and the endocrine system are also some of the different areas that are studied by psychologists working from a neuroscience perspective. This perspective has greatly benefited from scientific advancement over the last few decades which has resulted in psychologists being better equipped to explore, research and analyze the brain and nervous system.
Positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) now allow researchers to analyze the brain under many different conditions, beyond what may have been possible in the past. These conditions span across conditions like the brain under the influence of drugs, a damaged brain, a diseased brain, etc.
If you are interested to learn more about neuroscience, check out the following books:
- Neuroscience For Dummies 2nd Edition by Frank Amthor
- Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, Enhanced Edition by Mark Bear, Barry Connors & Michael A. Paradiso
- Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey by David E. Presti.
The Evolutionary Perspective
The next on our list of 7 perspectives of psychology is the evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary psychology is a discipline that studies evolution as a theory and its impact on physiological processes. Psychologists that practice an evolutionary perspective of psychology utilize basic evolutionary principles such as natural selection etc. in determining their impact on physiological outcomes.
The essence of the evolutionary perspective of psychology is that mental functioning of a certain kind exists because it aids the species in evolution – such as in reproduction or survival.
To learn more about the evolutionary perspective of psychology, check out these books:
- Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind by David M Buss
- Evolutionary Psychology 101 by Glenn Geher PhD
- Beyond Evolutionary Psychology: How and Why Neuropsychological Modules Arise by George Ellis & Mark Solms
The Psycho-dynamic Perspective
The psycho-dynamic perspective of psychology has its roots in the work of renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud. This perspective of psychology pays close attention to the unconscious mind, personal relationships, and childhood memories and experiences and how they impact human behavior and mental illness.
Due to Freud’s revolutionary work, psychoanalysis was one of the foremost forces in psychology. As per Freud, the mind is composed of the id, ego, and superego as key structural elements.
The id – This element includes base-level characteristics such as unconscious and primal desires.
The ego – This element is a part of the psyche that assists in facing the real world and its demands.
The superego – This element of the psyche is last to develop and is composed of one’s ideals, standards, and morals.
Despite its revolutionary beginnings, the psycho-dynamic perspective is not as widely used today although it continues to be a valuable psychotherapy tool for psychologists approaching human behavior from a psycho-dynamic perspective.
To learn more about a psycho-dynamic perspective of psychology, check out the following books:
- Essential Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: An Acquired Art by Teri Quatman
- Psychodynamic Therapy: A Guide to Evidence-Based Practice by Richard F. Summers & Jacques P. Barber
- Long-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: A Basic Text by Glen O. Gabbard
The behavioral perspective of psychology focuses on behaviors that are learned over time and how they impact further human behavioral outcomes. This perspective has its roots in the work of psychologists such as John B. Watson and Edward Thorndike. Psychology was dominated by the behavioral perspective (also known as behaviorism) in the early parts of the twentieth century but started to lose its dominance in the middle of the twentieth century.
Unlike other psychological perspectives that mainly focus on internal states, behaviorism focuses entirely on behaviors that can be observed.
Psychologists working with the behavioral perspective of psychology apply the principles of this perspective even today to explain and treat numerous illnesses. They are still concerned with questions about how certain behaviors are learned and reinforced.
If you are looking to learn more about this perspective, check out these books:
- Brain & Behavior: An Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience by Bob Garrett
- Behavioral Human Psychology by Joseph Griffith
- Behavioral Psychology: 2 Books in 1 by Richard Campbell
The Cognitive Perspective
A new style of psychology emerged in the 1960s known as cognitive psychology. This is one of the 7 perspectives of psychology and it is known as the cognitive perspective today. This perspective of psychology focuses mainly on mental processes such as thinking, language, memory, problem-solving, and decision making.
Cognitive psychology and the cognitive perspective have seen tremendous growth in use and adoption over the decades. This perspective has been greatly influenced by well-known psychologists such as Albert Bandura and Jean Piaget.
Cognitive psychologists conceptualize how information is acquired, processed, stored, and used through an information-processing model. This model uses the human mind as a comparison to a computer.
To explore this perspective in more detail, check out the following books:
- Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience by E. Bruce Goldstein
- Cognitive Psychology: Theory, Process, and Methodology by Dawn M. McBride, J. Cooper Cutting
- Cognitive Psychology In and Out of the Laboratory by Kathleen M. Galotti
The Social-Cultural Perspective
The social-cultural perspective of psychology is a new of the 7 perspectives of psychology that have grown tremendously over the last two decades. Psychologists that analyze human behavior from this perspective look at the differences in behaviors across different cultures.
By focusing on the differences in behaviors across different cultures, we can understand how culture impacts mental processes, our thinking, and our behaviors.
Psychologists have studied behaviors from a social-cultural perspective and have noticed stark differences in some cases between collectivistic and individualistic cultures. Collectivistic cultures tend to work harder when part of a group. China is a good example of a collectivistic culture.
On the other hand, individualistic cultures tend to work less hard and put in lesser effort when part of a group. This phenomenon is known as social loafing. The United States is a good example of an individualistic culture.
To learn more about social-cultural psychology, check out the following books:
- Social Psychology and Cultural Context by John Adamopoulos, Yoshihisa Kashima
- Identity and Cultural Diversity: What social psychology can teach us by Maykel Verkuyten
- Social Psychology of Culture by Chi-Yue Chiu , Ying-yi Hong
The Humanistic Perspective
The humanistic perspective of psychology came to light in the 1950s. Renowned humanists of the time such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers greatly influenced this perspective.
The humanistic perspective focuses on the role motivation plays in the thoughts and behaviors of a human. Self-actualization as a concept is essential to this perspective of psychology. Psychologists that look at human behavior from the humanistic perspective do research and analysis on the motivation and drive behind a human’s wish to grow, improve, change and meet their potential.
Positive psychology is a new movement in psychology that focuses on helping people lead healthier and happier lives. This movement has its foundations set in the humanistic perspective of psychology. According to the article from Tyonote, this perspective is the least scientific of all 7 perspectives.
If you are interested in more in-depth material about humanistic psychology, check out the following books:
- The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Theory, Research, and Practice by Kirk J. Schneider, J. Fraser Pierson, James F. T. Bugental
- Humanistic Psychology: Current Trends and Future Prospects by Richard House, David Kalisch, Jennifer Maidman
- Existential–Humanistic Therapy by Dr. Kirk J. Schneider PhD (Author), Orah T. Krug
There are numerous ways in which we can think about human behavior and thoughts. The different 7 perspectives of psychology are complementary to each other in most cases and together comprise the toolkit with which various problems related to human behavior can be tackled by psychologists, researchers, and students.
These perspectives also provide the foundation on which further research can be carried out and as a result, newer perspectives can be developed to explain human behavior. The constant evolution of psychological perspectives could potentially lead to the development of newer approaches to treatment and mental health care.