Perspectives In Psychology

A list of the seven types of perspectives that psychologists use in their profession.

1. Neuroscience

This perspectives looks inside the body, at substances such as hormones, drugs, and neurotransmitters, and at internal organs, especially the brain and its structures. It is also concerned with issues such as emotions, physical health, brain damage and other injuries. It is through neuroscience that psychologists seek to understand how the body influences behavior and how behavior influences the body. For example, we can use a brain scan, called a PET scan, to see how the brain of a person with brain damage functions differently than the brain of a person who has not been injured and how these differences correlate with behavior.

2. Evolutionary

This perspective looks at the impact of evolution on our behaviors. Psychologists study how the process of natural selection (i.e., survival of the fittest, which actually mean survial long enough to reproduce) and how it might affect the way in which we behave. The interaction of our physical abilities and attributes with the environment is taken into consideration. For example, how did the exisence of an opposing thumb affect our ability to do things that allowed us to survive long enough to reproduce?

3. Behavior Genetics

This perspective looks at our personal genetic heritage and how that influences who we are and how we behave. The nature-nurture issue is emphasized. It is concerned with the interaction of our environment (our personal life experiences) and the talents and physical attributes we were born with because of our genetic heritage. For example, if you are born with a tendency to have excellent eye-hand coordination, how does that affect the kinds of activities you choose to do and the activities you choose not to do? And do your choices result in additional practice that improves your coordination even more?

4. Behavioral

This perspective looks how we learn from the consequences of our actions (i.e., if I study harder, I get beter test score), at behaviors that are learned from watching others, and at behaviors that are learned unconsciously and automatically.

5. Cognitive

This perspective looks at how we think and reason, how we remember things, why we remember some things better than others, how we go about solving a math or a logic problem, why we are likely to pay attention to some things and not to others, and so on. For example, why can you remember some things that happened many years ago very clearly but you can't remember what you had for dinner just two months ago?

6. Social-Cultural

This perspective looks at how people in different cultures and social situations behave. Psychologists study how difference in cultural values and practices can lead to different ways of seeing the world and different ways of behaving. For example, if you show the same picture of a house on a hill to a Maori and to someone from Iowa, the Maori is more likely to be intrested in the hillside, while the Iowan is more likely to be intrested in the house.

7. Psychoanalytic

This perspective, initially developed by Sigmund Freud, is concerned with how our unconscious motives affect our behavior. Freud developed a comprehensive theory about why we do things without understanding our own motives. He also developed strategies to try to find out what is in the unconscious, such as dream interpretation.

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