The discipline of psychology provides an understanding and explanations of different behavioral traits and experiences. Through this understanding, it enables the development of a platform for the clarification on different aspects that define human development and behavior human development. Furthermore, the discipline of psychology provides a technique through which numerous factors affecting behavior from biological to social influences can be used in explaining the condition of individuals. The main objective of this essay is to assess psychology in relation to its different concepts that define its understanding in the society.
Psychology is a field in social science with a long past but a short history. Understanding the history of psychology is possible through an in-depth look into prescientific psychology and scientific psychology. Prescientific psychology can be traced to the works of the Buddha in India who reflected on the role of sensation and perceptions in the formation of idea (Hayes, 2005). In their works, Socrates and Plato developed an understanding of the mind. According to these philosophers, the mind is a separate entity from the body, which continues to exist even after the death of the body. This explains why these scholars perceived ideas as innate (Mazur, 2010).
While disagreeing with the dualistic approach propounded by Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, developed the concept of monism. He argues that the body and the soul are unified entities. Furthermore, according to Aristotle, ideas are from experience (Hayes, 2005). Rene Descartes developed the dualist view by Plato that the body and soul were separate entities. However, he was also engaged in the speculation of the communication between the immaterial soul and the physical body. Francis bacon and John Locke were considered as the 17th century philosophers responsible for the introduction of scientific approaches in understanding human mind and behavior. Bacon introduced the scientific method while Locke improved this method by emphasizing on empirical observation as an approach to any scientific discourse (Mazur, 2010).
Wilhelm Wundt set up the first psychology lab and created structuralism as an approach essential in understating the configuration of the mind. This was considered as an essential approach in understanding scientific psychology (Mazur, 2010). This led to the development of other schools of thought such as functionalism in the 19th century that was protesting mental events as studied by the structuralists. Functionalism was rooted in evolution, which emphasized on how a specific behavior was adaptive (Pickren & Rutherford, 2010). For functionalist, the focus was not what the mind does but why it does it. Other approaches that have been influential in psychology since the 20th century are behaviorism, psychoanalysis, and Gestalt psychology. These schools of thought have been influential in the development of an understanding of the essence of the interaction of the mind and the environment in relation to the development of human behavior (Nevid, 2015).
Psychology as a science
Psychology is said to be scientific because it uses the empirical approach in understanding phenomenon. The scientific status of any endeavor is determined by the methodology it embraces in its investigations (Kardas, 2014). All disciplines that are considered scientific use the empirical method, which emphasizes on objectivity and precision in measurements (Dienes, 2008). Just as other behavioral social sciences such as political science, psychology is not as precise in its measurements as natural sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology. However, to the extent that psychology uses empirical evidence in the development of findings and resulting theories, it is possible to refer to his discipline as scientific (Kardas, 2014).
Emphasis on empirically observable phenomenon made it necessary for an alteration of the definition of psychology from the study of the mind to the scientific study of human behavior (Goddard, 2012). This is because it was not possible to empirically observe the mind. It is possible to empirically observe and measure externalities such as the activities of an individual and relate them to the internal thoughts and emotions that characterize the mind (Dienes, 2008).
Despite the relevance of scientific methodology in undemanding psychology there are limitations related to the perception of psychology as a science. This is because, through generalization, science assumes that specified laws that apply to every individual can define human behavior (Goddard, 2012). This is because science is deterministic and reductionist in nature. However, psychological explanations are often relative to specific times and places since human behavior is affected by the prevailing social and cultural changes (Dienes, 2008).
This is a psychological perspective, which argues that human beings are controlled by their environment and this makes them the result of that which they have learned from the environment. Behaviorism is focused on the techniques through which different environmental factors affect response, which is an observable behavior (Doyle-Portillo & Pastorino, 2011). There are two major theories underpinning behaviorism, these include classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning entails learning by association while operant conditioning asserts that human behavior is defined by learning from the consequences of behavior (Doyle-Portillo & Pastorino, 2011). Behaviorist approach rejects the notion that human beings operate on freewill but operates on the belief that the environment can be used as an essential determinant of human behavior (Troutman, 2015).
Sigmund Freud developed this psychological perspective. According to Freud, events that occur in an individual, childhood play often have a significant effect on the behavior of these individuals as adults. Freud developed this perspective on the assumption that individuals often have limited free will when making life decisions (Dalzell & Freud, 2011). Instead, the behavior of these individuals is determined by the unconscious mind and childhood experiences. In his psychoanalytic theory, Freud incorporates three main methodologies in accessing and underlying the unconscious mind. These are the dream analysis, free association, and slips of the tongue (Doyle-Portillo & Pastorino, 2011). According to Freud, the unconscious and submerged mind comprises the Id, the ego and the superego. An additional aspect in Freudian psychoanalysis is the theory of psychosexual development. Through this theoretical approach, Freud attempts to demonstrate how early life events can affect an individual personality and behavior (Dalzell & Freud, 2011).
This is a psychological theory that emphasizes on the study of the whole person. Successful study of human behavior according to this school of thought can be realized by assessing the observer and the person executing the behavior. Proponents of this theory assert that the behavior of an individual has some connection with his inner feelings and self-image (Nevid, 2015). This explains why every individual is unique and has the freewill of changing his mind at any time. According to this school of thought the use of scientific methodologies is inappropriate in the study of human behavior because the study of behavior is individualistic and subjective in with regard to perception. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers were the proponents of this school of thought. Their argument was that the main subject of focus in understanding behavior should be the individual (Swartz & O’Neill, 2011).
According to this school of thought, the process of understanding human behavior is only possible through an in-depth analysis of the mental processes involved. According to the proponents of this school of thought, memory comprises of encoding, storage, and retrieval. Cognitive psychology focuses on the effect of memory, perception, and attention in understanding the resulting behavior of an individual. It incorporates scientific approaches using laboratory experiments in the study of human behavior (Davey, 2011).
Dualism vs. Monism
The dualistic approach perceives man as composed of mind and body, which are the mental and physical components of man. The dualistic view that mind and body define man generates the implication that there is a correlation between mental events and the physical activities of man (Pickren & Rutherford, 2010). This means that the mind influences the activities of the body. The assumption that there is a correlation generates the implication that these are two entities that define man. This is based on the understanding that it is not possible for an entity to correlate with itself (Speidell, 2002). In terms of religion, the mind is often equated to the soul, which is the part of the body that survives death of the physical aspect of man.
Monism rejects the splitting of man into two entities of body and mind. Instead, it views man as a unified organism characterized by great complexities and varied functioning. According to monism, it is not possible for man to be composed of two entities that interact because of the possibility of conflict of interest between these entities (Speidell, 2002). While dualism perceived mental events to be correlated with psychological events, monism perceives both events as similar because they occur within the body of man to achieve a common goal (Swartz & O’Neill, 2011). The perception of man in terms of mind and body is a separate way of perceiving the same event. This makes it necessary to distinguishing between the two entities considering that their main objective is to ensure effective functioning of man. Man is therefore a unified entity defined by varieties of functions (Pickren & Rutherford, 2010).
Nature + Nurture
One of the greatest issues in psychology is the determination of the relationship between innate defined by the genetic aspect of an individual and the effect of the environment in human development. Proponents of nature, assert that innate processes, which are largely influenced by the genes of an individual, define human development. This is an indication that natural human behavior arises from already present biological factors, which comprise of the genetic code (Watts et al, 2009).
Proponents of nurture as the defining aspect of human development argue that developmental processes are acquired through interaction between man and his or her environment. Nurtured human behavior is therefore a result of environmental interactions (Troutman, 2015). These interactions are considered important because they provoke changes in the structure and chemistry of the brain. This explains why extreme situations in the environment of an individual have the probability of resulting into problems such as depression (Watts et al, 2009).
The objective of the debate between nature and nurture is to understand the processes through which individual traits and personalities are produced, the genetic structure and biological composition of individuals, and the role of the environment in shaping these factors into desirable behavior (Watts et al, 2009). Socialization agents such as parents, peers, school, church, and prevailing societal culture characterize the environment. In the process of assessing the behavior of children, it is possible to link them to those of their parents (Troutman, 2015). Such an assessment would require the consideration of the genetic similarities between parents and their children, in addition, it will also necessitate the consideration of the early childhood environment, and its relationship with the family as the primary agents of socialization. This is because the socialization process encourages some interaction between parents and children making it necessary for children to learn for their parents (Smith, 2007).
Feministic psychology is a psychological approach advanced by women who developed some level of awareness of the pressures developed by the patriarchal society. These included sexism, male chauvinism. Furthermore, this branch of psychology was also developed based on the understanding that counseling and therapy could not be exempt from these pressures (Crawford & Unger, 2000).
Women the society discovered that gender constructed differences and masculinity bias that has characterized the society had put them down in a number of ways. Furthermore, all sorts of exceptions considering the role of females and the execution of these roles were developed in a therapy process (Landrine & Russo, 2010). This explains why women began developing their own therapy centers and a network of therapists. From this perspective, it is possible to assert that the feministic psychology movement was developed at the grassroots making it relatively difficult to name one particular theorist as responsible for its development (Landrine & Russo, 2010).
Feminist therapy, which is an essential part of feminist psychology, examines the sociological and psychological factors that affect the female population. Feminist therapy is therefore essential in understanding effects of the roles and power differences in the society (Crawford & Unger, 2000).
According to personality theories that define feministic psychology, there are two biases that constitute approach to gender. Alpha bias, which characterizes most societies, involves the separation of man and women into two categories. The negative effect of this bias is the possibility of treating women as different and inferior beings. The beta bias, which defies the contemporary society, is the desire to treat men and women as identical while ignoring the perceived physical differences (Landrine & Russo, 2010).
Psychology in war
From a psychological perspective, war may have adverse effects on different individuals depending on the role they played in the war as soldiers or as the vulnerable and impressionable members of the society such as women and children (Grossman, 2014). Post-traumatic stress disorder involves attempts to develop an understanding the psychological and emotional trauma resulting from wars. Children are considered the most vulnerable and the most susceptible to PTSD because they may have difficulty in understanding the causes and the rationale for the war. Wars can affect their ability to develop healthy relationships with the adult members of the society or with their peers for fear of the unknown or conflict related situations (Grossman, 2014). There are situations where children are involved in wars as child soldiers. Coping with the effects of such involvements in conflict related situations might have adverse effects on such children considering that some of them may seek refuge in alcohol and misuse of drugs as coping mechanisms (Krippner & McIntyre, 2003).
Women are also considered part of the vulnerable population during wars. This is because they are prone to attacks and criminal activities such as rape. PTSD develops in the women because of the painful experiences that they are subjected to during wars. For women who experience extreme atrocities such as rape that may result in unwanted pregnancies, they often raise children whose fathers are unknown and this contributes to high levels of stress (Grossman, 2014).
For the adult soldiers participating in the war, PTSD often develops when they do not understand the reason for war except for patriotism. After the war, these individuals may be haunted by the brutal and hostile experiences that characterized the war (Krippner & McIntyre, 2003).
DSM-IV is a diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder that covers mental health disorders in adults and children by listing the possible causes of these disorders, statistics of their prevalence in terms of gender, prognosis, and age at onset (Davey, 2011). This manual is considered essential for mental health professionals when working with patients because it enables the development of an understanding of the prevailing mental illnesses and the potential treatment for the illnesses (Swartz & O’Neill, 2011). DSM-IV incorporates a multidimensional approach to diagnosis because in rare situations do other factors that define the life of a person fail to impact on his or her mental illness (Watts et al, 2009). This is often realized through five Axes of clinical syndromes (Axis I), development, and personality disorders (Axis II), physical conditions (Axis III), severity of psychological stressors (Axis IV), and highest level functioning (Axis V). In Axis V, the practitioner the patient’s level of functioning at the present time and within the previous year as a way of understanding how the remaining four axes have affected the patients and the possible changes that could be expected (Davey, 2011).
Normality form a psychological perceptive is considered as the state of being normal, as opposed to being unusual or deviant in relation to the behavior adopted by an individual. Behavior is considered normal when it is consistent with the most common and acceptable behavior in the society (Swartz & O’Neill, 2011). Normality is therefore a terminology that is used in the description of individual behavior that conforms with the most common behavior in the society. In psychology, the definition of that which is considered normal varies form one society to another because of differences in culture and the socialization process (Davey, 2011). Culture and the socialization process define the norms, standards of society and behavior that an individual must embrace as essential in operating and interacting with the remembers of the society (Swartz & O’Neill, 2011).
Psychology is a field in social science with a long past but a short history. Understanding the history of psychology is possible through an in-depth look into prescientific psychology and scientific psychology. This discipline is characterized by a long past but a short history. Understanding the history of psychology is possible through an in-depth look into prescientific psychology and scientific psychology. The scientific status of psychology is determined by the methodology it embraces in its investigations. Psychology is considered scientific because it uses the empirical method, which emphasizes on objectivity and precision in measurements. The mental process that psychology explores includes reasoning, learning, emotions, and motivations. This is an indication that through understanding of different psychological theories such as behaviorism, cognitive theory, humanism, and psychodynamic theories, it becomes possible to develop an understanding of how human beings learn, feel, act, think, and socialize with other members of the society.
Crawford, M., & Unger, R. K. (2000). Women and gender: A feminist psychology. Boston:
Dalzell, T. G., & Freud, S. (2011). Freud’s Schreber between psychiatry and psychoanalysis: On
subjective disposition to psychosis. London: Karnac Books.
Davey, G. (2011). Applied psychology. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley-Blackwell.
Dienes, Z. (2008). Understanding psychology as a science: An introduction to scientific and
statistical inference. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.
Doyle-Portillo, S., & Pastorino, E. (2011). What is psychology? Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth.
Grossman, L. C. D. (2014). On Killing. New York University Press: New York
Goddard, J. (2012). Faith vs. science: The unnecessary dichotomy. United States: First Edition
Design Publishing, Inc.
Hayes, N. (2005). Foundations of psychology. London: Thomson learning.
Kardas, E. P. (2014). History of psychology: The making of a science. Belmont: Wadsworth
Krippner, S., & McIntyre, T. M. (2003). The psychological impact of war trauma on civilians:
An international perspective. Westport, Conn: Praeger.
Landrine, H., & Russo, N. F. (2010). Handbook of diversity in feminist psychology. New York:
Mazur, J. (2010). What’s luck got to do with it? The history, mathematics, and psychology
behind the gambler’s illusion. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Nevid, J. S. (2015). Essentials of psychology: Concepts and applications. Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Pickren, W. E., & Rutherford, A. (2010). A history of modern psychology in context. Hoboken,
N.J: John Wiley.
Smith, H. A. (2007). Teaching adolescents: Educational psychology as a science of signs.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Speidell, T. (2002). On being a person: A multidisciplinary approach to personality theories.
Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Swartz, L., & O’Neill, V. (2011). Psychology: An introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Troutman, B. (2015). Integrating behaviorism and attachment theory in parent coaching. Cham:
Watts, J., Cockcroft, K., & Duncan, N. (2009). Developmental psychology. Cape Town, South
Africa: UCT Press.