People behave in extremely different ways and respond differently to similar events. Understanding human behaviours is a complex process that requires extensive efforts to distinguish why one person behaves differently from another. Psychological perspectives are the most effective means of understanding human behaviour. This paper critically evaluates the psychodynamic and cognitive perspectives that help understand human behaviours.
The psychodynamic perspectives seek to understand human behaviour and conduct by evaluating the external factors in their life. The theories claim that childhood experiences significantly influence human behaviours and emotions. In this case, the theory evaluates the dynamic relationships between a person’s conscious motivation and unconscious factors. In this perspective, Ernst von Brucke claimed that living organisms are themselves energy systems controlled by their aim to conserve thee energies (Hortensius et al., 2016, p. 685). In this case, he claimed that an individual’s behaviour emerges after an underlying conflict within themselves that occurs unconsciously. Sigmund Freud also expanded this perspective to develop the psychosexual theory and psychoanalysis to understand human behaviour. In Freud’s psychosexual theory, an individual’s behaviour is influenced by the psychological processes occurring due to psychosexual energies found in the brain. In the theory of psychoanalysis, Freud developed two assumptions that govern human psychology. First, he claimed that human mental processes are unconscious such that they occur without an individuals consent. The second assumption was that a mature persons behaviour is greatly influenced by events that occurred in their childhood (DeBitencourt et al., 2016, p 99).
Freud used the analogy of an iceberg to illustrate the operations in the subconscious mind. He notes that only a small part of an iceberg is seen on the surface of the water, yet the larger part of it is below the water surface. Similarly, only a small part of the human mind is seen. Hence, he relates the conscious mind to the iceberg tip and the subconscious mind to the larger layer below the water surface. In his view, the subconscious mind comprises multiple thoughts that an individual retrieves through massive efforts. However, it is not always that they will be aware of their unconscious thoughts even after the massive efforts. The psychodynamic perspectives claim that the subconscious mind is the greatest contributor to human behaviour. According to this perspective, an individual can defeat undesirable behaviours and thoughts through understanding their subconscious mind, which is the root cause of their behaviours (Walsh et al., 2016, p 494). This theory led to talk therapy, which helps patients understand their internal processes.
The psychodynamic perspectives have several strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the perspective is that it focuses on the impact of childhood experiences on an individual’s personality. The theory also considers the nature and nurture concepts to understand human behaviours. In this case, Freud explained critically an individual’s nature of Id, Ego and Super Ego and the personality nurturing of parents and childhood experiences. However, the perspective is limed due to various factors. First, the perspective appears falsified due to challenges in measuring it scientifically. According to Barabasz (2016, p 155), Freud’s psychodynamic theory is invalid since its key principles cannot be verified through scientific experiments. The perspective is also limited since it dismisses the aspect of free- will and emphasizes that human behaviour is predetermined. Freud’s psychosexual stages suggest that human actions are predetermined since their personalities rely solely on childhood experiences. This appears untrue since it dismisses the possibility of an individual changing their problematic personality as children to a grownup.
The cognitive approach is one of the oldest perspectives of understanding human behaviour since the institutionalization of psychology in 1879. The cognitive perspectives of understanding human behaviours emerged from Wilhelm Wundt, who referred to the works of ancient philosophers Aristotle and Plato. However, this approach was adopted as a dominant approach in the late 1970s after Piaget and Tolman developed critical ideologies on the human mental processes. In his book, Purposive Behaviour in Animals and Man, Tolman suggested that an individual learns through the interaction of the stimuli and the responses generated (Adefolalu, 2018, p 5). The psychological perspective suggests that people’s behaviours can only be understood by assessing the activities in their minds. The cognitive perspective examines human behaviour concerning the internal mental processes of an individual. Cognitive psychologists concentrate on the cognition process, the mental process of acquiring knowledge (Freeman, 2016, p 686). Hence, this perspective evaluates mental processes such as memory, attention, language and problem-solving abilities.
The psychologists in this perspective compare the human brain process to the computer processing unit, which follows the to generate information. This perspective states that human memory processes information through three stages: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The encoding stage is where an individual receives information and responds to it, after which it is retained in the storage space. The retrieval stage is where the stored information is recalled (LeMoult and Gotlib, 2019, p 59). Hence mediational approaches depend on the stimulus and the response.
Nevertheless, the human cognitive process is highly affected by an individual’s belief system, referred to as the schemas. The schemas are responsible for the stimulus interpretation such that it can lead to distortion of information. This approach is highly embraced by psychologists wince it uses scientific approaches to define human behaviours, which can be proved using laboratory experiments. Therefore, this perspective is applied to the presentation of eyewitness testimony and cognitive therapy.
The cognitive approach is advantaged since its reliability and objectivity can be proven through lab experiments. Hence, the approach has been applied in multiple contexts and has proven relevant. Besides, this perspective is easily combined with other psychological perspectives to understand human behaviours(Adefolalu, 2018, p 6). For instance, it has been combined with the behaviourism perspective to develop the social learning theory, and its combination with biology gives the evolutionary theory. Nevertheless, the approach contains various limitations. For instance, the approach evaluated the mental process shallowly such that it ignores some critical factors influencing the mental processes. The approach concentrates more on the logical aspects of cognition, but it gives less attention to the emotional and social aspects, yet they play a major role in human thinking. Besides, the perspective lowers the human brain to the level of computers, yet the mind is much more powerful than the most advanced computer.
In conclusion, understanding human behaviours is a complex process. Psychologists apply various approaches to evaluate why a person behaves in a particular manner and determine the interventions appropriate for an individual with problematic behaviours. The psychodynamic perspective, developed by Sigmund Freud, suggests that childhood experiences significantly influence human behaviours and emotions. The cognitive perspective examines human behaviour concerning the internal mental processes of an individual.
Nature versus Nurture
Nature versus nurture is s psychological debate that has existed for a long time concerning the balance of genetics and nature in influencing human behaviour. The key issue in this debate is between genetics or environmental factors, which one has the greatest impact on an individual’s personality (Fox, 2017 p 23). The debaters indicate a significant impact of genetic and environmental factors on human development. Among the people who contributed to this debate were Plato and Descartes, who claimed that some aspects of an individual are inborn such that they occur irrespective of the environment where an individual grows. The nativists suggested that most of an individual’s traits were inherited. Other thinkers, like John Locke, held to the ideology that an individual’s mind is blank when an individual is born, and everything an individual becomes and knows depends on the experiences in their environment (Morehouse et al., 2016 p.e0165425). Nature refers to the hereditary factors that define a person, such as their physical appearance, while nurture is the environmental factors shaping a person, such as their childhood experiences, upbringing, social relationships and the culture of the community. Hence, the psychodynamic perspective supports nature as the determinant of an individual’s behaviours, while the cognitive perspective supports the nurture side of the debate. The empiricists support the nurture side of the argument since they believe that an individual adapts a particular behaviour through learning. They argue that behaviours and actions of an individual were caused by conditioning such that a person can be trained to behave ina particular manner or to become anything without considering their genetic composition.
Determinism versus freewill
The debate on determinism and free will arises from the argument on the extent to which an individual’s behaviours are influenced by forces beyond human control or whether an individual thinks through a situation to decide how to behave or respond. The determinism approach suggests that human behaviours occur from a particular cause and are thus predictable, while the freewill approach claims that human behaviour is influenced by internal and external forces that nobody con control (Feldman, 2017 p.e12293). The deterministic approach indicates two types of determinism; internal and external determinism. Internal determinism claims that biological factors control human behaviour. These perspectives led to the development of sociobiology, which claims that human evolution determines their behavioursand genetic composition. The deterministic approach indicates that an individual’s personality traits depend on their neurological and hormonal actions. In Freud’s argument, human behaviour is controlled from within by unconscious motivation emerging from childhood events. This is referred to as psychic determinism (Stapp, 2017). The free will perspective suggests that people can choose how to behave, indicating that behaviour is self-determined. For instance, an individual can break the law and follow it. In this case, the freewill perspective indicates that individual behaviours are not influenced by past experiences, as stated in the psychodynamic perspective. Humanistic psychologists propose that freedom is possible and necessary to make a human being functional. These psychologists claim that self-actualization is a basic human need that separates them from other creatures. This distinction, therefore, develops the difference between natural and social sciences.
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