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The five major perspectives in Psychology and their main strengths and weaknesses In this essay I will outline and describe the major theories in Psychology and evaluate them. There are five major theories’ these being, Psychoanalytic, behaviourist, cognitive, humanist and biological. The basis of Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory is that human behaviour is controlled by the un-conscious mind, meaning we are unaware of why we behave the way we do. Freud felt that Psychologists should focus on understanding the mental process.

Freud believed individuals to be in a state of conflict due to demands that are made from different parts of their personality, these being, ID, EGO and SUPEREGO. There needs to be a good balance between them to have the normality, however there will always be some degree of conflict between them. The ID is the demanding part and it is what responds to the instincts, e.g., the biological need for food, drink and warmth. It is determined by the seeking of pleasure and controls our behaviour when we act selfishly or on impulse. Freud explains this as: “It contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth that is laid down in the constitution- above all therefore, the instincts” (Freud, 1964)

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The EGO is the rational part of the personality, that does the planning and decision making. It makes us see the difference between wanting/ wishing and the actual reality of things. The SUPEREGO is the guilty conscience it determines what is right or wrong and what is acceptable and unacceptable and looks at the moral and judicial part of our personality. The SUPEREGO is there to assist the EGO and to keep the ID under control. Freud’s theory of Development comes in four different stages. The first of these is the oral stage, which comes at birth, whereby Babies will explore by using their mouths, finding pleasure from this and finding out things by doing it.

The Anal stage comes between the ages of 1-3 and is the stage where the anal part of the body is the most pleasurable and sensitive. The child is learning the stages of toilet training and learns that praise and love is given when something is done. The Phallic stage comes in at 3 to 5/6 years of age and is when the child becomes aware of their genitals and the difference between the sexes. Pleasure is found from the genitals more so in boys at this age than girls, they do not become aware until later in puberty. The last stage is therefore the Latency period from the ages 5/6 to puberty in the teens. It is in this stage that the ID really starts to play a big part in personality making demands on sexual desires.

The treatments that are used for any abnormal behaviour in this area are psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Psychotherapy is where the client is seen by the therapist either on a one to one or group basis regularly. The therapists will anaylise everything that is discussed in these sessions to draw to a conclusion of what the problem areas are. Psychoanalysis is done through two techniques, free association where thought associations are used from the client. Then dream analysis which is where the un-conscious can be analysied through the clients dreams, the therapist will look at the deeper meaning of them and relate this to their life.

Freud’s theory is still used and discussed actively today. He had several case studies such as ‘little Hans’ that firmly supported his theory and ideas. However they are rejected by many as although they are easily explained, they appear to be unscientific and unpredictable. This is mainly due to the fact that Freud based it all on studying ‘abnormal’ people. The Behaviourist approach has been developed by many commentators, including Ivan Pavlov who was the first to develop the theory that the key learning process is made through classical conditioning. Pavlov believed that we have a physical response to sight and smell and he researched this by studying dogs.

John Watson in 1913 then started the behavioust movement in which he proceeded to develop earlier work done by Pavlov. Watson used the classical conditioning on humans and discovered that only a few reflex responses reacted to the conditioning. Skinner also came about at this time to develop Operant conditioning where learning is seen as an active process rather than just a stimulus as it is in classical. Skinner believed that behaviour is learnt through shaping and reinforcement. Skinner came up with A.B.C learning: A: antecedents (being a place or a thing. Eg: work)

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