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What are the major schools of thought in Psychology?

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Samuel Chiltern Profile
Samuel Chiltern answered
There are five main schools of thought in Psychology:

1. Structuralism and Functionalism
Structuralism was the first school of psychology, and was formally set up by Edward Titchener, a student of Wilhelm Wundt, who is considered to be the father of experimental Psychology.

Structuralism focused on de-constructing mental processes into the the smallest possible units.

Functionalism arrived after structuralism and reacted against what it saw as over-emphasis on the actual mental processes, preferring instead to look at the roles that these processes play.

2. Behaviourism
Behaviourism overtook structuralism and functionalism, and dominated psychological understanding in the 1950s. The central tenet of behaviourism is that all behaviour is merely a reaction to external influences, and the approach ignores internal motivations, since they cannot be directly observed.

Key contributors to the behaviourist school of thought included B. F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov.

3. Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud, possibly one of the most famous psychologists, founded the school of psychoanalysis. Central to the movement was the notion that the unconscious mind has a profound effect upon an individual's behaviour.

4. Humanistic Psychology
Humanistic psychology differs from the earlier schools, in that it focuses on helping people improve themselves, rather than looking at what is wrong with them. Humanistic psychology was a reaction against behaviourism and psychoanalysis.

5. Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychology focuses on how people perceive, think, remember and learn. This field of psychology interlinks with neuroscience and linguistics, in an attempt to understand, with the backing of impartial evidence, how processes such as language, memory and perception work.

Cognitive psychology emerged in response to what its proponents saw as the significant shortcomings of behaviourism, namely that the latter failed to account for the internal processes of a person.
Mehreen Misbah Profile
Mehreen Misbah answered
Psychology is a vast field with a multitude of topics. In the literal sense, it means the 'study of the mind'. Nevertheless there are several approaches and schools of thoughts of psychology that were established by early psychologists in accordance with their respective modes of research and study, the gist of which is discussed below:

  • Biological perspective: The psychological model that studies the role of biological functioning in the shaping of behavior.
  • Psychodynamic perspective: The psychological model formed on the belief that behavior is shaped by inner forces, over which the individual has little control, and about which the individual has little awareness.
  • Cognitive perspective: The psychological model based on the concept that behavior is directed by the way we come to know, understand, and think about the world.
  • Behavioural perspective: This perspective suggests that the external environment is the major determinant in shaping behavior.
  • Humanistic perspective: In the light of this perspective, it is said that people have full control over their lives and they are solely responsible for shaping their thoughts, ideas, behavior and attitude.
Razel Grace San Ramon Profile
Just as humans are complex, Psychology is also complex. From the early scientific approaches of Functionalism and Structuralism, the field of Psychology developed to having six contemporary approaches. Furthermore, the profession of Psychology is currently made up of fifteen specializations in the graduate school.

Consider reading "What is Psychology and how did it develop?" for more information on Structuralism and Functionalism, "How do Contemporary Psychologists approach the study of Behavior and Mental Processes?" for a list of the contemporary approaches to Psychology, and "What types of Careers are available to Psychology Majors?" for various fields of specializations in Psychology.

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