The different Types of Psychology Theories

There are literally hundreds of different psychology theories available for study today. Have you ever wondered why there are so many theories floating around? What’s the purpose?

Theories provide a framework and a viable tool for other psychologists. By using these tools, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel or do the meticulous work of constructing new theory from scratch. Theories also provide a basis for future studies.

As an example, if you had a bicycle and wished to customize it, you would only need the frame to build the new custom bike. Unless you planned major modifications, there would be no need to reinvent the bicycle frame.

Developmental theory:

Developmental theory is comprised of known and accepted principles and concepts that provide a framework and explanation for human development. New research may deal with only a portion of the theory, using such concepts of the grand theory, as in, development in aging or development in children.

Grand Theories:

Grand theories are the theories of the major thinkers of psychology. Psychologists like Sigmund Freud, who is the father of psychoanalysis, and influenced thinking on the conscious and subconscious. Jean Piaget who developed cognitive theory, and many others. As pioneers in psychology they provided the framework for others to build upon.

Why are the grand theories built upon? New data becomes available for research and old theories become outdated in some respect, or the theory may need completion.


These Minitheories use grand theories for base information and take a smaller slice of the grand theory to research or provide new information to the science of psychology. The grand theories are a building block in the advancement of specific psychological theory.

Minitheories don’t attempt to cover the same spectrum as the grand theories nor do they seek to explain the whole range of behavioral concept if it is concerned only with a specific area of research.

Emergent Theory:

These are newer theories and may be taken from grand theories or research and work from other disciplines as well as psychology. An example might be the sleep disorder, insomnia. It can have a biological base where neurotransmitters fire improperly, and it can create a psychological problem (depression) as a result of the disrupted sleep patterns. This emergent theory intersects with neurological research as well as psychology.

These theories are an important part of ongoing research that uses established resources to assimilate new data for progress in the science of psychology.