Theoretical Perspectives in Psychology

Theories abound in psychology and for convenience of study, Wayne Weiten, in his book, Psychology: Themes and  Variation, theorizes about behavior,  psychoanalysis, humanism, cognition, biology and evolution. Behavior, the most outward sign about how people think and how they interact with society is dealt with first. Last on the list are biological and evolutionary theories, not by any means of least importance, but the most recent. The mapping of the DNA gene sequences gives importance to hereditary influences.

Each of these theories have the full attention of individual groups of psychologists whose studies and mind sets have given prominence to the six theories. Yet, what’s true when treating the whole physiological human body—all areas are interconnected and cannot adequately be separated—are true when treating and studying the psyche of mankind. And for that reason, biological theories are an important part in the psychological portfolio.

Behavioral psychology

 Behavioral  psychology looks only at the outward actions of people and attempts to modify those not conducive to society. Training and practice, in much the same way animals are trained, works best, adherents believe. Basic beliefs are conditioning, repetition, rewards and punishment and only those outward observable signs are worth attention and study.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, (1849-1936) a Russian Nobel laureate psychologist developed the theory; John Broadus Watson (1878-1936), A US psychologist established it as a separate branch of study. A US researcher, Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990 carried the work onward. Now mainly overlooked, but in its heyday from 1920 until 1960, it was the main psychological tool for controlling unfavorable actions. It gave way to inward looking and to cognitive studies.  


The word Cognition means knowing: It relates to psychology as a process by people understand and learn from their internal thoughts and messages. The public was introduced to cognitive psychology when, in 1967, Ulric Neisser published a book, Cognitive Psychology. “Cognitive Psychology revolves around the notion that if we want to know what makes people tick then the way to do it is to figure out what processes are actually going on in their minds.”

Directly opposite behaviorism, cognitive psychology is about humans and how they interact with their thoughts, how aware they are to their own inner emotions and how they relate this to their actions. In one way of looking at this branch of scientific studies, it’s allowing the person to become part of their treatment, and disallowing a dictatorial stance as was often the case with Pavlov’s theory of behaviorism.

Psychoanalytical psychology

 Psychoanalytical psychology is credited to Sigmund Freud, a Viennese physician founded Psychoanalysis. In an abrupt departure from regular psychology, he set the world on its ear by proclaiming that most of the actions of humans were below their level of consciousness. He taught that repressed sexual desires caused most of people’s psychic problems. “As the individual develops from newborn to adult, they fixate on different specific objects, which characterize the stages of development. Through this psychosexual development, this tendency is, ideally, replaced by “normal” heterosexuality.”


Humanism or Humanistic psychology is treating the patient not as a compartmentalized thing to be mentally and physically dissected relative to treatment, but as an integrated whole person. Therapists consider present understood needs and the lifestyle of the person and their ability to discern their abilities and their disabilities when planning treatment options.

Biological psychology

 Biological psychology deals with the body. Biology is as much a part of the human psyche as it is with the other functioning organs. In fact, the brain itself functions well and if not, the whole body is out of sorts. Psychologists make use of this knowledge three ways, by comparisons, physiological studies, and by investigations.

Evolutionary psychology

Evolutionary psychology is psychology that changes with the times. People and their environment change, rotate, mutate and nothing is ever static. Evolutionary psychology takes note of this and uses its findings to identify, discover, and heal psychological problems whenever necessary. 

These various aspects of contemporary psychology work together to form opinions, conduct research, measure efficiency, and to improve the lives of people. Psychology, as with all other medical and scientific areas of study, is not static and is and those involved are constantly learning, adding to, ignoring the unnecessary, and carrying on its work.