Category Archives: Psychology Series

~The Snowball Effect~

Metaphorically, a snowball effect is a process that starts from an initial state of small significance and builds upon itself, becoming larger (graver, more serious), and also perhaps potentially dangerous or disastrous (a vicious circle), though it might be beneficial instead (a virtuous circle).

Psychology {9} ~ Psychodynamic Psychology

The psychodynamic theory is a psychological theory Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his later followers applied to explain the origins of human behavior. The psychodynamic approach includes all the theories in psychology that see human functioning based upon the interaction of drives and forces within the person, particularly unconscious, and between the different structures of the personality.

Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis was the original psychodynamic theory, but the psychodynamic approach as a whole includes all theories that were based on his ideas, e.g., Carl Jung (1912), Melanie Klein (1921), Alfred Adler (1927), Anna Freud (1936), and Erik Erikson (1950).

The words psychodynamic and psychoanalytic are often confused. Remember that Freud’s theories were psychoanalytic, whereas the term ‘psychodynamic’ refers to both his theories and those of his followers.

Freud’s psychoanalysis is both a theory and therapy. Sigmund Freud (writing between the 1890s and the 1930s) developed a collection of theories which have formed the basis of the psychodynamic approach to psychology.

His theories are clinically derived – i.e., based on what his patients told him during therapy. The psychodynamic therapist would usually be treating the patient for depression or anxiety related disorders.

Our behavior and feelings are powerfully affected by unconscious motives:

The unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgments, feelings, or behavior (Wilson, 2002).

According to Freud (1915), the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see.

Our feelings, motives, and decisions are actually powerfully influenced by our past experiences, and stored in the unconscious.

Our behavior and feelings as adults (including psychological problems) are rooted in our childhood experiences:

Psychodynamic theory states that events in our childhood have a great influence on our adult lives, shaping our personality. Events that occur in childhood can remain in the unconscious, and cause problems as adults.

Personality is shaped as the drives are modified by different conflicts at different times in childhood (during psychosexual development).

All behavior has a cause (usually unconscious), even slips of the tongue. Therefore all behavior is determined.

Psychodynamic theory is strongly determinist as it views our behavior as caused entirely by unconscious factors over which we have no control.

Unconscious thoughts and feelings can transfer to the conscious mind in the form of parapraxes, popularly known as Freudian slips or slips of the tongue. We reveal what is really on our mind by saying something we didn’t mean to. Freud believed that slips of the tongue provided an insight into the unconscious mind and that there were no accidents, every behavior (including slips of the tongue) was significant (i.e., all behavior is determined).

Personality is made up of three parts (i.e., tripartite): the id, ego, and super-ego:

~The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. It consists of all the inherited (i.e., biological) components of personality present at birth, including the sex (life) instinct – Eros (which contains the libido), and the aggressive (death) instinct – Thanatos.

~The ego develops in order to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world. It is the decision making component of personality.

~The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others. Parts of the unconscious mind (the id and superego) are in constant conflict with the conscious part of the mind (the ego). This conflict creates anxiety, which could be dealt with by the ego’s use of defense mechanisms.


Psychology {8} ~ Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic, humanism and humanist are terms in psychology relating to an approach which studies the whole person and the uniqueness of each individual. Essentially, these terms refer to the same approach in psychology.

Humanistic psychology is a perspective that emphasizes looking at the the whole person, and the uniqueness of each individual. Humanistic psychology begins with the existential assumptions that people have free will and are motivated to acheive their potential and self-actualize.

The humanistic approach in psychology developed as a rebellion against what some psychologists saw as the limitations of the behaviorist and psychodynamic psychology.

The humanistic approach is thus often called the “third force” in psychology after psychoanalysis and behaviorism (Maslow, 1968).

Humanism rejected the assumptions of the behaviorist perspective which is characterized as deterministic, focused on reinforcement of stimulus-response behavior and heavily dependent on animal research.

Humanistic psychology also rejected the psychodynamic approach because it is also deterministic, with unconscious irrational and instinctive forces determining human thought and behavior. Both behaviorism and psychoanalysis are regarded as dehumanizing by humanistic psychologists.

Humanistic psychology expanded its influence throughout the 1970s and the 1980s. Its impact can be understood in terms of three major areas:

1) It offered a new set of values for approaching an understanding of human nature and the human condition.

2) It offered an expanded horizon of methods of inquiry in the study of human behavior.

3) It offered a broader range of more effective methods in the professional practice of psychotherapy.


Psychology {7} ~ Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of the mind as an information processor.

Cognitive psychologists try to build up cognitive models of the information processing that goes on inside people’s minds, including perception, attention, language, memory, thinking, and consciousness.

Cognitive psychology became of great importance in the mid-1950s. Several factors were important in this:

~Dissatisfaction with the behaviorist approach in its simple emphasis on external behavior rather than internal processes.
~The development of better experimental methods.
~Comparison between human and computer processing of information.
~The emphasis of psychology shifted away from the study of conditioned behavior and psychoanalytical notions about the study of the mind, towards the understanding of human information processing, using strict and rigorous laboratory investigation.

Psychology {6} ~ Behaviourism

Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning which states all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment through a process called conditioning. Thus, behavior is simply a response to environmental stimuli.

Behaviorism is only concerned with observable stimulus-response behaviors, as they can be studied in a systematic and observable manner.

The behaviorist movement began in 1913 when John Watson wrote an article entitled ‘Psychology as the behaviorist views it,’ which set out a number of underlying assumptions regarding methodology and behavioral analysis.

Psychology {5} ~ Goals Of Psychology

The four main goals of psychology are to describe, explain, predict and change the behavior and mental processes of others.

To Describe
Describing a behavior or cognition is the first goal of psychology. This can enable researchers to develop general laws of human behavior.

For example, through describing the response of dogs to various stimuli, Ivan Pavlov helped develop laws of learning known as classical conditioning theory.

To Explain
Once researchers have described general laws behavior, the next step is to explain how or why this trend occurs. Psychologists will propose theories which can explain a behavior.

To Predict
Psychology aims to be able to predict future behavior from the findings of empirical research. If a prediction is not confirmed, then the explanation it is based on might need to be revised.
For example, classical conditioning predicts that if a person associates a negative outcome with a stimuli they may develop a phobia or aversion of the stimuli.

To Change
Once psychology has described, explained and made predictions about behavior, changing or controlling a behavior can be attempted.

For example, interventions based on classical conditioning, such as systematic desensitization, have been used to treat people with anxiety disorders including phobias.

Psychology {4} ~ Perspectives Of Psychology

Structuralism and functionalism have since been replaced by several dominant and influential approaches to psychology, each one underpinned by a shared set of assumptions of what people are like, what is important to study and how to study it.

Psychoanalysis, founded by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was the dominant paradigm in psychology during the early twentieth century. Freud believed that people could be cured by making conscious their unconscious thoughts and motivations, thus gaining insight.

Freud’s psychoanalysis was the original psychodynamic theory, but the psychodynamic approach as a whole includes all theories that were based on his ideas, e.g., Jung (1964), Adler (1927) and Erikson (1950).

The classic contemporary perspectives in psychology to adopt scientific strategies were the behaviorists, who were renowned for their reliance on controlled laboratory experiments and rejection of any unseen or unconscious forces as causes of behavior.

Later, the humanistic approach became the ‘third force’ in psychology and proposed the importance of subjective experience and personal growth.

During the 1960s and 1970s, psychology began a cognitive revolution, adopting a rigorous, scientific, lab-based scientific approach with application to memory, perception, cognitive development, mental illness, and much more.

Psychology {3} ~ The Beginnings Of Psychology As A Discipline

“In the early days of psychology there were two dominant theoretical perspectives regarding how the brain worked, structuralism and functionalism.

Structuralism was the name given to the approach pioneered by Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), which focused on breaking down mental processes intro the most basic components.

The term originated from Edward Titchener, an American psychologist who had been trained by Wundt. Wundt was important because he separated psychology from philosophy by analyzing the workings of the mind in a more structured way, with the emphasis being on objective measurement and control.

Structuralism relied on trained introspection, a research method whereby subjects related what was going on in their minds while performing a certain task.

However, introspection proved to be an unreliable method because there was too much individual variation in the experiences and reports of research subjects.

Despite the failure of introspection Wundt is an important figure in the history of psychology as he opened the first laboratory dedicated to psychology in 1879, and its opening is usually thought of as the beginning of modern experimental psychology.

An American psychologist named William James (1842-1910) developed an approach which came to be known as functionalism, that disagreed with the focus of Structuralism.

James argued that the mind is constantly changing and it is pointless to look for the structure of conscious experience. Rather, he proposed the focus should be on how and why an organism does something, i.e. the functions or purpose of the brain.

James suggested that psychologists should look for the underlying cause of behavior and the mental processes involved. This emphasis on the causes and consequences of behavior has influenced contemporary psychology.”