is an academic and applied discipline that seeks to understand the perceptible
and measurable things in a person’s behaviour incorporating the mind as a
centre of study.
origins start in Greece, around 400 B.C. with Aristotle when he started questioning
human beings thoughts. At a moment’s notice, science and philosophy started to
merge when a French philosopher, Rene Descartes (1637) stated that the mind and
the body were entirely independent of each other and his ideas gave way to the
study of the mind. Subsequently, John Locke (1689) offered an empiricist idea,
expressing that all knowledge is acquired through the senses and that all human
understanding is malleable.
it was not until 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt, a leading pioneer, introduced the
first psychological laboratory experiment in Leipzig, endeavouring his research
to the nature of human consciousness (Hunt, 2007). In a short time, psychology
as a science became structured into different schools of thought, each popularised
by various pioneer thinkers.
assignment will describe the key features of three psychological perspectives,
explore the similarities and differences of each approach, debate about
important studies carried out by influential psychologists, analyse ethical
implications and evaluate the ideal perspective that would potentially meet any
patient individual’s needs in a healthcare setting.
approaches contemplate various interpretations of behaviourists, humanistic and
social psychologists illustrating the complexity of animal and human behaviour
attribute all human conduct as a response to a stimulus and believe it is
controlled and determined by what happens in the environment we are in
(Sammons, 2017). They also presume that humans absorb knowledge similarly to
animals, but how can we learn from certain items or situations? In this
approach, behaviourists associate two methods: classical and operant
the 1890s, a psychologist named Ivan Pavlov was studying the salivation
response in dogs when they were being fed. Pavlov realized that as soon as he
presented a container of food to the dogs, they immediately started to
salivate. He hypothesized that this was an unconditioned response to an
this, Pavlov implemented a bell as a neutral stimulus when his dogs were being
fed, it boosted salivation to such degree that he concluded they had acquired a
correlation between the bell and the food and accordingly, a new conduct had
been acquired. (CGP Books, 2011)
E. Thorndike (1905) is famous for his development of operant conditioning. He
wanted to know how long it took cats to escape from a cage where the door was
released by pressing a lever. After his observations, the cats learned through
trial and error, and he developed the “law of effect” which discusses that
repetition of an action and reward strengthens learning.
1921, John B. Watson extended Pavlov’s ideas and applied it towards early
learning. In one of his experiments, he used a nine-month-old baby and tried to
demonstrate that he could induce fear on the boy by pairing a rat and a loud
jarring noise, although this fear came true, as a side effect his agitation
extended to other animals. This experiment in modern society has been hugely
criticised for its uninformed consent of Albert’s mother who was unaware of the
experiment and also for Watson never reconditioning Albert causing long-term
psychological effects on him.
behaviourist named Skinner only focused on observable behaviour and studied how
consequences shape behaviour through reinforcement and punishment. For positive
reinforcement, he experimented with hungry rats and placed them inside a box,
his aim was for the rats to understand that by pressing the lever, food would
be dispatched as a reward. For negative reinforcement he placed a rat in
another box that had an electric grid underneath, the rat had to press the
lever to stop the electricity. After several tries, the rat learned to acquire
a new behaviour. Ethical issues were raised for using animals as they cannot
give consent to take part.
the outlook of this approach helped to develop behavioural therapies such as systematic
desensitisation (Wolpe & Reyna, 1976) which makes the
individual confront their fears in a relaxed state and aversion therapy which
pairs an undesirable behaviour with an aversive stimulus reducing the conduct
as a consequence.
other hand, humanistic psychologists, mainly represented by Abraham Maslow
(1943) and Carl Rogers (1959), found behaviourism unreasonably restrictive and
chose to study the whole person as a unique individual, examining the human
behaviour through the perspective of the subjected person (McLeod, 2007). Maslow
and Rogers had a very optimistic outlook and emphasised on personal growth and
fulfilment; however, they describe different strategies of how
self-actualisation can be attained.
(1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and some of
them outweigh others and therefore idealised that human needs are organized in
a hierarchy of 5 stages. Considering the order from lower to higher, the first
layer of the pyramid consists of our biological and physiological needs, the
second is the safety needs such as freedom, security and order. The third
represents the social needs interpreting it as friendship, trust, and
acceptance. The fourth layer constitutes the esteem needs and the pinnacle is
the self-actualisation stage or the desire “to become everything one is
capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987) cited in McLeod (2017).
explained that an individual does not require to be fully satisfied with a
stage in order to step onto a higher layer of the pyramid; as life experiences
may cause individuals to jump back and forth through the stages.
(1959) believed that people seek to grow psychologically and enhance
themselves, therefore, he developed a model where he talked about self-image
and ideal self and laid down two categories: incongruent, where there is little
overlap in their perception, so self-actualisation will be difficult to achieve
and congruent: where there is relatively more overlap, consequently the
individual can self-actualise; in result, the wider the overlap the closer we
are to our ideal self.
Rogers also suggests that there are three core conditions to reach our
pinnacle: firstly is congruence or genuineness referring to an individual who
is present and transparent to another individual. Second, empathy which alludes
to the understanding of the individual’s thoughts and feelings without merging
our owns and lastly, unconditional positive regard referring to unconditional
and non-judgemental acceptance. The weaknesses of this approach are when
self-actualisation cannot be measured and their methodology is unscientific,
however, this outlook leads to the development of person centre approach in
contrast, our last approach covers social psychology which refers to the study
of human behaviour in a social environment, Milgram’s study of obedience (1961)
and Zimbardo’s prison simulation (1973) focused on obedience and conformity and
how individuals respond towards and authority.
(1961) conducted an experiment where he paired a participant with another
individual to play the roles of learner and teacher with the explanation they
wanted to know how people learnt. The teacher was supposed to read a series of
words which the learner had to repeat in the same order and each wrong answer
would bring a serious of electric shocks, each with a rise in voltage. The
participants were unaware that the learner was an actor and that he would not
be receiving any shocks.
were followed, however, the participants had trouble administrating high voltages,
at some point, some requested to stop but the authority figure reassured that
they should carry on instead. Milgram noted that although few participants
refused to continue with the experiment, generally they were obedient when
authority said they had no option but to carry on.
Perry (2014) cited in (Jarvis, 2015) challenged Milgram’s conclusions
stating that many of his participants were traumatised and there was little
evidence to suggest that they had been debriefed and they were never causing
harm. She also criticizes his results and stated that the experimenter in some
cases, was not following the verbal cues nor ending the procedure and causing a
considerable amount of pressure on the participants to obey.
ethical implications of this study are subjected to firstly, uninformed
consent, as the participants were told it was an experiment for learning and
teaching not an experiment on obedience.
Secondly, deception because they were lying about the purposes of the
research or that the learner was an actor and lastly, there was no protection
from harm as some of them were psychologically damaged as they merely believed
they were causing harm and were not debriefed on time.
psychologist named Philip Zimbardo (1973) carried out an experiment to evidence
how quickly the behaviour can be adapted to changes. The experiment involved a
number of college students to be confined to a basement simulating a prison and
half of them had to be prisoners and the rest were guards. Prisoners were
supposed to stay in their cubicle twenty-three hours a day for two weeks but
due to the quickly decreasing conditions developing on the experiment it came
to an end on the sixth day. Guards had become vicious and brutal, dehumanising
the prisoners whom consequently became depressed.
captured the data through observations, questionnaires and interviews.
Unfortunately, as a limiting issue, his results cannot be generalised to the
general population as his main subjects of the study were purely white, healthy
and young college students, equally, the overall length of the study was not
accomplished and it may not be comparable to a real prison environment.
study also raised ethical issues, the participants were not told they were
going to be arrested at their homes (uninformed consent), they were not
protected from the extreme conditions as two prisoners became very ill and one
had to be withdrawn from the study. Additionally, the positive ethical issues
are flagged up when Zimbardo debriefed individually and in groups everyone
involved in the experiment.
read before, we can conclude that these psychological approaches differ in so
many ways but they are also linked to each other. It is important to illustrate
that Maslow’s theory aid developing counselling therapies in psychotherapy and
is widely used in companies for human resources management as a technique to
improve employees’ performance (Greenberg & Baron, 2003).
regards of the nursing and healthcare professions practice, behavioural
therapists maintain that behaviour is learned and can also be un-learned. However,
if we look into the care of a person’s holistic or therapeutic needs, we must
remember that every individual is unique (Maslow & Rogers, 1943, 1959) and
therefore different therapies may need to be used in conjunction with other
therapies taking into consideration that they all can be helpful.
worth mentioning that some people may find some approaches more attractive than
others even with the criticism received that some of them are only effective on
a short-term basis, nevertheless, it is important to take into consideration that
some therapies are more effective in certain areas than others which is a point