The Four Mainstream Approaches to Psychology
These mainstream approaches are most commonly taught in universities and colleges and more often used by clinicians and researchers in explaining human behavior (Prilleltensky &. Fox, 1997, p.4).
The behaviorist or behaviorism approach is concerned mainly with observable behavior as opposed to unseen emotions like feelings or thoughts. This approach believes that behavior manifests as a response to a stimulus. It also believes that our behavior is largely determined by our environment (Simply Psychology, n.d.).
The humanistic approach emphasizes the importance of studying consciousness and human experience in order to completely explain behavior. It highlights the importance of “more individualistic and idiographic methods of study, particularly in the areas of personality and abnormality” (Walker, n.d). It also focuses on the value of responsibility and freedom of choice.
The cognitive approach in psychology focuses on our thought processes, how we think and how such thought processes affect our behavior (Psychologist World, 2008). This approach focuses on using the scientific approach in explaining human behavior. “Cognitive… psychologists attempt to create rules and explanations of human behavior and eventually generalize them to everyone’s behavior” (Psychologist World, 2008).
The psychodynamic approach was popularized by several psychologists. Sigmund Freud founded this approach which “emphasized the influence of the unconscious mind on behavior” (Wagner, 2008a). He believed that the mind was composed of three elements: id, ego, and superego. Erik Erickson’s approach was also classified as psychodynamic. He expanded on Freud’s theories and emphasized the importance of growth throughout the lifespan.
These mainstream approaches to psychology have been criticized by various practitioners, especially by emerging critical psychologists.