In this essay the biological, cognitive and the psychodynamic approach will be explored and compared on how they explain human behaviour.

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Compare and contrast three psychological approaches to explaining human behaviour

An approach is a perception that consists of specific principles about human behaviour. Each approach can have different theories within itself but, they will all emphasise on particular assumptions (Glassman & Hadad, 2013). In this essay the biological, cognitive and the psychodynamic approach will be explored and compared on how they explain human behaviour.

Charles Darwin may have been a biologist but his book Origin of species had massive repercussions on our knowledge on genetic inheritance (Darwin, 2013). His finding led to psychologists divulging further, which is now identified as the biological approach. The biological approach seeks to explain behaviour through four different means – the brain, genes, the nervous system (neurotransmitters) and the endocrine system (hormones). It prepossesses that abnormal behaviour can be explained through the functioning of the biological system (Dwyer & Charles, 2003). This approach places key emphasis on inherited genes that make us more susceptible to certain conditions i.e. schizophrenia (Sammons, n.d.).

Whether it be the comparative method (Harvery & Pagel, 1991) where we study animals in order to find out more about ourselves or, physiology where we look at our hormones or studies into our inheritance via twin studies they can all explain our behaviour. The brain can be examined through many methods such as CAT scans, X-rays etc. (Collin, et al., 2012).

Gottesman looked at twin’s studies and the likelihood of the other twin developing schizophrenia. Evaluation of twin studies revealed 48% concordance for monozygotic (MZ; identical) twins and only 17% for dizygotic (DZ; fraternal) twins. Gottesman also reported that the concordance rate for identical twins raised apart was very similar to that for identical twins raised together—suggesting that the high concordance rate for identical twins is not due to being treated in a similar way at home (Gottesman & Shield, 1976).

Gottesman’s findings provide strong evidence towards genetic studies and is key in the nature vs nurture debate, as genetics is a clear determinant. Nonetheless, the study is very reductionist because the concordance rate is not 100%, showing that genes alone do not cause schizophrenia. Instead it provides evidence that genetics puts you at a higher risk of developing the condition. The genetic explanation is deterministic as it implies that those with a genetic susceptibility have a higher risk of schizophrenia, which overlooks free will.

The cognitive approach focuses on the internal mental processes and structures in cognition (Fulcher, 2003). It emphases on how people perceive, understand, evaluate and think, making an impact on how they behave (Eysenck, 1994). An example of cognition would be you reading this essay, either because you have to mark it, or trying to copy. Many internal processes have guided you to this and are allowing you to translate these words into information.

Cognitive psychologists use scientific, controlled methods for researching behaviour. Brains are compared to computer’s, where information can be manipulated. Based on the computer analogy, cognitive psychology is interested in how the brain inputs, stores and outputs information (Fulcher, 2003). Alongside the scientific methods they use cognitive therapy which according to Beck “By correcting erroneous beliefs, we can lower excessive reactions” (Tomley, 2017). Cognitive therapy places an importance on investigating people’s perceptions of their experiences and correcting the thought pattern to how a condition manifests itself in a patient’s perceptions (Summers & Jacques, 2010).
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Festinger gained access to a cult who believed the world was going to end. Once the date he assumed that they would no longer believe in their predictions. However, cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1962) occurred and the strongest followers convinced themselves that the apocalypse did not occur because their faith was so strong. These cult members could not accept their mistakes as this would cause further inconsistency. In order to validate their behaviour, they created new evidence to support their previous beliefs (Festinger, et al., 2008). A man with conviction is a hard man to change (Saigal, 2012).

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