Theories of Human Behaviour: Psychodynamics, Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology

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Theories of Human Behaviour: Psychodynamics,

Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology


        Contemporary psychology has been substantially influenced by different schools of thought, among the most important of which are Classical Freudian Psychotherapy or Psychodynamic Theory, Behaviourism, and Cognitive Psychology. In principle, each attributes the development of human psychological issues to entirely different mechanisms and processes. While none of them necessarily refutes the conceptual validity of the others, each school of psychological thought naturally focuses on very different issues as they relate to understanding healthy and abnormal human psychological development, education and learning theory, and child welfare.          

        In that regard, Freudian Psychodynamics emphasises the distinction between the conscious and unconscious mind and the significance of several universal impulses and frustrations that originate in human infancy. Their relative degree of successful resolution correspond to characteristic patterns within the subconscious mind that strongly influence subsequent psychological development and behaviour in predictable ways that are particular to the nature of those specific types of unconscious impulses and frustrations.         Meanwhile, Behaviourism takes an entirely different approach to understanding human psychology. Based largely on the concept of operant conditioning, Behaviourism stresses the significance of external environment and experience. In principle, behaviourists view psychological development as being substantially determined by the degree to which individuals are more likely to repeat behaviours associated with positive outcomes than those associated with negative outcomes.

        Cognitive Psychology highlights the biological basis of human psychological development at the neurological level and the extent to which specific psychological stages of development associated with different regions of the brain are linked to chronological age. It regards the processes of perception, language acquisition, memory formation, conceptual understanding of complex thought and learning as functions. Primarily of chronological age and of variations in neurologically-based cognitive determinants associated with specific types of perception and learning. In addition to other physiologically and chronologically based attributes of mind.  

                The Psychodynamic Approach to Understanding Human Behaviour

        The classical psychotherapeutic school of psychology was founded by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).  It is based on several fundamental propositions that all relate to the concept of the influence of the subconscious mind on perception and behaviour (Mitchell & Black, 1995). More specifically, Freud suggested that the interrelationships between and among the id, ego, and superego, (all elements of the subconscious that he coined), are responsible for human psychological development. He taught that psychologically abnormal behaviours are caused by the latent unresolved conflicts suppressed by the conscious mind into the subconscious mind and their manifestation through various neuroses and compulsions of which the individual is entirely unaware on any conscious level (Mitchell & Black, 1995).

        According to Freud, some of the more significant causal events in the development of these neuroses and compulsions are the oral and anal phases of infancy and early childhood and the inevitable frustrations associated with the quasi-romantic desires of children for their opposite-gender parent, to which he referred as the Oedipal and Electra Complexes (Simply Psychology, 2008). Freud argued that unresolved subconscious issues in connection with sexual impulses and desires and related frustrations are the most dominant elements of abnormal human psychology. His first book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), detailed the manner and extent to which Freud believed that subconscious issues are revealed in the symbolic imagery and thematic elements of dreams during sleep (Simply Psychology 2009).

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Clinical Application of Freudian Psychodynamic Psychology

        In contemporary use, psychodynamic theory is not typically relied upon in the original formulation proposed by Freud. In principle, the concepts of subconscious repression, unresolved seminal conflicts, and their expression in various aspects of abnormal psychology are not substantially in doubt among the mainstream professionals in the clinical psychology field (Murdock, 2009). However, the proposition that all manifestations of neuroses, compulsions, and other aspects of abnormal psychology all necessarily relate to the oral and anal stages of infancy and to sexual frustration are much less commonly adhered to, along with the ...

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