‘There is a lot to be gained by studying a topic in psychology from more than one perspective.’ Discuss this claim drawing on Chapters 2 and 3 from Book 2 to illustrate your points.
What is it that makes us human? Contemporary psychology aims to understand this complex issue in considering psychological phenomena through its diverse perspectives. Each perspective differs in epistemology and methodology producing specific reasoning and explanation. More than one perspective can explain a topic and this eclecticism produces complementarity, conflict or co-existence between perspectives. Applying these relationships by introducing a number of perspectives on the topics of language and meaning and sex and gender, this essay will discuss the claim that there is a lot to be gained by studying a topic from more than one perspective.
Why are there so many approaches to psychology? Due to human complexity, distinctive psychological perspectives exist because there are particular ways of conceptualizing psychological phenomena each seeking different objects of knowledge. The biological perspective looks at relationships between biological processes and behaviour focusing on anatomical mechanisms and functionality. The Psychoanalytic perspective explores the role of the unconscious mind, influences of childhood experiences and interpersonal relationships in explaining human behaviour. The cognitive perspective looks at mental processes in terms of Information-processing systems through which individuals receive, store, and process information. The social constructionist perspective considers ways in which individuals influence one another and how they interpret and shape reality of their social world through social interaction. The evolutionary perspective looks at the origins of mental processes and their adaptive benefits as a functional product of natural selection. As such, each perspective can approach a topic from a unique angle hence no one perspective has explanatory power over the rest. Therefore, this complex synergy can be seen as broadly complementary and beneficial in joint understanding of psychological topics.
Considering alternative complementarities, several examples emerge. On the topic of language and meaning, cognitive psychologists’ level of analysis concerns individual creation of meaning augmented by social constructionists considering use of meaning in social context. Alternatively, cognitive psychology and linguistics enhance evolutionary accounts of language evolution in our ability to make infinite use of finite means through four language design features (Harley; Aitchison; as cited in Cooper & Kaye, 2007, pp.76-81). Evolutionary accounts also draw on cognitive neuroscience, (Preuss; as cited in Cooper & Kaye, 2007, p.85) anthropology, (Sperber; as cited in Cooper & Kaye, 2007, p.121) and ethology in its understanding (Seyfarth et al.; Von-Frisch; Kirschner and Towne; as cited in Cooper & Kaye, 2007, p.76). Furthermore, we see ethnomethodological methods from sociology have influenced discursive psychological methods (Garfinkle; as cited in Cooper & Kaye, 2007, pp.103-4). Turning to complementarities on the topic of sex and gender; both biological and evolutionary perspectives describe gender as a consequence of biological sex and natural selection by using scientific methods. For example, biological psychologists describe gender differences in terms of how brain regions are used (Schneider et al.; as cited in Hollway, Cooper, Johnston & Stevens, 2007, p.140) and evolutionary psychologists differentiate in identifying styles of sexual interest (Clark and Hatfield; as cited in Hollway et al., 2007, p.146). Similarly, both perspectives acknowledge social and cultural influences modify behaviour though are underpinned by genetics (Dunbar et al.; as cited in Hollway et al., 2007, p.147) Furthermore, social constructionist and psychodynamic perspectives integrate proposing meaning and experience influence gender. Therefore, researching subjectivity, both use hermeneutic methods of observation, discourse analysis and play therapy (Haywood and Mac An Ghaill; Klein; as cited in Hollway et al., 2007, pp.155-64). In sum, cross-disciplinary dialogue and cross-fertilization of ideas generates a more holistic understanding of psychological topics and supports methodological validity. As such, this reflects benefits in multi-perspective study of psychological topics.