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Perspectives of Early Psychology - Essay Example

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Psychology has existed for centuries under the label of philosophy. Some of the oldest writings attempted to integrate man's evaluation of mind, spirit, and body. Yet, modern psychology has looked deeper into the mind in an effort to pull psychology into the realm of science…
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The Evolution of Modern Psychology Psychology has existed for centuries under the label of philosophy. Some of the oldest writings attempted to integrate man's evaluation of mind, spirit, and body. Yet, modern psychology has looked deeper into the mind in an effort to pull psychology into the realm of science. Modern psychology, at its heart, is the study of how we solve problems and why we act the way we do. A study of it's evolution and the changes brought about by new thinking and research can be helpful in understanding the state of psychology today.
An early psychologist, Pavlov, developed the Behaviorist theory of instruction and stated that learning is based on a change of behavior resulting from external stimuli, usually a reward or punishment. Behaviorists, recently discounted as questionable, do not account for the inner workings of the mind, as behaviorists believe that they are beyond the realm of understanding. Cognitive theorists, however, look deeper into the mind to attempt to discover the reasoning behind our actions. Cognitive theory had its basis in the Gestalt psychology of Wertheimer, Khler, and Koffka (Hufnus, n.d.). However, Cognitive theory diverges from Gestalt in that it promotes the idea that solutions to problems are much like formulas. Gestalt views the whole problem. Cognitive sees the independent parts. The Cognitive process goes through a series of steps that are not consciously understood by the subject. In this way Gestalt and Cognitive are similar. It is somewhat like having an automobile. Gestalt knows we can get from point A to point B by operating the car. However, Cognitive looks inside the workings of the car to determine how it goes from point A to point B. Both Gestalt and Cognitive rely on the study of the mind, but Cognitive attempts to look deeper and more scientifically into the thought process.
Sociocultural psychology is a relatively recent entry in the realm of psychology, though may have the greater influence on our understanding of behavior and problem solving. Psychologists are increasingly concerned with how human conduct is embodied in social and cultural patterns. Socioculture, as its name implies, borders on the social sciences. Similar to Cognitive, it concerns itself with external stimuli that predict behavior. Rogoff contends that learning and development must be studied in the context of the social group (cited in Sawyer, n.d., p.8). This varies from the Behaviorist and Cognitive, which placed a greater emphasis on the individual.
Cognitive theory sometimes seems at odds to sociopsychologists who contend that all learning, and therefore behavior, is based on environmental factors. According to sociopsychologists, the basis for learning is family, groups, and community where learning occurs through examples of behavior, dependent on environmental factors. Again, Cognitivists would disagree, contending that behavior does not have its roots in learning, but learning occurs and knowledge is attained without necessarily affecting behavior. Cognitivists, unlike sociopsychologists, believe environmental factors may have an affect on our capacity for information, but the environment does not affect the evaluation of that learning. Learners will disregard the environment and assimilate the important information. Sociopsychologists disagree with this notion and see the environment as influencing the meaning and intent of the information (Cognitive learning theory, n.d.).
Behaviorism, Cognitive, and Sociopsychology are three steps in the evolution of our understanding of psychology. Though they seem at odds at times, each has its merits and each has its shortcomings. Trying to understand the mind requires more than one theory. While we do react to the reward and punishment model of Pavlov, as is evident in education and the workplace, our higher understanding of social interaction requires a more detailed analysis. As Harzem (2004) says, "The behavior of man, with all of its refinement and complexity, forms only a part of the behaviorist's total scheme of investigation" (p.1). Cognitive theory helps explain the process we go through to reach a conclusion while Sociopsychology imparts the methods we use to acquire the information necessary for interaction with the world around us.
References
Cognitive learning theory (n.d.). Retrieved October 3, 2006, from http://suedstudent.syr.edu/ebarrett/ide621/cognitive.htm
Harzem, P. (2004). Behaviorism for a new psychology: What was wrong with behaviorism and what is wrong with it now [Electronic version]. Behavior and Philosophy, 1-7. Retrieved October 3, 2006, from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3814/is_200401/ai_n9383866/
Hufnus, B. (n.d.). Gestalt theory. Retrieved October 3, 2006, from http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/gestalt/index.htm
Sawyer, K. (n.d.). Sociocultural psychology. Retrieved October 3, 2006, from rtsci.wustl.edu/edpsych/Lecture_Sociocultural.ppt Read More
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