Psychologyis an academic and applied discipline that seeks to understand the perceptibleand measurable things in a person’s behaviour incorporating the mind as acentre of study. Theorigins start in Greece, around 400 B.C.
with Aristotle when he started questioninghuman beings thoughts. At a moment’s notice, science and philosophy started tomerge when a French philosopher, Rene Descartes (1637) stated that the mind andthe body were entirely independent of each other and his ideas gave way to thestudy of the mind. Subsequently, John Locke (1689) offered an empiricist idea,expressing that all knowledge is acquired through the senses and that all humanunderstanding is malleable.
However,it was not until 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt, a leading pioneer, introduced thefirst psychological laboratory experiment in Leipzig, endeavouring his researchto the nature of human consciousness (Hunt, 2007). In a short time, psychologyas a science became structured into different schools of thought, each popularisedby various pioneer thinkers. Thisassignment will describe the key features of three psychological perspectives,explore the similarities and differences of each approach, debate aboutimportant studies carried out by influential psychologists, analyse ethicalimplications and evaluate the ideal perspective that would potentially meet anypatient individual’s needs in a healthcare setting.
Theseapproaches contemplate various interpretations of behaviourists, humanistic andsocial psychologists illustrating the complexity of animal and human behaviourthroughout experimentation. Behaviouristsattribute all human conduct as a response to a stimulus and believe it iscontrolled and determined by what happens in the environment we are in(Sammons, 2017). They also presume that humans absorb knowledge similarly toanimals, but how can we learn from certain items or situations? In thisapproach, behaviourists associate two methods: classical and operantconditioning. Duringthe 1890s, a psychologist named Ivan Pavlov was studying the salivationresponse in dogs when they were being fed. Pavlov realized that as soon as hepresented a container of food to the dogs, they immediately started tosalivate.
He hypothesized that this was an unconditioned response to anunconditioned stimulus. Followingthis, Pavlov implemented a bell as a neutral stimulus when his dogs were beingfed, it boosted salivation to such degree that he concluded they had acquired acorrelation between the bell and the food and accordingly, a new conduct hadbeen acquired. (CGP Books, 2011)BehaviouristE. Thorndike (1905) is famous for his development of operant conditioning. Hewanted to know how long it took cats to escape from a cage where the door wasreleased by pressing a lever. After his observations, the cats learned throughtrial and error, and he developed the “law of effect” which discusses thatrepetition of an action and reward strengthens learning.In1921, John B.
Watson extended Pavlov’s ideas and applied it towards earlylearning. In one of his experiments, he used a nine-month-old baby and tried todemonstrate that he could induce fear on the boy by pairing a rat and a loudjarring noise, although this fear came true, as a side effect his agitationextended to other animals. This experiment in modern society has been hugelycriticised for its uninformed consent of Albert’s mother who was unaware of theexperiment and also for Watson never reconditioning Albert causing long-termpsychological effects on him.Anotherbehaviourist named Skinner only focused on observable behaviour and studied howconsequences shape behaviour through reinforcement and punishment. For positivereinforcement, he experimented with hungry rats and placed them inside a box,his aim was for the rats to understand that by pressing the lever, food wouldbe dispatched as a reward. For negative reinforcement he placed a rat inanother box that had an electric grid underneath, the rat had to press thelever to stop the electricity. After several tries, the rat learned to acquirea new behaviour. Ethical issues were raised for using animals as they cannotgive consent to take part.
Positively,the outlook of this approach helped to develop behavioural therapies such as systematicdesensitisation (Wolpe & Reyna, 1976) which makes theindividual confront their fears in a relaxed state and aversion therapy whichpairs an undesirable behaviour with an aversive stimulus reducing the conductas a consequence. On theother hand, humanistic psychologists, mainly represented by Abraham Maslow(1943) and Carl Rogers (1959), found behaviourism unreasonably restrictive andchose to study the whole person as a unique individual, examining the humanbehaviour through the perspective of the subjected person (McLeod, 2007). Maslowand Rogers had a very optimistic outlook and emphasised on personal growth andfulfilment; however, they describe different strategies of howself-actualisation can be attained. Maslow(1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and some ofthem outweigh others and therefore idealised that human needs are organized ina hierarchy of 5 stages. Considering the order from lower to higher, the firstlayer of the pyramid consists of our biological and physiological needs, thesecond is the safety needs such as freedom, security and order.
The thirdrepresents the social needs interpreting it as friendship, trust, andacceptance. The fourth layer constitutes the esteem needs and the pinnacle isthe self-actualisation stage or the desire “to become everything one iscapable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987) cited in McLeod (2017).Maslowexplained that an individual does not require to be fully satisfied with astage in order to step onto a higher layer of the pyramid; as life experiencesmay cause individuals to jump back and forth through the stages. Rogers(1959) believed that people seek to grow psychologically and enhancethemselves, therefore, he developed a model where he talked about self-imageand ideal self and laid down two categories: incongruent, where there is littleoverlap in their perception, so self-actualisation will be difficult to achieveand congruent: where there is relatively more overlap, consequently theindividual can self-actualise; in result, the wider the overlap the closer weare to our ideal self. CarlRogers also suggests that there are three core conditions to reach ourpinnacle: firstly is congruence or genuineness referring to an individual whois present and transparent to another individual. Second, empathy which alludesto the understanding of the individual’s thoughts and feelings without mergingour owns and lastly, unconditional positive regard referring to unconditionaland non-judgemental acceptance. The weaknesses of this approach are whenself-actualisation cannot be measured and their methodology is unscientific,however, this outlook leads to the development of person centre approach inhealth care.
Bycontrast, our last approach covers social psychology which refers to the studyof human behaviour in a social environment, Milgram’s study of obedience (1961)and Zimbardo’s prison simulation (1973) focused on obedience and conformity andhow individuals respond towards and authority.Milgram(1961) conducted an experiment where he paired a participant with anotherindividual to play the roles of learner and teacher with the explanation theywanted to know how people learnt. The teacher was supposed to read a series ofwords which the learner had to repeat in the same order and each wrong answerwould bring a serious of electric shocks, each with a rise in voltage. Theparticipants were unaware that the learner was an actor and that he would notbe receiving any shocks. Instructionswere followed, however, the participants had trouble administrating high voltages,at some point, some requested to stop but the authority figure reassured thatthey should carry on instead. Milgram noted that although few participantsrefused to continue with the experiment, generally they were obedient whenauthority said they had no option but to carry on.GinaPerry (2014) cited in (Jarvis, 2015) challenged Milgram’s conclusionsstating that many of his participants were traumatised and there was littleevidence to suggest that they had been debriefed and they were never causingharm. She also criticizes his results and stated that the experimenter in somecases, was not following the verbal cues nor ending the procedure and causing aconsiderable amount of pressure on the participants to obey.
Milgram’sethical implications of this study are subjected to firstly, uninformedconsent, as the participants were told it was an experiment for learning andteaching not an experiment on obedience. Secondly, deception because they were lying about the purposes of theresearch or that the learner was an actor and lastly, there was no protectionfrom harm as some of them were psychologically damaged as they merely believedthey were causing harm and were not debriefed on time. Apsychologist named Philip Zimbardo (1973) carried out an experiment to evidencehow quickly the behaviour can be adapted to changes. The experiment involved anumber of college students to be confined to a basement simulating a prison andhalf of them had to be prisoners and the rest were guards.
Prisoners weresupposed to stay in their cubicle twenty-three hours a day for two weeks butdue to the quickly decreasing conditions developing on the experiment it cameto an end on the sixth day. Guards had become vicious and brutal, dehumanisingthe prisoners whom consequently became depressed. Zimbardocaptured the data through observations, questionnaires and interviews.Unfortunately, as a limiting issue, his results cannot be generalised to thegeneral population as his main subjects of the study were purely white, healthyand young college students, equally, the overall length of the study was notaccomplished and it may not be comparable to a real prison environment. Thisstudy also raised ethical issues, the participants were not told they weregoing to be arrested at their homes (uninformed consent), they were notprotected from the extreme conditions as two prisoners became very ill and onehad to be withdrawn from the study. Additionally, the positive ethical issuesare flagged up when Zimbardo debriefed individually and in groups everyoneinvolved in the experiment. Asread before, we can conclude that these psychological approaches differ in somany ways but they are also linked to each other.
It is important to illustratethat Maslow’s theory aid developing counselling therapies in psychotherapy andis widely used in companies for human resources management as a technique toimprove employees’ performance (Greenberg & Baron, 2003).Inregards of the nursing and healthcare professions practice, behaviouraltherapists maintain that behaviour is learned and can also be un-learned. However,if we look into the care of a person’s holistic or therapeutic needs, we mustremember that every individual is unique (Maslow & Rogers, 1943, 1959) andtherefore different therapies may need to be used in conjunction with othertherapies taking into consideration that they all can be helpful. It isworth mentioning that some people may find some approaches more attractive thanothers even with the criticism received that some of them are only effective ona short-term basis, nevertheless, it is important to take into consideration thatsome therapies are more effective in certain areas than others which is a pointoften overlooked.