Psychology is the scientific study of how humans and animals behave. There are different approaches to psychology that gives a varied insight to human behaviour based on different features which makes it insufficient for one to explain all aspect of human behaviour. The Behaviourist believes that a change in behaviour is due to individual's respond to event in their environment. In contrast psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud believe that all human behaviour is based on internal conflict of the unconscious mind. Whilst Cognitive psychologist believe that what goes on in the mind makes people behave the way they do and finally, humanist such as Abraham Maslow believe that individual have free will to behave the way they want. Detailed explanation of these four approaches with evaluation of their strength and weakness, similarities and differences is an attempt to find out why one approach is not fit to explain all human behaviour.
The behaviour approach assumes that all behaviour is determined by past events from the environment. Thus, all behaviour is learnt from experience from the environment and hereditary plays no part. The approach also assumes that studied behaviour must be observable, measurable and recordable. Finally, all complex behaviour is reducible to stimulus-response unit and reinforcement. To the behaviourist, Behaviour can be explained by the process of classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is where people relate two stimuli when they are presented close together, such that the response initially elicited by one stimulus is transferred to another. Hence, Watson and Rayner (1920) conditioned Little Albert to relate the sight of a white rat by paring the rat with fear a loud noise that Albert already fears. Operant conditioning is where individuals learn from the things they do. If behaviour is rewarded then it is likely to be maintained whiles those that are punished will be decrease. For example a child praised for a polite behaviour will continue to show such politeness without been unaware. Operant condition can also be used to unlearned abnormal behaviour for example Little Albert fear of rat can be removed by pairing the sight of rat with sweet to take his mind of the rat. Much of behaviourist work involves the use of experimental method where learning in animals/humans is studied under laboratory condition that allows conditions to be controlled to influence learning and of which some conditions are purposely manipulated so as to measure their result on a particular set of target behaviours. An important addition to the behaviour approach is the social learning theory where theorist such as Bandura, suggest that learning can be done through observation requiring cognitive factors.
A major strength of the behaviourist approach is its scientific method of study where behaviour can be observed, measured independently and altered which make it very reliable. However, some studied behaviour may be under artificial conditions due to manipulations and alterations and may not reflect the real world situation to be able to explain all human behaviour. Also, experimenting on non-human species has been generalised to humans in studying behaviour and this has not raise moral issues as it would have been if humans are used. Nonetheless, human behaviour is more complex to be limited to the study of animals because humans are conscious beings with free will to think and decide on their behaviour than involuntarily responding to a stimulus, reinforcement or punishment. Again, interaction and experience with the environment seen as the only determinant of behaviour means that new behaviours can be learned by people with psychological problems. Nevertheless, the approach completely ignores mental processes on learning where many studies for example social learning theorist like Bandura show that people observe and learn from the behaviour of others. Hence aggressive behaviour imitated by children through observation shows that mental process plays a part in explaining human behaviour and that classical and operant conditioning cannot effectively explain all human behaviour.
The psychodynamic approach was developed by Sigmund Freud who assumes that behaviour is determined by unconscious events which we are normally unaware. The unconscious mind to Freud holds information that is hard to bring to live and it is also the submerged mind that influences human behaviour. The unconscious mind consists of three components: the Id, ego, and the superego. The natural drive of the individual such as sex, aggression and eating is from the Id and requires an immediate satisfaction that is normally prevented by the superego using anxiety and guilt. The ego tries to resolves conflicts between the Id and the superego using various defence mechanisms such as repression. According to Freud, a child experiences at the psychosexual development influence his/ her adult personality. Development takes place through five main stages: oral, anal, phallic latent and genital. The child's personality develops during the first three stages and a problem at each stage will have a great influence on his /her adult personality. Fixation at the oral stage for example will result in an adult sucking the tongue when depressed. Psychodynamic psychologist study human behaviour by finding answers to what people say and think, gathering qualitative data about them through individual case-study method and interpreting the findings.
Strength of the psychodynamic approach is that childhood experience is the main basis of all adult's personality and psychological functioning has been accepted in psychology and professional areas such as social work and psychiatry. However, this claim cannot be observed scientifically and the idea that much of the mental life operates in the unconscious mind cannot be proved neither can the repressed memory. The approach also believes of psychological factors causing abnormal behaviour is broadly accepted and Freud's work on defence mechanism is seen as useful. Conversely, the approach completely ignores how behaviour, cognition and genetic factors can influence abnormal behaviour thus making it less likely to explain all human behaviour. In addition, many types of mental disorders have been treated by Freud's psychoanalytic therapy. Nevertheless, there is a possibility of bias as different therapist may give different interpretations to evidence obtained from patients. Finally, too much attention is placed on the sexual instinct in childhood though in reality this can be seen as one in many.
The most influential theories in humanistic approach are those of Carl Rogers (1951, 1961) and Abraham Maslow (1962, 1970). The approach assumes that people have free will to decide what they want in life and individuals are unique with instinctive drive for continues growth and fulfilment. Both theorists believe that humans are rational beings with conscious mind to choose how to behave and are not controlled by environmental forces and the unconscious mind. Humanistic psychologists rejects the scientific method of studying behaviour and normally uses qualitative research methods like, unstructured interview and observation which they believe provides a good understanding of the way a person behaves and think. Humanism also, views humans as completely different from animals as humans are conscious beings with feelings, ability to reason and talk. Both Rogers and Maslow believe that each person has varied ways of achieving personal growth, fulfilment and satisfaction in life which in a whole is referred to as self-actualisation. According to Maslow an achievement of self- actualisation means that all of individual's needs arranged in hierarchy with basic needs like food at the bottom and higher need like self-actualisation at the top are met and a position of content is achieved. Carl Rogers also believe that potential for growth and achievement of self-actualisation is accomplish if a person has positive view about himself and this can be attained through unconditional love and acceptance shown by people close to them such as parents and teachers. A client centred therapy, developed by Rogers's therefore offers a warm compassionate therapeutic that frees clients to restart the self- actualisation process.
Strength of the humanistic approach is its view of individual as unique with free will and the focus of study of behaviour towards the individual rather than the unconscious mind, genes and observable behaviour. However, the approach assumption of free will and consciousness of the individual cannot be studied scientifically and this has resulted in lack of empirical evidence to support the main theories of the approach thus making it inadequate to explain all human behaviour. Secondly, the approach provides a good explanation of how to promote personal growth and self- actualisation which enables the individual to achieve a state of content. Nevertheless, the concept of personal growth and fulfilments as the basic human motive cannot be investigated properly. Finally the Client-centred therapy by Rogers has assisted human ability for self-cure and this has been proved to be effective by Davison and Neale (1986, p.489), it has also contributed to student learning by helping them reach their full potential and abilities through unconditional acceptance shown by tutors.
Cognitive approach developed in the 1950's is concern with what goes on in the mind that influences behaviour. The approach assumes that studying the mental process objectively and scientifically by experimenting in a laboratory setting provides a good understanding of people's behaviour. The psychologist views the human brain as similar to computers having input, output, storage and active processing system. The behaviour of people is thus dependants on how information received is processed by the brain and update record kept in the memory. A negative thought by the brain can therefore cause abnormal behaviour such as depression for example a person suffering from a depressed mood following failing a university entrance test may have negative thoughts not only about the specific failure but could generalised the failure to all aspect of life. The cognitive approach believes that the negative thought of the individual can be changed through therapy. Cognitive approach has been applied to the attribution theory studied by Kelly (1967, 1973) who suggests that the behaviour of an individual can be attributed to a number of factors that can sometimes predict the consequences of the behaviour.
A major strength of the cognitive approach is it's dominance in empirical method in developing and testing theories objectively providing confidence results to conducted experiments. On the contrary, the approach in some instances conduct experiment that mostly do not relate to how people think and behave in reality. Secondly, the approach is focused on current information processed by the brain to understanding human behaviour rather than using past history which may often be irrelevant or even misleading to the situation at hand. However, the approach concentrates heavily on studying mental process than behaviour and most experiment is conducted on memory with little attention to even how emotions can affect the cognitive processes which can also affects behaviour. Also, the approach gives much attention to important human characteristics investigating into the mental; processes, functioning and characteristic of the individual. Nevertheless, deducing human to computer analogy that operates in a complete different way is questionable because information stored in the computer memory can be transferred onto another computer easily but human memory cannot in any way be transferred to another person. Finally, the approach has provided practical application in the treatment of such as anxiety through for example rational motive therapy by Ellis (1989). Nonetheless, the approach has received criticisms of being too narrow in their theoretical and empirical treatment of people (Pennington and Mcloughlin, 2009).
The behavioural, psychodynamic, humanistic and cognitive approach tends to contrast and agree to each other to some extent for example, considering human nature by the approaches, the behavioural approach consider humans as similar to animals and machines conditioned to respond to the environmental stimulus, reinforcement or punishment, focus on the present behaviour and it is scientific. The cognitive approach agrees to the scientific and learning aspect of behaviour approach and the behaviourist social learning theories. The humanistic approach on the other hand rejects the idea of human behaviour been determined by stimulus- response sequence as they have free will to decide their behaviour. The psychodynamic approach views humans as troublesome, controlled by natural feelings and behaviour influence by the unconscious and childhood repression. The cognitive to some extent is similar to the psychodynamic approach because the mind is cognitive but in contrast, where Freud views the unconscious as a complex part the mind the cognitive sees it as a simple. Contrast to the psychodynamic view of human nature, the humanistic approach provides a positive view where humans are seen to motive for personal growth and power to decide his actions. Finally, the cognitive approach view human as conscious beings with memory to decide similar way to psychodynamic conscious level and behaviourist social learning theories.
In conclusion, all four approaches provide different views of human behaviour. Scientific approaches like behaviourism and cognitive do not consider the effect of personal experience behaviour. Although the humanistic approach consider human experience it is unscientific and therefore lacks evidence to support its concepts. The psychodynamic on the other hand focuses mostly on the unconscious and childhood events and tends to ignore the importance of free will and environmental influence on behaviour. Overall, the approaches present different explanation to understanding of human behaviour and each has been successful in the treatment of patients. The behaviourist aversion therapy has been successful in treating undesirable behaviour. The psychotherapist has aid patient in dealings with emotions and memories of the unconscious. The Client-centred therapy by Rogers has assist human ability for self-cure and finally, cognitive therapy has been successful in treating people with anxiety, depression and eating disorders (Becks 1991). Considering the above discussion, psychology does need different approaches to understanding and studying of human behaviour.