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The Diverse Nature of Psychology

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Published: 18th May 2020 in Psychology

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The Diverse Nature of Psychology

Psychology has a broad array of assorted concepts that influence its very nature, which is the study of mind and behavior in various organisms from the most primitive to the most complex. Diversity is recognizing the variety of characteristics that make individuals unique some of these features are geographic background, religion, sexual orientation, economic background, ethnicity, education, gender, language, age, culture, marital/partnered status, and physical appearance. Psychology is the study of cognitions, physiology, emotions, personality, behavior, and theory. Two sub-disciplines of psychology are behaviorism and cognitive psychology. Behaviorism originated from the learning theory and uses concepts such as operant and classical conditioning. Cognitive psychology involves the scientific investigation of mental processes, such as memory, perception, attention, problem-solving, judgment, and decision-making.

     Behaviorism Psychology

Humans are naturally logical and rational thus making decisions and choices that make the most sense. A “law of contiguity proposes that two events will become connected in the mind if they are experienced close together in time” (Kowalski & Westen, 2009) (such as a vehicle skidding and then crashing). The learning theory explores the behavioral concepts of associative learning (also known as classical and operant conditioning). Phobias and Addictions share commonality with responses to a stimulus through the basics of the classical and operant condition.

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Classical conditioning occurs when the stimulus is paired with and precedes the unconditioned stimulus. The two paired together are considered SR-Learning/theory because the stimulus is paired with the response, and the response is followed by stimuli. Within classical conditioning, the conditioned stimulus precedes unconditioned stimulus. The unconditioned stimulus then creates the desired response. After this process is sometimes repeated the unconditioned stimulus can be removed and the conditioned stimulus will be able to produce the desired response on its own. It is also important to remember that, “to have classical or respondent conditioning, there must exist a stimulus that will automatically or reflexively elicit a specific response” (Huitt & Hummel, 1997).

Operant conditioning is the learning that occurs from a subject connecting a spontaneous response to a particular environmental outcome (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). In other words, operant conditioning occurs when a lab mouse learns to hit a button to open the closed off section containing the cheese. “In operant conditioning—whether the animal is a cat of a psychologist—the behavior precedes the environmental event that conditions future performance. By contrast, in classical conditioning, an environmental stimulus (such as a bell) precedes a response” (Kowalski & Westen).

Watson believed that psychologist should focus only on what is observable, the clinician should explain behavior, not thought or consciousness, because theories should be as simple as possible and that the overarching goal of psychology is to break down practice into reducible blocks of consciousness (Willingham, 2007). Through behaviorism, reflexes started to be examined and described through classical conditioning. In the late 1950s, behaviorism began to crumble because people began to doubt that behaviorism could do what it had promised, and it was obvious that eliminating any discussion of mental processes from psychology was not the answer.

Cognitive Psychology

A cognitive psychology is devoted to the scientific study of the mind and includes studying how people think, remember, perceive, and learn. Cognitive psychologist is significantly informed by neuroscience because better tools became available for studying the brain (CT, EEG, MRI, FMRI, X-ray, and PET). The methods that are prominent in cognitive psychology that set it aside from behaviorism are; experimental studies cognition, studies of abnormal and normal cognition, neuroimaging studies that reveal the location of brain activity connected to a precise cognitive process, and computational models that can be tested and compared with experimental data.

Cognitive psychologists most often use experimental research, in which the researcher changes one factor and observes the other (e.g., changing the ink color of printed words to see if that affects memory for the phrase) (Willingham, 2007). Cognitive psychologist uses behavioral observation to determine if their cognitive theory is right. “Cognitive psychologists solved this problem by articulating not only their theories of mental processes but also how the mental processes that are unobservable interact with the observable world” (Willingham, 2007). These behavior-observing tests offer cognitivist some assistance with evaluating if the deductions are genuine, and a real relationship exists between the dynamic idea and the variables. In short, cognitive psychologists use behavioral observation and behavioral data to test cognitive theories.

Cognitive psychology has continued to evolve as it explores new ideas with scientific methods in explanation of why and how the human brain thinks, remembers, perceives, and learns. Behaviorism could neither clarify nor characterize the sum of the human mind. Cognitive psychology addresses and gives perspective on the human personality complete with its inside drives and forms by utilizing behavioral perception and behavioral data to test their theories. Applied to Other Disciplines

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Behavioral and cognitive psychology is used in other disciplines, such as the family systems approach. A family systems approach was formed to improve communications between family members. Six concepts and techniques utilized in the family systems approach are framing, paradoxical intention, joining, enmeshment, and disengagement. The family systems approach began with the Bateson group in Palo Alto, California, during the 1950s (Plante, 2011). Family systems approach offers skills training that help all family members to develop new coping skills, develop new attitudes, build on the strengths that are already present, and find better ways to handle disruptive behavior while promoting change. Family systems approach uses behavioral techniques and cognitive techniques in dealing with issues, such as rewards for good behavior.

Industrial and organizational psychology use concepts from cognitive and behavioral psychology as well. An industrial psychologist may use reinforcements to improve job satisfaction among employees. The reinforcement theory explains how reinforcements and rewards can affect behavior with a positive outcome because the probability of a particular behavior increases if followed by a reward or reinforcement (Spector, 2012).

Theoretical Perspective

The core theoretical perspectives in psychology gave birth to sub-disciplines such as industrial/organizational psychology, biopsychology, abnormal psychology, clinical psychology, educational psychology, cognitive-behavioral psychology, and environmental psychology. Cognitive psychology and behavioral psychology have influenced most sub-disciplines by offering simple techniques that are used within the sub-fields. The simple techniques may be used within different fields to change, manipulate, or control behavior. Psychology is not just one theory rather a collection of individual theories making the need for sub-disciplines necessary. The sub-disciplines of behavioral and cognitive psychology cover most fields of human behavior and scientific investigations as well as promote new hypothesis and surveys into the human mind and behavior.

My personal theoretical perspective is the people learn through experience and observation. Albert Bandura’s learning theory revolved around motivation. I found his idea of motivation fascinating. Motivational processes are the reinforcements, punishments, incentives, etc. that influence the individual to perform the learned behavior at a later time. These motivations may come vicariously through seen strengthening of other individuals as well as from one’s self-reactions to how he or she feels about his or her performance and self-efficacy. Bandura’s theory mixed with Donald Hebb’s contributions to the disciplines for psychology, behavioral and computational neurosciences was astounding. Hebb examined the neurons in the brain and how they react with one another to determine how people behave and react to certain situations and life events. Hebb’s arousal theory explores the “relationship between the level of stimulation and cognitive functioning” (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2009

In conclusion, I have taken an interest in psychology because the mind and human behavior interest me. What makes one child sit in class quietly, behave, and compete assignments with A’s, but the child next to him or she cannot concentrate, disrupts the class, and makes grades that are below average. These types of question intrigued me to dig further and keep on open mind on the diverse nature of psychology and all the sub-fields that are involved.


  • Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (1997). An introduction to classical (respondent) conditioning. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/behavior/classcnd.html
  • Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc. Retrieved from https://ecampus.phoenix.edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/eReader.aspx.
  • Olson, M. H. & Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An introduction to theories of learning (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall
  • Plante, T. G. (2011). Contemporary clinical psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Spector, P. E. (2012). Industrial and organizational psychology: Research and practice (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The Thinking Animal (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.



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