Comparing Psychological Theories

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Last updated: March 25, 2019

The Psychodynamic Theory, or psychoanalytic as it is also referred to, stresses the influence of unconscious forces on human behavior. It is the systematized study and theory of the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, emphasizing the interplay between unconscious and conscious motivation (Gallop & Reynolds 2004). Its roots focus on the roles of unconscious sexual and aggressive impulses as a motive for choice and self-direction.

The theory presents itself as our way of trying to balance our feelings, the unconscious being the reason why aggressive impulses are common reactions to the frustrations of daily life and that we seek to vent these impulses on other people. But because we fear rejection and retaliation, we put most aggressive impulses out of our minds, but by holding aggression in, we set the stage for future explosions (Gottlieb 2002). Behavioral theory (also known as behaviorism) says that psychology is the scientific study of observable behavior (Lickliter & Honeycutt 2003).The way we learn, the way we act, the way we speak, even the way we eat was learned. Everything around us is observable and the behavioral theory argues just that, because behavior is observable, and it is grounded in a reward versus punishment model, it is who we are and how we have learned to be . Because humans have learned the proper way of living through behavior and through the reinforcements that are granted for a given behavior, we have been able to survive (Gottlieb 2002). The Biological theory emphasizes the influence of biology on our behavior.

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Psychologists assume that our mental processes, that is our thoughts, fantasies, and dreams, are made possible by the nervous system. They point especially to its key component, the brain (Lickliter & Honeycutt 2003). Biologically oriented psychologists look for the connections between events in the brain, such as activity of the brain cells, and behavior and mental processes.

All of these theories give their own views on how and why humans are the way they are, and why they act the way they do. All three theories have emphasis on the brain as the center for all activity.In a literal sense, the Biological theory emphasizes the brain as a way of determining why an individual is the way he or she is because of something “mechanical,” while the Psychodynamic theory refers to the brain as the place where the subconscious lies, the root of all behavior, while the Behavioral theory recognizes that all learned behavior is in a sense biological, therefore rooting in the brain (Gallop & Reynolds 2004). A combination of all of these theories could potentially be the explantation of human nature and that is what makes them similar to each other.As an example, a newborn subconsciously already knows how to get food (psychoanalytic theory), the brain is what is formulating the act in the infant to feel the hunger (biological theory), and after crying over and over again, it learns that it will receive the food (behavioral theory). Although this is just an example, it is a way to compare and incorporate all of these theories into one.

Although these theories have a similar underlying objective, which is to define the reason people act the way they do, they vary greatly in their theoretic perspective (Gallop & Reynolds 2004).The biological theory believes its results by actually seeing them. It is more reliant on the physical than the analytical. It gives more credit to the brain than anything else. The behavioral theory is based on the learned and the observable. Unlike the biological theory, which attributes any given behavior to something physical within the body, the behavioral theory emphasizes that someone is the way they are because that is what they learned and that is how they learned to do it (Gottlieb 2002).The psychodynamic theory is purely theoretical and not based on anything observable, like the behavioral and biological theories are. It is purely based on the idea of the ego, superego, and id which are thought to be the driving forces behind the subconscious, which is believed to influence everything that a person does.

This is also the most discredited, if not at least viewed as the least valid of the three theories only because it is based on assumptions that this one model could identify every single individual (Gallop & Reynolds 2004).These three theories are just a few of many theories to explain human behavior and to define why people are the way they are. No matter what anyone’s thoughts are about the origination of humanity, these three theories provide a glimpse into defining human behavior. But in the end, it just asserts that not one person can really be defined by just one theory. It is most likely that a combination of the overlaps in these three theories is in reality the true definition of human behavior.References: Lickliter, R. , ; Honeycutt, H.

(2003) Developmental Dynamics: Toward a Biologically Plausible Evolutionary Psychology. Psychological Bulletin. 129 (6), 819-835 Gallop, R.

, ; Reynolds, W. (2004). Putting it all together: Dealing with complexity in the understanding of the human condition. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 11(3), 357-364. Gottlieb, G. (2002).

Developmental -behavioral initiation of evolutionary change. Psychological Review, 109, 211-218.


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