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A paradigm in psychology is a distinct way of describing, observing, understanding, and predicting any given psychological phenomena. The professionals, as well as students, in order to conceptualize and organize the available information, need a model or paradigm. Also, it is required because it is used to test hypotheses and for conducting research work in order to testify the validity of assumptions.

Includes assumptions about what drives human behavior, how disorders develop, and treatment prescriptions.

Biological/Medical Perspective

Based on the assumption of Materialism i.e.. , all behavior has a physiological basis

  • An understanding of biochemical processes will give an understanding of psychological and social phenomena
  • Physical structures and hereditary processes determine behavior or behavior potential
  • Physical/physiological interventions can alter mental processes and behavior
  • Root cause of abnormalities and disorders lies in biology and requires medical intervention

Historical Background

The historical roots of biological model are very old, dating back to at least the time of Hippocrates. There are a number of great names that contributed to this approach, of which the more important ones will be discussed.

  • Hippocrates
    • Greek physician/philosopher
    • Regarded as the “Father of Medicine”
    • Talked about basis for medical problems
    • Believed that rational knowledge could serve a path for understanding psychological problems.
  • Galen
    • Born to Greek parents in Asia Minor
    • Great physician with an empirical approach who rejected the old doctrine and relied on his observation and research.
    • Correctly identified various parts of the nervous system and had an accurate grasp of how nervous system functions.
    • Known for anatomical studies on animals and observations of human body functions
    • Charles Darwin: (1809 - 1882 Ad)
    • British scientist
    • Author of the revolutionary “The Origin of Species” (1859)
    • According to Darwin, variations among individuals of a species would occur by chance, but could in turn be passed on to the future generations
    • Gave the concept of “Survival of the Fittest” ; only those variations which helped the individuals survive long enough to breed would sustain, and be passed on


The synapse of the neuron releases special chemicals called


  • Existence of neurotransmitters has been known since 1920՚s; but the evidence of their relationship with psychological disorders has been found and known since 1950s
  • More than 50 neurotransmitters exist in human body
  • Neurotransmitters and Their Role
    • Acetylcholine: Learning, Memory and Muscle control
    • Dopamine: Motor activity, Coordination, Emotion and Memory
    • Epinephrine: Emotion, Stress
    • GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid) : Anxiety, Arousal, Learning
    • Serotonin: Sensory Processing, Sleep, Arousal
    • Glutamate: Anxiety, Mood


These glands form the body՚s “slow” chemical communication system; a set of ductless glands that secrete hormones (special chemicals) into the bloodstream

Endocrine Glands and Abnormality

  • Low secretions of the thyroid produce anxiety like symptoms such as irritability and tension
  • Low level of pituitary secretions produces depression like symptoms — Fatigue, apathy etc.
  • Abnormal secretions of hormones may cause major depression

Assumptions of Biological/Medical Model

  • Abnormality is caused by some disease in the “Central Nervous System” (C. N. S) .
  • Disease in the C. N. S. has some biological or physical origin.
  • Physicians are best able to treat diseases of the C. N. S.
  • Diseases in the C. N. S. are not currently specific.


The approach that concentrated on the unconscious forces that drive our behavior; belief that the inner forces over which individuals have little control motivate behavior.

  • Founded by Sigmund Freud, the most influential figure in the history of psychology.
  • The basis of motivation and behavior lies in inner forces; forces that are predetermined, and forces over which humans have little control, which the person is not aware of i.e.. , unconscious determinants of behavior.
  • It maintained that instincts are the driving force behind individual՚s personality; there are life instincts as well as death instincts that play a role in human life.

Significance of Psychodynamic Approach

  • The most influential theory of the 20th century that affected psychology and related disciplines in a revolutionary manner.
  • Gave an entirely new perspective to the understanding of behavior and mental processes as well as mental illness.
  • The first theory to raise the awareness that not all behavior is rational.
  • Gave an impressive, broad based, therapeutic approach.
  • Provided a basis to understand everyday life phenomena e. g. interpersonal relationships, aggression, prejudice.
  • Many other, later, approaches built their paradigms on this approach - some by refining it, some by deviating from it.
  • One of the main ideas is that there is an inner tension for the fulfillment of instincts, the tension leads to action for fulfillment, the fulfillment leads to reduced tension.

SIGMUND FREUD: 1856 - 1939

  • Founder of psychoanalysis
  • Austrian physician, neurologist, psychologist
  • Born in Moravia (Czech Republic) in a middle class family
  • Studied at Vienna University where he became interested in neurological research
  • Spent three years at General Hospital Vienna and worked in nervous diseases, psychiatry, and dermatology
  • 1885: Became professor of neuropathology at Vienna University
  • 1885: Following a government grant went to Paris as a student of French neurologist Jean Charcot, who was treating nervous diseases through hypnotic suggestion
  • Freud՚s interest in psychopathology was heightened as a result of his studies of hysteria, under Charcot
  • 1886: Established private practice in Vienna specializing in nervous disease. His interest shifted from physiological to psychological explanation of psychopathology
  • Started collaborative work with Josef Breuer
  • 1895: wrote “Studies on Hysteria” ; main emphasis was that uncharged emotional energy associated with forgotten psychic traumas resulted into hysterical symptoms
  • Therapy, at that stage, involved putting the patient in a hypnotic state, where he recalled and reenacted the traumatic experience = Catharsis
  • Hence the formal beginning of Psychoanalysis

Foundations of Psychodynamic Approach

  • Psychic Determinism
  • All behavior is determined i.e.. , has a cause that lies in the mind/psyche
  • Role of Consciousness
    • A significant part of our behavior is generated by unconscious forces
    • Continuity of Normal and Abnormal Behavior
    • Normal and abnormal behavior are different only in terms of degree and not in kind
    • Emphasis on Clinical Observation
    • Clinical observation/case studies were the main source of data
  • Structure of Consciousness
    • Conscious
    • Contains thoughts and feelings of which one is immediately aware
  • Subconscious

    Mind level below the level of conscious awareness

  • Preconscious

    Part of the sub conscious that can be accessed by deliberate choice

  • Unconscious

    Part of the sub conscious that cannot be accessed directly although impulses, ideas, and feelings may permeate out through other sources e. g. dreams, slips of tongue etc.

Dreams in Freudian Approach

  • Dreams reflect unconscious needs, desires, and impulses.
  • Dreams have two levels of dream content: manifest and latent.
    • Manifest content

      The obvious, apparent part: what a dream appears to be to the dreamer.

    • Latent content

      The dream՚s true meaning, which is usually disguised or distorted by dream work.


  • The manifest content is in a symbolic form
  • The latent content is converted into this form by the ′ dream censor, a mechanism that ensures that sleep is not disturbed by unconscious desires, and those desires are presented in a socially acceptable form.
  • The manifest content is in the symbolic form of the latent content. Only the psychoanalyst can interpret it.

Psychodynamic Model of Personality

Is a three-part structure of the mind; containing id, ego and super ego.

  • Id
    • At birth, the entire mind consists of only id. It consists of pure, unadulterated,
    • Instinctual energy and exists entirely on the unconscious level. It is the source of
    • Basic drives; operates under the ‘pleasure principle’ i.e.. . , it wants immediate
    • Gratification of needs. The id has two means of satisfying bodily needs, reflex
    • Action and wish fulfillment.
    • Reflex action is responding automatically to a source of irritation . e. g. an infant
    • May sneeze in response to an irritant in the nose or reflexively move a confined limb, thereby freeing it. In both cases, reflex action is effective in reducing tension. Coughing and blinking are other examples of reflex action.
    • Wish- fulfillment is more complicated. It is the conjuring up of an image of an object or event that is capable of satisfying a biological need e. g. a hungry person thinks of food- related objects.
  • Ego
    • Mediates the link of the self with the outside world, “Real World” , as well as between the id and superego; operates under the demands of the environment. It operates under the reality principle and operates in the services of id.
    • In other words, the ego comes into existence in order to bring the person into contact with experiences that will truly satisfy his/her needs. When the person is hungry, the ego finds food; when the person is sexually aroused, the persons finds an appropriate sex object; and when the person is thirsty, the ego finds liquid. The ego goes through reality testing to find appropriate objects.
  • Super Ego
    • There is a third component of personality that makes things much more complicated, i.e.. . super ego. It is governed by the moral constraints.
    • It develops from the internalized patterns of reward and punishment that the young child experiences i.e.. . Depending on the values of the parents, certain things the child does or says are rewarded and encouraged and others not liked are punished or discouraged.
    • Opposes the id and represents the moral demands of the family and society; it is the ‘moral self’ or the ‘conscience’ of the person

Development of Personality

  • A Stage Approach
  • Psychodynamic approach proposed a stage- theory of the development of personality:
  • Oral stage occurs during the first year of life and the erogenous zone during this stage is the mouth. At this stage, pleasures mainly come from mouth. According to Freud, an adult who is fixated at the early oral stage will engage in abundance of oral activities such as eating, drinking, or smoking.
  • This person also will engage in activities that are symbolically equivalent to those oral activities such as collecting things, being a good listener etc.
  • Anal stage starts during the second year of life, and the erogenous zone is the anus buttocks region. It is the stage when the child has to gain control over his physiological processes so that they function in accordance with the demands of the society. i.e. the child must be toilet trained. Fixation at this stage may result in physical problems.
  • Phallic stage starts from the third year of life to about fifth year, and the erogenous area are the genital area. This is one of the most complicated and controversial of Freud՚s stages. It is the stage of Oedipus and Electra complexes, the resolution of which has profound influence on an adult՚s life.
  • The male child experiences the Oedipus complex, which is named after an ancient play by Sophocles, entitled Oedipus Tyrannus, in which King Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. The male child resents the father, because he is regarded as a rival for the mother՚s attention and affection.
  • The female counter part of the Oedipus complex is Electra complex, named after another play by Sophocles entitled “Electra” , in which Electra causes her brother to kill her mother who had killed Electra՚s father.
  • Latency stage lasts from about sixth year to about twelfth year. Here the sexual interests are displaced to substitute activities such as learning, athletics, and peer group activities.
  • Genital stage is the final stage of development that occurs following puberty. It is the time at which the person emerges from pre genital stages as the adults as he/she destined to become.
  • Now the child has become a socialized adult with heterosexual interests leading to marriage and child- rearing. If, however, the experiences during the pregenital stages cause fixation, they will manifests themselves throughout one՚s adult life.


  • An emotional state experienced as a result of felt threat to the self
  • Anxiety arises when ego cannot cope too much of:
    • Demands of the id
    • Demands of the ego
    • External danger
  • In order to protect itself against anxiety and threat, ego uses defense mechanism


Ego defense system, which may be distorting reality

  • Repression: Blocking unpleasant/unacceptable thoughts by pushing them into the unconscious e. g. forgetting events of the painful childhood.
  • Regression: Reverting back to a stage that was satisfying e. g. a boss showing temper tantrums like a child; or acting like a baby.
  • Displacement: Redirecting the expression of unwanted desires or impulses to a substitute rather than the actual target e. g. beating children when a wife cannot express anger toward husband.
  • Rationalization: In order to justify one՚s behavior, one develops a socially acceptable explanation or reasoning e. g. going for a second marriage saying that the first wife was quarrelsome.
  • Denial: Refusing to acknowledge or accept anxiety provoking thoughts or impulses e. g. being a heavy smoker but saying ‘I am an occasional smoker’ .
  • Projection: Attributing unwanted thoughts and impulses to others e. g. a person takes bribe and blames the organization for paying him not enough salary.
  • Sublimation: Converting unwanted impulses into socially approved thoughts, feelings and actions e. g. disliking the in-laws but behaving in a very friendly manner, or becoming a stamp collector to overcome the impulse to steal



  • An intensive, long-term psychotherapeutic procedure.
  • Requires long sessions over extended periods … may be years.
  • Better suited to intelligent individuals.
  • Involves a special relationship between the therapist and the patient.
  • Target: To explore unconscious motivation, conflicts, desires.
  • Goal: Establishing intra psychic harmony by developing awareness of the role of the id, reducing over compliance with super ego, and by strengthening the ego.
  • Understanding of ‘repression’ : The therapy gives central importance to the understanding of the manner in which the person uses repression for handling conflict.
  • Interventions used in Psychotherapy

1. Free Association

  • Kept in a comfortable position, the patient is asked to talk aloud and say whatever comes to his mind without considering whether or not it is relevant, rational, or sensible.
  • The patient is asked to reveal even the most undesirable and strong thoughts that have been repressed. This leads to emotional release, called ‘catharsis’ .

2. Analysis of Resistance

  • At times patient feels inhibitions, and is unable or unwilling to express some thought or feeling i.e.. , barriers between conscious and unconscious.
  • The psychoanalyst aims to break down such resistances so that the patient is enabled to face the unpleasant thoughts, impulses, events.

3. Dream Analysis

The therapist tries to uncover the latent content of dreams and decipher the symbolism involved.

4. Analysis of Transference & Counter Transference

Transference: The patient՚s emotional response toward the therapist is often an indication of the patient՚s relationship with a person who had been the center of the conflict. It may be negative or positive.

  • Counter Transference: The therapists՚ emotional reaction toward the patient is also important.
  • He may also start having positive or negative feelings for the patient.
  • Transference is analyzed and understood as part of the therapeutic process.
  • Criticism against

Freudian Psychodynamic Theory

  • There is no scientific proof that many psychodynamic constructs, e. g. unconscious, exist
  • Psychic Determinism: Freudian approach is deterministic and leaves not much room for conscious, rational, decision making or personal will to act
  • It ignores the external variables and the environment
  • It emphasizes the early childhood experiences too much
  • Mostly criticized for its interpretation of the relationship between the genders
  • The therapy is too time consuming and therefore expensive


The theorists who belonged to the Freudian school and supported it, but later digressed on some issues and differed from Freud

  • They emphasized, more than Freud, the following:
  • Current social environment play an important role in one՚s life.
  • Life experiences have a continuing influence and childhood alone should not be of prime importance.
  • Positive interpersonal relations of love and social motivation have a significant role.
  • Ego functioning is significant rather than id.
  • Development of self-concept is important.
  • Self-esteem is important.

ALFRED ADLER (1870 - 1937)

His theory is known as “individual psychology” which in many ways is the opposite of Freud՚s theory. For Freud, individuals are constantly in conflict with one another and with society; Adler saw them seeking relationships and harmony, he looked upon mind as an integrated whole working to help to attain the future goals.

  • Initially he was Freud՚s closest friend.
  • 1911: Diverted and launched his version of psychoanalytic approach.
  • Differed from Freud in:
    • Freud՚s negativity (e. g. Thanatos instincts)
    • Freud՚s idea that libido is the prime impulse

Adler՚s Approach

  • Main concepts: Esteem, inferiority complex, birth order, will to power and style of life
    • We are a product of the social influences on our personality
    • Goals and incentives drive us more than drives and instincts
    • Our goal in life is to achieve success and superiority
  • Inferiority complex: the feeling of being less able than others. It affects one՚s relationship with others and his achievement in many ways.
  • Motivating Forces of Human Life
    • Feeling of inferiority
    • People are primarily motivated to overcome inherent feelings of inferiority
  • Birth Order: has effect on personality. The first- born is different from the last one, and so is the middle- born different from others.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Siblings feel a kind of rivalry toward each other.
  • Psychopathology: Compensation: i.e.. , Compensatory defense mechanism combined with conscious or unconscious feelings of inferiority is the main cause of psychopathological behavior.
  • Function of the Psychoanalyst: To discover and rationalize such feelings and break down the compensatory, neurotic will for power.

CARL GUSTAV JUNG (1875 - 1961)

A Swiss psychiatrist, founder of the analytical school of psychology, Jung presented a complex theory of personality.

  • 1913: left the inner circle of Freud՚s students and colleagues, although he had chosen Jung as his successor.
  • Was mystical in his understanding and description of personality.
  • Had a positive approach toward one՚s ability to control one՚s destiny.
  • His view of human nature is among the most complex ever portrayed.
  • The human psyche is embedded in past, present, and future; it consists of conscious and unconscious elements, rational and irrational impulses, masculine and feminine tendencies, and a tendency to bring all these contradictory tendencies into harmony with each other.
  • Self- actualization is achieved when such harmony exists, but self- actualization must be sought; it does not occur automatically.
  • Believed that the spiritual side must be satisfied, which usually happens in middle age when many of the components of psyche have been discovered.
  • Religion to him is the major vehicle in the journey towards self- actualization.

Jung՚s Disagreements with Freud

  • The understanding and description of the genders.
  • The nature of unconscious.

The main Jungian concepts

  • Major goal of life: Unification of all aspect of our personality:
  • Conscious and Unconscious
  • Introversion (Inner Directed) , Extroverted (Outer Directed)


• Energy for personal growth and development

Types of Unconscious

• Personal unconscious: Similar to Freudian view

• Collective unconscious: ideas beyond personal experience, inherited from ancestors՚ all generations, and common to all of humanity.


• Part of collected unconscious, universal forms and patterns of thought: These include themes that can be seen in myths e. g. masculinity, femininity, good, evil opposites, motherhood.

KAREN HORNEY (1885 - 1952)

  • German- American psychologist
  • Trained as a psychoanalyst in Germany who later shifted to the US.
  • She agreed with Freud on the levels of unconscious, anxiety, and repression.
  • She emphasized childhood experiences, social interaction and personal growth.
  • Disagreement with Freud
    • Differed from Freud on primary impulses; impulses are not the main motivating force.
    • Disagreed on Freudian position regarding the biological basis of differences between genders.

Main Concepts in Horney՚s Theory:

  • Basic Anxiety
    • A Major Concept: If The Environment Is Hostile And The Child Feels Lonely And Isolated, Then This Anxiety Develops.
    • It Can Be Overcome By Proper Parental Nurturing
  • Basic Hostility
    • Children develop such hostility if parents are over strict, punishing, indifferent, or inconsistent.
    • Children feel very aggressive and hostile but cannot express it. Repressed hostility leads to anxiety.
  • Social Interaction and Interpersonal Styles
  • She talked about the ways in which people interact with each other, and these were thought to have an impact upon the personality of an n individual:
    • Moving away from others: seeking self-sufficiency and independence
    • Moving toward others: being compliant and dependent
    • Moving against others: trying to gain control, power, and independence
  • Neuroses
    • Arise from emotional conflicts that arise from childhood experiences, and disturbances in interpersonal relationships in later life
    • Relationship with the real self and the ideal self
    • Horney maintained that the real self includes those things that are true about us at any particular time. The ideal self reflects what we would like to become. For normal people, the ideal self is the goal that they would like to reach in the future; it is something around which they can organize their lives and to which they can aspire.
    • For the neurotic person, according to her, the relationship between the real and the ideal self is a problem. In the first place, the neurotic՚s impression of the real self is distorted. For him, the ideal self is a wish instead of reality and idealized self is an unrealistic, immutable dream

Goal of the Therapy

  • For her, the goal is to create a realistic relationship between the real self and the ideal self. Horney was optimistic about human nature and the ability to change.
  • Human interactions caused problem and human interactions solved problems also.


The psychological model that focuses on the overt, observable, behavior.

The model grew out of the rejection of psychology՚s early emphasis on the inner working of the mind, suggesting instead that observable behavior should be the focus of the field. John B. Watson was the first person that advocated the behavioral approach.

This is a psychological approach that considers the relationship between behavior and environmental stimuli as the focus of study; observable behavior is what psychology should be studying, understanding, and explaining.

  • This approach dominated psychology for most of the 20th century What do the Behaviorists Study?
  • They specifically study:
    • Observable/overt behavior
    • Specific measurable responses
    • How particular types of behaviors are controlled by particular types of environmental stimuli
  • Method of investigation: Data are typically collected under controlled laboratory conditions, employing technological assistance
  • What the Behaviorists Are Not Interested in:
  • They are not interested in:
    • Unconscious
    • Inner motivation
    • Biochemical processes
    • These and all other states, which are not being observed with the naked eye or cannot be evaluated.
  • Behaviorist Analysis

    Behaviorist Analysis is done for seeing and establishing the relationship between the stimulus and response/behavior.

  • Three step approach
    • The antecedent environmental conditions: are analyzed. i.e.. . , the conditions preceding the action/response/behavior, and that lay a ground for it.
    • The behavioral response is studied: study of the action or behavior that is to be understood, described, predicted, and controlled.
    • Observable consequences are explored: the impact resulting from the target behavior i.e.. . how it affects the environment or other people.
  • Basic Terminology
    • Stimulus: A physical energy source that has an effect on a sense organ, thus producing a response.
    • Response: The action, behavior, or reaction triggered by a stimulus.
    • Environment: External factors, variables, conditions, influences, or circumstance affecting one՚s development or behavior.
    • Variable: A behavior, factor, setting, or event that can change/vary in amount or kind.
    • Learning: A relatively permanent change in behavior that takes place as a result of practice and/or experience.

EDWIN L. THORNDIKE: (1874 - 1949)

  • Edwin L. Thorndike, was an American psychologist, who՚s thinking is thoroughly associationistic.
  • He was a functionalist in his emphasis on the utilitarian aspect of psychology. According to him, psychology is about the stimulus- response connections.
  • He was of the view that behavior can be analyzed into associations. He said that the behavioral processes are quantifiable. Believed that behavior was explicable on the basis of nothing but stimulus- response connections inherited and acquired.
  • Initial work: in1898 (published dissertation) studied problem solving in animals. Tried to analyze the conditions under which animals learn.
  • Focus of the study: the relationship between the animals՚ response and their consequences.
  • Main finding: The consequence of any response determines if the response will be repeated in future or not: “The Law of Effect”
  • The Law of Effect: Any response that leads to an outcome that is satisfying for the organism is likely to be repeated; a response leading to an outcome that is not satisfying is not likely to be repeated
  • Association by Contiguity
    • The organism forms an association or connection between the response and its consequences. For it to be effective, the response and the outcome have to be closely linked -- both in time and space
    • The theory drew attention towards the significance of reward and punishment in learning new behaviors


The founder of the behavioristic school of thought.

  • American psychologist with a remarkable career.
  • Initially trained in introspection at the University of Chicago but found it extremely vague and mentalistic.
  • He became interested in experimental research with animals.
  • He completed his Ph. D. on that in three years, being the youngest such graduate.
  • Taught at the University of Chicago for four years, joined John Hopkins as full professor and soon became chairperson of the psychology department.
  • Gave a revolutionary, pragmatic approach often known as ‘Radical Behaviorism’ .
  • He and his followers believed and advocated that psychology should depart from the study of unconscious and the mind because they could not be verified or tested scientifically.
  • Observable behavior is all that psychology should be looking at.
  • Environment and external world (environmental stimuli) is what shapes and determines behavior.
  • Learning is what matters in what a person is, and not the inborn instincts, impulses, drive, id, or unconscious motivation. An understanding of learning will encompass all aspects of personality.
  • Mentalist concepts, not grounded in reality, should be rejected.

Impact of Learning Experience

  • “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in, and I՚ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors” . (Watson, 1924)
  • Learned Fear: The Case of “Little Albert”
  • 1920: Developing Fear; Watson and Rosalie Rayne Eleven month old Albert who enjoyed playing with a cute white rat was made afraid of it by linking a loud frightening sound with the appearance of the rat.
  • The experiment was further expanded and Watson and Rayner demonstrated that the fear of the rat could be generalized to all sorts of stimuli: a dog, a cotton ball and a Santa Clause.
  • Watson and Rayner could not get a chance to undo the learning as the child՚s mother removed him from the hospital.

Issues stemming from little Albert՚s Experiment

  • Unethical treatment of Albert, that too without the advised consent of his mother.
  • Watson contradicted his own earlier assertion that early childhood emotional experiences can affect a person for a lifetime.


Why are children scared of darkness?

Why some children jump with joy at the sight of a bear and some start screaming in fright? Why does one coming from abroad start feeling happy at the very sight of his parents՚ home? Why does one start feeling bad at the thought of going to a dentist?

The answers to all these questions can be found in the classical conditioning approach

Classical Conditioning: The History

  • Ivan Pavlov 1849 - 1936: Russian physiologist and pioneer of classical conditioning.
  • In the later years of the 19th century studied the basic process of digestion and won Nobel Prize for that in 1904.
  • The focal point was the salivation reflex in dogs.
  • It was already known that the dogs would salivate if food powder were led into their mouths, as it was a ‘reflex’ .
  • The dogs salivated every time the food powder was presented.
  • He observed that after some time, the dogs at times salivated just before food was put into their mouths. They also salivated at the sight of the food, and even at the sight of the lab assistant who brought food for them.
  • This is where the concept of classical conditioning emerged.

Classical Conditioning: The Theory

Is a type of learning in which a previously neutral stimulus starts eliciting a response that was originally attached to a natural stimulus, because the neutral stimulus has been closely associated with the other stimulus.

Basic Terminology in Classical Conditioning

  • Reflex

    An automatic, unlearned response resulting from a specific stimulus.

  • Un-Conditioned Stimulus (UCS)

    A stimulus that elicits a response reflexively and reliably.

  • Un-Conditioned Response (UCR)

    A natural, reflexive, reliable, response of the UCS.

  • Conditioned Stimulus (CS)

    A primarily neutral stimulus which, when paired with the UCS, starts evoking a response (different from its natural response) and the same as UCR.

  • Conditioned Response (CR)

    After conditioning, the CS begins to elicit a new, learned response. i.e.. . CR.

Pavlovian Classical Conditioning

The following diagram explains the classical conditioning model:

Extensions of the Main Classical Conditioning Model

There are a number of other variations and extensions of this model, which will be discussed in detail in the section on learning. Here, we will just name them:

  • Extinction
  • Spontaneous recovery
  • Stimulus generalization
  • Stimulus discrimination

Applications of Classical Conditioning in Everyday Life

  • Negative emotional responses: fears, phobias … fear of lizards, dark places, school phobia
  • Positive emotional responses: Feelings of relaxation, and happiness … thinking of going on a holiday
  • Advertising: Associating model with the product
  • Psychotherapy: Systematic desensitization, aversive therapy
  • Operant Conditioning
  • Why do teachers give stars on children՚s workbooks?
  • Why do parents clap happily when their child utters the first words that nobody else can decipher?
  • Why do manufacturers of products announce prize schemes for the consumers of their products?

The answers to all these questions can be found in the “Operant Conditioning” approach.


  • Type of learning in which a voluntary response becomes stronger or weaker, depending on its positive or negative consequences
  • The organism plays an active role and “Operates” on environment to produce the desired outcome


  • American Psychologist and the founder of Operant Conditioning.
  • 1931: Received his Ph. D. from Harvard.
  • During World War II, he conducted research on teaching pigeons to direct missiles to targets while flying in nose- cone. However the idea did not materialize.
  • 1947: Went back to Harvard to deliver ‘William James’ lectures.
  • 1948: Appointed as full professor at Harvard.
  • While a graduate student at Harvard he started thinking on Operant Conditioning lines.
  • His theory is somewhat similar to Thorndike՚s, but it was actually Watson who impressed him.
  • The Typical Skinnerian procedure
    • A special apparatus usually known as skinner՚s box is used.
    • Laboratory animals learn to press a lever so that food is delivered to them.
    • The environment is controlled.
    • The animal operates on the environment and as a result of its behavior it may be rewarded or punished. Food is the reward
    • The consequence determines if the response will be repeated or not.


  • Successive approximations of a required/desired response are reinforced until that response is fully learnt:
  • In the beginning each and every success is reinforced with a reward, no matter how small the success.
  • Once the desired response is learnt the rein forcer immediately follows it, every time it happens.
  • Once learnt the behavior, in many cases, the organism may not need reinforcement any more, since many behaviors are self-reinforcing e. g. learning to play a musical instrument.
  • Acquisition: Initially the response rate following reinforcement may be slow but at one stage it increases to the maximum. This is acquisition.
  • Extinction: If reinforcement is withheld the response rate decreases and finally no response is shown. This is extinction.


  • Increasing the probability that preceding behavior will be repeated through a stimulus.
  • Positive Reinforcer: A stimulus whose introduction brings about an increase in the preceding response.
  • Negative Reinforcer: A stimulus whose removal reinforces and leads to a higher likelihood that the response bringing about this removal will be repeated.
  • Punishment: An unpleasant or painful stimulus whose introduction following a certain behavior decreases likelihood that the behavior will occur again.
  • Applications of Operant Conditioning in Everyday Life
    • Child rearing
    • Classroom management
    • Teaching of skills
    • Animal taming
    • Advertising
    • Psychological intervention and Psycho- therapy: behavior modification, assertiveness training, token economy


The approaches that focus upon the thought processes underlying learning. Latent Learning and cognitive maps (Edward Tolman) ; Tolman talked about the ‘cognitive maps’ ; it is not necessary to have an association between stimulus and response, a person can learn without showing any apparent response; in other words learning and performance are not the same

Social learning/Observational learning and Modeling (Albert Bandura) : a major portion of our learning is based upon learning by observation.


  • Faced with a choice between psychoanalysis and behaviorism, many psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s sensed a void in psychology՚s conception of human nature.
  • Freud had drawn attention to the darker forces of the unconscious, and Skinner was interested only in the effects of reinforcement on observable behavior.
  • Humanistic psychology emerged out of a desire to understand the conscious mind, free will, human dignity, and the capacity for self-reflection and growth. An alternative to psychoanalysis and behaviorism, humanistic psychology became known as “the third force.”
  • It is the approach that focused on:
    • The idea that people are in control of their life.
    • The person or the self and personal growth and development are to be emphasized.
  • The humanistic approach includes a number of other theories with the same or similar orientation e. g. , ‘existential’ and ‘phenomenological’ psychology.

Basic Assumptions of the Humanistic Approach

  • In order to understand behavior we must consider the subjective experience of the person.
  • Neither past experience nor current circumstances constrain the behavior of the person.

Humanistic vs Psychodynamic & Behaviorist Approaches

  • Humanistic approach emphasizes the person, the psychodynamic stresses unconscious determinants, and the behaviorists focus upon external determinants.
  • Humanistic approach is more optimistic than the other two in the sense that it believes in the person՚s ability and will.
  • According to the humanistic thinkers, limiting ourselves to observable behavior and external stimuli alone is ignoring the thinking-feeling person, and that is dehumanizing.
  • Free will: Humans possess the ability to make decisions about their life

Central Themes of Humanistic Approach

  • Human beings are capable of shaping their own destiny.
  • They can think and design their course of action and can follow it in the way they like.
  • People can overcome or minimize the environmental and intrinsic influences
  • “Here and now” is important.
  • “Wholeness” or “completeness” of the personality is important rather than its separate, disintegrated, structural parts.
  • Humanistic approach emphasizes:
    • Individual՚s freedom in directing his future
    • Capacity for personal growth
    • Intrinsic worth
    • Potential for self-fulfillment

Emergence of the Humanistic Approach

Emerged in reaction to the perceived limitations of psychodynamic theories, especially

Psychoanalysis, as well as the staunch behaviorist way of understanding and interpreting behavior.

Individuals like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow strongly felt that the approaches prevalent at that time could not adequately address issues like the meaning of behavior, and the nature of healthy growth.

The founders of humanistic psychology asserted that people need a value system … a system of understanding, or frame of orientation … due to which life gets a meaning and purpose

CARL ROGERS: (1902 – 1987)

  • Born in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, he underwent a strict upbringing as a child who later turned out to be rather isolated, independent, and self-disciplined.
  • Initially went to the University of Wisconsin for Agriculture major but later became interested in the study of religion. From there he switched on to the clinical psychology program of Columbia University, and received his Ph. D. in 1931.
  • One of the founders of the humanistic approach, Rogers was one of the most influential therapists in the 20th century.
  • Research, even that conducted after his death, revealed that Rogers was cited by more therapists as a major influence on their thinking and clinical practice than any other person in psychology … including Freud.

Rogers՚ Approach

  • Primarily a clinical theory, based on years of Rogers՚ experience dealing with his clients
  • In its richness and maturity his theory matches that of Freud; a theory well thought-out and logical having broad application.
  • The theory emphasizes on a single factor “force of life” which he calls the actualizing tendency i.e.. built-in motivation present in every life form to develop its potentials to the fullest extent possible.
  • Rogers had the person-centered approach since the ‘person’ was the main figure of importance,
  • He believed that the most powerful human drive is the one to become “fully functioning” .
  • Fully functioning = a person becomes all that he or she is capable of To be fully functioning means experiencing:
    • Optimal psychological adjustment
    • Optimal psychological maturity
    • Complete congruence (a feeling of integration when the self and the ideal self-match; incongruence is a feeling of conflict or unease experienced in case of a mismatch between the two)
    • Complete openness to experience

Main Concepts

  1. Self: a fluid perceptual structure based on one՚s experience of one՚s own being,
  2. Ideal self: an Individual՚s goals and aspirations,
  3. Phenomenal field: an Individual՚s unique perception of the world,
  4. Actualizing tendency: an innate drive reflecting the desire to grow, to develop, and to enhance one՚s capacities,
  5. Need for positive regard: a need for positive social contacts like love,
  6. Conditions of worth: restrictions imposed on self – expression in order to earn positive regard,

Defenses: In case of an incongruity between one՚s the ideal and the real self-defenses develop. Rogers՚s talks about only two defenses:

Denial and Perceptual Distortion

  1. Denial: Blocking out the threatening situation altogether. Denial also includes what Freud called repression.
  2. Perceptual distortion: Reinterpreting the situation so that it appears less threatening, just like Freud՚s rationalization.

Neurotics: are apart from the real and the ideal. Becoming more incongruous, they find themselves in more and more threatening situations, levels of anxiety become greater, and they use more and more defenses … It becomes a vicious cycle that the person eventually is unable to get out of, at least on his own

Psychosis: Psychosis occurs when a person՚s defenses are overwhelmed, and their sense of self becomes “shattered” into little disconnected pieces. His behavior lacks consistency.

Carl Roger՚s Psychotherapy

  • Carl Rogers is best known for his contributions to therapy known as “person centered/Client- centered therapy/Non- directive therapy. Also known as the Rogerian Therapy” .
  • His main technique is “Reflection” ________ mirroring of emotional experiences.
  • Aim of the therapy: to help a person grow and self-actualize.
  • Rogers maintained that the therapist must possess the following qualities:

i. Congruence -- genuineness, honesty, with the client

ii. Empathy -- the ability to feel what the client feels.

iii. Respect -- acceptance, unconditional positive regard towards the client.


American psychologist and leading exponent of humanistic approach.

Gave comprehensive theory of motivation.

Found the prevalent psychology to be too pessimistic and negatively oriented.

Key Points of Maslow՚s Theory

  • Psychology and the psychologist should look at the positive side of the human beings.
  • There must be more to living than just being battered by a hostile environment, or by depraved instincts … which may actually be leading to self-destruction.
  • People՚s needs are not low level and base. We have positive needs that may become neutral in the worst cases, but will not turn negative or base.
  • Human behavior does respond to needs but we will be wrong in saying that all our needs are only physiological in nature
  • Needs motivate human action; such needs are very few in number.

Maslow՚s Hierarchy of Needs

  • Basically a stage theory.
  • The needs at one level have to be met in order for one to move on to higher order.
  • The needs at the lowest/primary/base level are the physiological needs, whereas the highest order needs are the self-actualization needs.
  • Interactions and needs of Behavior
  • Physiological needs: Fulfilled through = hunger/food: Pathology associated = Over-eating, Anorexia.
  • Safety needs: Fulfilled through = profession, job; Pathology associated = Phobias.
  • Love and belongingness: Fulfilled through = Marriage, Friendship: Pathology associated = Antisocial personality.
  • Esteem needs: Fulfilled through = Awards, Honors, Scholarships; Pathology associated = Depression.
  • Self-actualization needs: Fulfilled through = Painting, writing, singing: Pathology associated = Isolation, Alienation, Cynicism.
  • Criticism against Maslow՚s theory
  • Although a comprehensive and well-formed theory, it has been criticized at some points
  • Can we actually, for all case, distribute and neatly order these needs? There is little empirical evidence to support Maslow՚s way of ranking needs

Extensions of Humanistic Approach

  • Existential Psychology (Jean Paul Sartre, Rollo May)
  • Frankl՚s Logo therapy
  • Positive Psychology (Martin Seligman)


  • From the 1920s through the 1960s, behaviorism dominated psychology in the United States. Eventually, however, psychologists began to move away from strict behaviorism. Many became increasingly interested in cognition, a term used to describe all the mental processes involved in acquiring, storing, and using knowledge.
  • Such processes include perception, memory, thinking, problem solving, imagining, and language. This shift in emphasis toward cognition had such a profound influence on psychology that it has often been called the cognitive revolution. The psychological study of cognition became known as cognitive psychology.

Cognitive Processes vs. Computer

  • One reason for psychologists՚ renewed interest in mental processes was the invention of the computer, which provided an intriguing metaphor for the human mind.
  • The hardware of the computer was likened to the brain, and computer programs provided a step-by-step model of how information from the environment is put in, stored, and retrieved to produce a response. Based on the computer metaphor, psychologists began to formulate information-processing models of human thought and behavior.
  • The pioneering work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget also inspired psychologists to study cognition. During the 1920s, while administering intelligence tests in schools, Piaget became interested in how children think. He designed various tasks and interview questions to reveal how children of different ages reason about time, nature, numbers, causality, morality, and other concepts. Based on his many studies, Piaget theorized that from infancy to adolescence, children advance through a predictable series of cognitive stages.
  • The cognitive revolution also gained momentum from developments in the study of language. Behaviorist B. F. Skinner had claimed that language is acquired according to the laws of operant conditioning, in much the same way that rats learn to press a bar for food pellets.
  • In 1959, however, American linguist Noam Chomsky charged that Skinner՚s account of language development was wrong. Chomsky noted that children all over the world start to speak at roughly the same age and proceed through roughly the same stages without being explicitly taught or rewarded for the effort.
  • According to Chomsky, the human capacity for learning language is innate. He theorized that the human brain is “hardwired” for language as a product of evolution. By pointing to the primary importance of biological dispositions in the development of language, Chomsky՚s theory dealt a serious blow to the behaviorist assumption that all human behaviors are formed and maintained by reinforcement.

Cognition means “the known” , “knowledge” , or “the process of knowing”

Cognitive Approach Emphasizes On

  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Thinking
  • Values
  • Expectations etc; factors that determine the personality of the individual

Main Emphasis

  • For a proper understanding of behavior, the cognitive approach emphasizes the role of mediating processes in human behavior i.e.. , the processes that lie between the Environmental stimuli and the behavioral response
  • Focused on how we ‘remember’ , how information processing takes place, how decision making appraisals are done
  • Unlike the behaviorist approach, this theory gives same importance to both the internal state of the person as well as the environmental events
  • Internal events are referred as “Mediators” or “Meditation Processes”

Areas of Special Interest

Cognitive approach mainly focuses on:

  • Emotions
  • Social behavior
  • Behavior modification

Cognitive approach includes the elements of psychology, linguistics, computer science and physiology-- thus called a ‘hybrid science’ .

Experiments on apes by German scientist Wolfgang Kohler discovered the use of insight by them in problem situations.

Tolman talked about the ‘cognitive maps’ (relationship between stimulus) ________it is not necessary to have an association between stimulus and response, a person can learn without showing any apparent response

Both Kohler and Tolman played a vital role in laying the foundation of cognitive approach

Emotions and Cognitive Approach


Stanley Schacter (1971)

  • According to him, emotions result from the physiological arousal as well as the cognitive appraisal (evaluation) of the situation
  • Arousal comes first and is general in nature
  • In order to understand what one is feeling i.e.. , the title/label of the emotion, and the meaning of one՚s reaction in a particular setting the arousal is appraised cognitively Richard Lazarus (1984) maintains that emotional experience cannot be understood unless we understand how what goes on in the environment is be evaluated. Emotion leads to cognition and cognition in turn leads to emotional experience.

Cognitive Approach to Social Behavior

John Dollard and Neal Miller (1950) first ever emphasized the importance of cognitive processes in determining behavior

Kelly՚s Personal Construct Theory

  • Developed by George Kelly (1955.)
  • Emphasis on how a person cognitively constructs his world
  • Persons develop their behavior cognitively towards their world and develop attitudes and opinions accordingly known as ‘personal constructs’ .
  • The constructs then develop into a ‘belief system’ of a person.
  • Mischel՚s Cognitive Social personality Theory
  • Walter Mischel was a student of George Kelly.
  • According to him, how a person responds to the environmental stimulus depends on the following variables:
  • Competencies
    • What the person knows
    • What the person can do
    • How well the person generate the cognitive/behavioral outcome
  • Encoding Strategies: Ways of processing information
  • Expectations: Anticipating the likely outcome (mainly positive)
  • Personal Values: Importance of one՚s belief, also stimulus, people, events etc
  • Self-regulatory system: maintaining rules for better performance
    • Setting goals
    • Evaluating performances

Bandura՚s Cognitive-Social Learning Theory

  • Given by Albert Bandura (1986) .
  • By combining the rules of learning, it emphasizes the complex human interactions in social settings.
  • Observational Learning
    • Main component of social-learning theory in which the person makes changes in his own behavior by watching/or imitating others i.e.. . , a model/a super star/favorite personality or cartoon character.
    • Effective in acquiring skills, attitudes, beliefs simply by watching others.
    • Cantor՚s Social Intelligence Theory
    • Given by Nancy Cantor and her colleagues (1987) .
    • Refers to the expertise, which a person uses in different life situations/tasks.
  • The theory explains several types of individual differences.
    • Choice of Life Goal: Giving priority/importance to the most important goal at a particular point of life. i.e.. . , student -- ‘Good grades’
    • Use of ‘knowledge’ in social interactions.

      Use of life experiences and expertise in problem solving.

Cognitive Approach in Behavior Modification

  • Negative and unacceptable behavior is modified through constructive strategies.
  • According to this approach, person՚s beliefs and attitudes effect the motivation and behavior of a person
  • In order to modify the behavior, reinforcement techniques are used.
  • For attaining the desired goal, realistic strategies are used with continuous feedback.

Altering the Belief System

  • Psychologists are of the view that psychological problems arise due to the way people perceive themselves in relation with the people they interact with.
  • Main focus of the therapist is to alter the irrational belief system of a person.
  • Cognitive Theory for Depression
  • Aaron Beck formulated the therapy for depression patients.
  • Therapist helps the depressive person to change the faulty patterns of thinking through problem- solving techniques
  • Believed that depression reoccurs in depressive patients because the negative thoughts occur automatically of which they are not aware.

The Therapist Uses Four Tactics

  • Challenging the patient՚s ill beliefs
  • Evaluating the cause of depression
  • Attributing the cause to the environmental situation/event not to the person՚s in competencies
  • Finding the alternative and effective solutions for the complex problems


  • Developed by Albert Ellis (1962,1977) .
  • Focused on altering the irrational beliefs into more acceptable ways.
  • Clients are forbidden to use “should” , “must” , “ought” etc.
  • Confrontation techniques are used which focus on changing the attitudes through rational reasoning.
  • Task is to protect the self-worth, potential to be self-actualized, by blocking the irrational thinking patterns.
  • In short, in the last few decades, researchers have made significant breakthroughs in understanding the brain, nervous system, mental processes such as the nature of consciousness, memory distortions, competence and rationality, genetic influences on behavior, infancy, the nature of intelligence, human motivation, prejudice and discrimination, the benefits of psychotherapy, and the psychological influences on the immune system.

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