Major schools of thought in psychology and biological foundations of psychology

As a science that concerns itself with the actions and mental processes, psychology utilizes quantitative and qualitative research studies to come up with hypotheses and generate models aimed at demystifying the human behavior. During the initial stages of development, there were only a few foundations of psychology. Structuralism and functionalism were the ones mainly used in the 19th century. Structuralism dealt with identification and analysis of simple aspects of experiences which included psychological processes such as perception.  Oral revelation of experiences was the basis for study when psychology was approached from Structuralism perspective. According to Spear, structuralism was aimed at explaining the meaning of consciousness. Based on the knowledge of how the brain utilizes information, functionalism centered on the notion that maximum learning circumstances could be developed. Functionalism was aimed at explaining the various uses of consciousness. These two sides were very eager to win the support of the other. They debated their issues single-mindedly. Even though neither camp emerged as the winner, their work led to the rapid development of psychology. These first two movements of psychology faded giving way for succeeding schools of thought.

According to Wagner (2010), more approaches to psychology developed with time. These include physiological, psychoanalytic, Behavioral, cognitive, social-cultural, humanism, and clinical approaches. The study of how brain and behavior affect each other is referred to as psychological approach. Emphasis of how the actions of an individual are shaped by environmental factors is put on behavioral approach. Behavioral approach states that environmental factors rather than innate factors can be used in explaining all behaviors. It is based on the notion that interaction with the surroundings leads to the development of certain behavior. It was aimed at explaining how environmental conditions affect behavior and how human beings learnt new habits from it. It mainly focused on behavior that could be viewed without considering the mental activities that are invisible.
According to Wagner (2010), psychodynamic approach focuses on the effects unconscious mind have on behavior. The inventor of this approach believed that the mind is composed of three aspects that are an individuals aspects developed from insensible supernatural power that functions to fulfill our basic needs known as the id, the unconscious element of our individuality that functions to fulfill our id, and finally, the superego or the element of our individuality consisting of internalized factors that one acquire from the parents and the community.

According to Spear (2007), a persons free will and control over his actions are looked at in the humanistic approach. It looks at how the various actions portrayed by individuals are determined by their feelings. Humanistic approach also focused on individual growth and actualization.  In cognitive approach, according to Spear (2007), the way thoughts, insights and strategies for finding solutions to problems influence our lives is looked at. It mainly focuses on mental activities based on the notion that human beings take in information generated from the environment by the use of their senses and that this information is then processed psychologically.

Cognitive psychology is related to other branches of psychology like neuroscience, way of life and language usage. The social-cultural approach to psychology deals with how beliefs of our societies, their functions, and also circumstances can directly affect our behavior. In biological psychology, the brain, the neural system and other body parts are studied extensively. It looks at how the neural system and the brain functioning affect our basic actions. Biological psychology also looks at the role of genes in the determination of a persons behavior. Gestalt psychology approach developed in Germany based on the notion that the experiences human being have are as a result of whole factors. This approach indicates that whole experiences must be looked at rather than breaking down thoughts and actions into small pieces.

The brain and the nervous system are the primary biological foundations of psychology linked to behavior. According to Wadsworth (2002), the neural system, the endocrine, the peripheral, the automatic, and central nervous systems are all involved in biological psychology. All signals in the body are carried to the brain through the nervous system by the sensory neurons whose basic structural unit is the nerve cells. Motor neurons transmit signals from the brain through the spinal cord to the muscles and glands. Transmission of signals in the neurosystems is effected by the neurotransmitters (Wadsworth, 2002). The interaction between neurotransmitters and receptors help in demystifying a lot of psychological aspects. The endocrine system deals with production and release of hormones.

It is the work of the peripheral system to effect transmissions from the central nervous system, motor movements and voluntary activities. The peripheral nervous system consists of the somatic system and autonomic system. Wadsworth (2002), states that the somatic system transmits signals to and from the muscles, body surface and the sense receptors. The basic processes of life including sympathetic and parasympathetic neurosystems are dealt with by the autonomic nervous system. The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The brain is composed of the cerebral cortex whose function is to maintain motor coordination. The hypothalamus plays a very important role in maintaining homeostasis and regulating emotions. Instinctive manners are controlled by the limbic system. The inheritance potential of an individual is transmitted through genes. Genes therefore play an important role in determining the behavior of an individual.


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