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What is psychology?

Psychology is defined as the science of human experience and behaviour, this means that everything that people are, think and feel is connected to their actions. Psychology uses models of thought from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its aim is to understand how a person feels and what is going on inside them. Over time, different approaches have evolved to expand the understanding of the human psyche. These different psychological perspectives have led to five main streams:

  • Behaviorism – also spelled behaviourism – is a systematic approach to understanding the behavior of humans and other animals. It assumes that behavior is either a reflex evoked by the pairing of certain antecedent stimuli in the environment, or a consequence of that individual’s history, including especially reinforcement and punishment contingencies, together with the individual’s current motivational state and controlling stimuli. Although behaviorists generally accept the important role of heredity in determining behavior, they focus primarily on environmental events.  Behaviourism focuses on observable behaviours and their responses to stimuli from the environment. It emphasises the role of learning and experience in the expression of behaviour. This form places less emphasis on inner emotions.
  • Depth Psychology refers to approaches to therapy that are open to the exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience. A depth approach may include therapeutic traditions that explores the unconscious and involves the study and exploration of dreams, complexes, and archetypes. Depth psychology, which includes the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud, deals with the unconscious mind. They contribute significantly to the unconscious drives, conflicts and childhood experiences. This psychological behaviour is responsible for personality development and its resulting behaviour.
  • Cognitivism is the theory that focuses on how we receive, organize, store, and recall information in our minds. One of the main contributors of cognitivism was Jean Piaget. Piaget identified stages of cognition that all children pass through universally based on their age and stage of mental development. Cognitivism focuses on mental processes such as perception, memory, thinking and problem solving. It examines how people process information.
  • Humanistic psychology is a perspective that emphasizes looking at the whole individual and stresses concepts such as free will, self-efficacy, and self-actualization. Rather than concentrating on dysfunction, humanistic psychology strives to help people fulfill their potential and maximize their well-being. Humanistic psychology emphasises individual perception. It strives for personal growth, self-actualisation and fulfilment. This form emphasises autonomy, self-determination and the development of one’s own potential.
  • Psychobiology describes the interaction between biological systems and behaviour. Psychobiologists research how cognition (what we are thinking) and mood (how we are feeling) combine with biological events.Psychobiology, also called biological psychology, explores the biological basis of behaviour and psychological processes. It examines the role of the brain, genes, hormones and other physiological factors in explaining mental states.