Different Perspectives on How Behavior Is Studied and Understood - Research Paper Example

Published: 2021-07-14
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Research paper
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Psychological Perspectives

Contemporary psychology takes different approaches and perspectives. In essence, a perspective or approach is a model used in making certain assumptions and beliefs concerning human behavior. Perspectives, therefore, understand how behaviors function, the aspects that are worthy to study as well as the research methods necessary for undertaking the specific or particular study. Several theories have been put forward in understanding behavior, but the most common are the humanistic, behaviorist and the evolutionist perspectives or approaches in psychology. Hence, this discussion outlines the different methods or approaches to psychology or the three common perspectives that are applied within the study.

Humanism Perspective

The humanistic approach or perspective in psychology concerns the study of a person as a whole, or at times, referred to as holism. The perspective focuses on looking at and understanding human behavior, of which behavior is not studied from the viewpoint of the observer, but from the standpoint of the person engaged in the behavior (Waterman, 2013). On the other hand, humanistic approach in psychology takes precedence in understanding how behavior is a connection to the self-image and inner feelings of the target person or individual. Besides, the approach takes the position that for every context of studying behavior, every person is unique in his or her way and as such, is attributed to the free will of changing time through the course of life. Moreover, the approach suggests or argues that individuals are responsible for their happiness as well as their well-being. In this case, every individual has the innate or the inborn capacity for self-actualization or the unique desire embedded into people's desire to achieve the highest potential as human beings. Therefore, since the perspective focuses on the individual and the personal experiences, it equally holds or suggests that scientific methods or approaches are not accurate in studying human behavior.

One of the theorists who contributed to the understanding of humanity and their behaviors is the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory. Abraham Maslow ranks among the humanistic psychologists (Waterman, 2013). The theory suggested that every individual has the strong desire of realizing full potential which he termed as self-actualization. The model explores or understands differences in the needs of the humanity of which the core needs are fulfilled first then other less critical needs like security and job are fulfilled much later. Carl Rogers is another theorist who contributed to the understanding of the humanistic approach by introducing or recommending the person-centered approach whereby the relationship between a client and therapist is based on focusing on the needs of the client (Waterman, 2013). In essence, such type of relationship enhances a greater sense of realization to help the client to help him or herself.

Evolutionist Perspective

Another perspective that has been studied within the psychological field is that phenomena are viewed from the evolutionary perspective. For this point of view, the central claim is focused on the brain and that it evolved to solve complex problems that were being experienced by the hunters and gatherer ancestors during the Pleistocene periods, almost 10, 000 years ago. On the other hand, this perspective regards behavior from the viewpoint of the pressures that contribute to the behavioral change or shapes people's behaviors (Buss, 2015). In essence, it argues that most of the behaviors seen or displayed may have been developed during the environmental evolution adaptation to enable people to survive. Therefore, any observed behavior may have developed as a result of adaptation and as such, behavior is regarded or considered as adaptive. Also, a behavior is based on natural selection of which individuals with the best sets of behaviors are more likely to have survived and reproduced. Conversely, the perspective holds that behaviors could have been sexuality selected whereby different behaviors were developed due to the most successful within the environment gained accessibility to the mates and as such, leaving behind more offspring (Buss, 2015).

By assuming the evolutionary approach in understanding psychological perspectives concerns how the mind has been equipped with instincts that allowed the ancestors the chance for survival and reproduction. Accordingly, the approach has strength in that it can be useful or applicable in understanding or explaining dysfunctional behaviors like anorexia. Also, it helps in understanding some of the behaviors within the modern contexts like the biological stress response.

Behavioral Perspective

The behaviorist perspective is equally used in explaining some of the basic phenomena in psychology. Accordingly, the approach holds that people and their behaviors are controlled by their environments, and specifically, behavior or people are the results of what has been learned from the environment (Luyten et al., 2017). Besides, the approach entails how environmental factors, usually regarded as stimuli, affect the observable behaviors or responses in this context. Nevertheless, the perspectives propose two methods of which are used in learning behavior from the environment. For one, there is the classical condition whereby individuals learn behaviors by association while the operant conditioning entails how a particular behavior is being learned based on the consequences of the behavior.

Nonetheless, the behaviorist perspective attaches most of the inferences on scientific methods and as such, controlled experiences are accepted methods of understanding people's behaviors. In this sense, the approach holds that only the observable behaviors are necessary to study because there is the opportunity of objectively measuring the displayed behaviors. On the other hand, the approach or perspective does not buy the idea that individuals have the free will or that there is the possibility of environment determining behavior (Luyten et al., 2017). In essence, a behaviorist approach concerns the scientific methodology to studying observable behavior and as such, functions on the notion that there is the possibility of reducing the learned stimulus and response units. However, the major drawback of the perspective of criticism is that it underestimates that human behavior is complex. For example, in some of the studies, they have been based on animals but to some extent, to become rather difficult to generalize them on humans and as such, are not useful in explaining some of the developed behaviors (Luyten et al., 2017). The implication is that in some cases or instances of behavioral formation, biological factors are always involved.


From the above discussion, the different perspectives concern how behavior is studied and understood, but they all differ in explaining the development of behavior. For the humanistic approach, behavior is known to come from the inner-self and a reflection of self-image. On the other hand, the evolutionist perspective or approach concerns how habits were formed during the environmental adaption period of which individuals developed their behaviors to fit the environment and survival for the most fitting. In essence, the behaviorist perspective argues that stimuli and response from the environment are the main elements defining and shaping the behaviors of individuals.


Buss, D. (2015). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind. Psychology Press.

Luyten, P., Mayes, L. C., Blatt, S. J., Fonagy, P., & Target, M. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook of psychodynamic approaches to psychopathology. Guilford Publications.

Waterman, A. S. (2013). The humanistic psychologypositive psychology divide: Contrasts in philosophical foundations. American Psychologist, 68(3), 124.


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