The 7 Major Perspectives in Psychology (2023)

Psychological perspectives are different ways of thinking about and explaining human behavior. Psychologists utilize a variety of perspectives when studying how people think, feel, and behave.

Some researchers focus more on one specific school of thought, such as the biological perspective, while others take a more eclectic approach that incorporates multiple points of view.

No single perspective is "better" than another. Instead, each simply emphasizes different aspects of human behavior.

This article explores seven of the major perspectives in psychology, where these perspectives originated, and how they attempt to explain psychological issues. It also provides examples of key ideas from each psychological perspective.

Major Perspectives in Modern Psychology

The early years of psychology were dominated by a succession of these different schools of thought. If you have taken a psychology course, you might remember learning about structuralism, functionalism, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanism—all of which are different schools of psychological thought.

As psychology has grown, the number and variety of topics psychologists investigate have also expanded. Since the early 1960s, the field of psychology has flourished. It continues to grow rapidly, as has the depth and breadth of subjects studied by psychologists.

Psychological Perspectives Today

Few psychologists identify their outlook according to a particular school of thought. While there are still some pure behaviorists or psychoanalysts, the majority of psychologists today categorize their work according to their specialty area and perspective.

Purpose of Psychological Perspectives

Why are there so many different perspectives in psychology? It is important to remember that every topic in psychology can be looked at in many ways. For example, let's consider the subject of aggression.

  • A professional who emphasizes a biological perspective would look at how the brain and nervous system impact aggressive behavior.
  • A professional who stresses a behavioral perspective would look at how environmental variables reinforce aggressive actions.
  • A professional who utilizes a cross-cultural approach might consider how cultural and social influences contribute to aggressive or violent behavior.

Here are seven of the major perspectives in modern psychology.

1. The Psychodynamic Perspective

The psychodynamic perspective originated with the work of Sigmund Freud. This view of psychology and human behavior emphasizes the role of the unconscious mind, early childhood experiences, and interpersonal relationships to explain human behavior, as well as to treat mental illnesses.

Much thanks to Freud's work and influence, psychoanalysis became one of the earliest major forces within psychology. Freud conceived of the mind as being composed of three key elements: the id, the ego, and the superego.

  • The id is the part of the psyche that includes all the primal and unconscious desires.
  • The ego is the aspect of the psyche that must deal with the demands of the real world.
  • The superego is the last part of the psyche to develop and is tasked with managing all of our internalized morals, standards, and ideals.

While the psychodynamic perspective is not as dominant today, it continues to be a useful psychotherapeutic tool.

2. The Behavioral Perspective

Behavioral psychology focuses on learned behaviors. It was founded on the work of psychologists such as Edward Thorndike and John B. Watson. Behaviorism dominated psychology in the early twentieth century but began to lose its hold during the 1950s.

Behaviorism differs from other perspectives because it focuses solely on observable behaviors rather than on emphasizing internal states.

(Video) Psychological Perspectives Video

Today, the behavioral perspective is still concerned with how behaviors are learned and reinforced. Behavioral principles are often applied in mental health settings, where therapists and counselors use these techniques to explain and treat a variety of illnesses.

3. The Cognitive Perspective

During the 1960s, a new perspective known as cognitive psychology emerged. This area of psychology focuses on mental processes like memory, thinking, problem-solving, language, and decision-making.

Influenced by psychologists such as Jean Piaget and Albert Bandura, the cognitive perspective has grown tremendously in recent decades.

Cognitive psychologists often utilize an information-processing model (comparing the human mind to a computer) to conceptualize how information is acquired, processed, stored, and utilized.

4. The Biological Perspective

The study of physiology played a major role in the development of psychology as a separate science. Today, the perspective is known as biological psychology (also called biopsychology or physiological psychology). The point of view emphasizes the physical and biological bases of behavior.

Researchers with a biological perspective on psychology might look at how genetics influence behavior or how damage to specific areas of the brain affect personality.

The nervous system, genetics, the brain, the immune system, and the endocrine system are just a few subjects of interest to biological psychologists. Over the last few decades, the perspective has grown significantly with advances in our ability to explore and understand the human brain and nervous system.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans give researchers tools to observe the brain under a variety of conditions. Scientists can now look at the effects of brain damage, drugs, and disease in ways that were not possible in the past.

5. The Cross-Cultural Perspective

Cross-cultural psychology is a fairly new perspective that has grown significantly in the last twenty years. Psychologists and researchers in this school of thought look at human behavior across different cultures.

By looking at these differences, we can learn more about how culture influences our thinking and behavior. For example, researchers have looked at how social behaviors differ in individualistic and collectivistic cultures.

  • In individualistic cultures (such as the United States) people tend to exert less effort when they are part of a group—a phenomenon known as social loafing.
  • In collectivistic cultures (such as China), people tend to work harder when they are part of a group.

6. The Evolutionary Perspective

Evolutionary psychology focuses on the study of how the theory of evolution can explain physiological processes. Psychologists who take this perspective apply the basic principles of evolution (like natural selection) to psychological phenomena.

The evolutionary perspective suggests that these mental processes exist because they serve an evolutionary purpose—meaning that they aid in human survival and reproduction.​​​

7. The Humanistic Perspective

In the 1950s, a school of thought known as humanistic psychology arrived. It was greatly influenced by the work of prominent humanists such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

The humanistic perspective emphasizes the role of motivation in thought and behavior. Concepts such as self-actualization are essential. Psychologists with a humanist perspective focus on what drives humans to grow, change, and develop their personal potential.

(Video) Tips for Remembering the 7 Perspectives - AP Psychology

Positive psychology (which focuses on helping people live happier, healthier lives) is a recent movement in psychology with roots in the humanist perspective.

A Word From Verywell

There are many ways to think about human thought and behavior. The different perspectives in modern psychology give researchers and students tools to approach problems and answer questions. They also guide psychologists in finding new ways to explain and predict human behavior. This exploration and deeper understanding can even lead to the development of new treatment approaches.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Fonagy P. The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapies: An update.World Psychiatry. 2015;14(2):137–150. doi:10.1002/wps.20235

  2. Malone JC. Did John B. Watson really "found" behaviorism?.Behav Anal. 2014;37(1):1–12. doi:10.1007/s40614-014-0004-3

  3. Glenberg AM, Witt JK, Metcalfe, J. From the revolution to embodiment: 25 years of cognitive psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 2013;8(5):573-585. doi:10.1177/1745691613498098

  4. American Psychological Association. Biological psychology.

    (Video) Major Perspectives of Psychology | Psychology Class | Psychology Course | Psychology classes

  5. Lonner WJ. Half a century of cross-cultural psychology: a grateful coda. Am Psychol. 2015;70(8):804-14. doi: 10.1037/a0039454

  6. Cosmides L, Tooby, J. Evolutionary psychology: a new perspective on cognition and motivation. Annu Rev Psychol. 2013;64:201-229. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131628

  7. Waterman AS. The humanistic psychology-positive psychology divide: contrasts in philosophical foundations. Am Psychol. 2013;68(3):124-33. doi:10.1037/a0032168

The 7 Major Perspectives in Psychology (1)

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

FAQs

What are the major psychology perspectives? ›

Perspectives in Psychology
  • The Biological Perspective. The biological perspective is also known as biopsychology or physiological psychology. ...
  • The Cognitive Perspective. ...
  • The Behavioral Perspective. ...
  • The Humanistic Perspective. ...
  • The Psychodynamic Perspective.
19 Jan 2021

What are the 8 major perspectives in psychology? ›

At this point in modern psychology, the varying viewpoints on human behavior have been split into eight different perspectives: biological, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, psychodynamic, sociocultural, evolutionary, and biopsychosocial.

What are the 6 major psychological perspectives? ›

Psychology: Six Perspectives shows students a measure of unity and continuity within this fragmented field by briefly and coherently discussing six primary perspectives that have arisen: biological, psychoanalytical, behavioral, humanistic, cognitive, and evolutionary.

What are the 5 major perspectives? ›

Eventually, the studies began to look at the same human behaviors from various angles including biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic perspectives. These became known as the “five major perspectives” in psychology.

What is the order of psychological perspectives? ›

Answer and Explanation: The correct chronological order is 3: Structuralism, 2: Psychoanalysis, 1: Behaviorism, 4: Humanism. In the second half of the 19th century, structuralism was developed by Wilhelm Wundt and one of his students, Edward Titchener, to study the conscious components of a person's experience.

How many perspectives are there? ›

There are typically three types of perspective drawing: one-point perspective, two-point perspective, and three-point perspective. One-point perspective: One-point perspective is often used for compositions that look at objects from the front.

What are the 10 perspectives in psychology? ›

In psychology there are ten early perspectives. These perspectives are structuralism, functionalism, Gestalt psychology, behaviorism, psychodynamic, humanistic, physiological, evolutionary, cognitive, and cultural and diversity.

What are the 10 approaches to psychology? ›

There are ten different approaches to psychology. The historical approaches include: Structuralism, Functionalism, Gestalt, and Behaviorism; while the modern approaches are: the Biological approach, Cognitive approach, Behavioral approach, Psychodynamic approach, and Humanistic approach.

What are the 4 main types of psychology? ›

There are different types of psychology, such as cognitive, forensic, social, and developmental psychology.

What are the 5 theories in psychology? ›

Psychology Perspectives

There may be several different theories within an approach, but they all share these common assumptions. The five major perspectives in psychology are biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive and humanistic.

What are Freud's main theories? ›

Freudian theory postulates that adult personality is made up of three aspects: (1) the id, operating on the pleasure principle generally within the unconscious; (2) the ego, operating on the reality principle within the conscious realm; and (3) the superego, operating on the morality principle at all levels of ...

What's psychodynamic perspective? ›

Definition. The psychodynamic perspective encompasses a number of theories that explain both normal and pathological personality development in terms of the dynamics of the mind. Such dynamics include motivational factors, affects, unconscious mental processes, conflict, and defense mechanisms.

How many types of psychology are there? ›

Eight types of psychology to consider a career in include: abnormal, biopsychology, social, cognitive, developmental, personality, forensic and industrial-organizational.

Who is the father of psychology? ›

The Father of Modern Psychology

Wilhelm Wundt is the man most commonly identified as the father of psychology. 1 Why Wundt? Other people such as Hermann von Helmholtz, Gustav Fechner, and Ernst Weber were involved in early scientific psychology research, so why are they not credited as the father of psychology?

Which of the 6 psychological Perspectives is empiricism most similar to? ›

 Which of the 6 psychological perspectives is empiricism most similar to? (Behaviorism is the correct answer). Empiricism is most like Behaviorism because experience comes from the environment. Both focus on the external environment. Our behaviour is based on learning.

What is the earliest perspective of psychology? ›

Structuralism is one of the earliest schools of psychology, focused on understanding the conscious experience through introspection. It was introduced by Wilhelm Wundt and built upon by his student, Edward Titchener. Let's review a brief history of how structuralism was developed by these two scholars.

How do different perspectives of psychology explain behavior? ›

The different perspectives in modern psychology give researchers and students tools to approach problems and answer questions. They also guide psychologists in finding new ways to explain and predict human behavior. This exploration and deeper understanding can even lead to the development of new treatment approaches.

What is the humanistic perspective of psychology? ›

The humanistic perspective is a way of evaluating an individual as a whole, rather than looking at them only through a smaller aspect of their person. It is a branch of psychology that relates to the idea of being entirely unique and your own individual.

What are the types of perspective define each? ›

There are many types of perspective, to name but a few: aerial perspective, frontal perspective (or 1-point perspective), angular perspective (or 2-points perspective or oblique view), perspectives with three, four, five, and even six vanishing points.

Is there a 6 point perspective? ›

Six point allows you to draw the total up, down, and all around scene. Grids can be copied to help students move through these different systems very quickly. It gives students and artists a whole new way of thinking.

What are different perspectives called? ›

There are many types of perspective used by artists to convey a sense of space within the composition of a work, including linear perspective, one point perspective, two point perspective, and atmospheric perspective.

What is the cognitive perspective? ›

The cognitive perspective in psychology focuses on how the interactions of thinking, emotion, creativity, and problem-solving abilities affect how and why you think the way you do.

What is the behavioral perspective? ›

According to the behavioral perspective, the way we behave and learn can be explained through our interactions with the environment. Our actions are always responses to stimuli, which either occur naturally or because of a learned response.

Which of the seven major perspectives within psychology is likely to focus on unconscious dynamics as the main motivator of our personality? ›

Psychodynamic Perspective

Sigmund Freud developed the psychodynamic technique, used to study abnormal behavior. Freud felt the root of psychological problems are motives of sexual and aggressive nature which stay at the unconscious level of the mind.

What are the 3 psychological approaches? ›

Explanation of approaches in psychology, including behaviorism, cognitive and psychodynamic approaches, and biological approaches. Psychologists take different approaches, or perspectives, when attempting to understand human behavior.

Is approach and perspective the same? ›

"Approach" implies a hands-on style. "Perspective" is more theoretical. "Paradigm" is similar to perspective, but implies that some specific model will be used, i.e., it will be a "systematic" perspective.

What are the major approaches to psychotherapy? ›

Approaches to psychotherapy fall into five broad categories:
  • Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies. ...
  • Behavior therapy. ...
  • Cognitive therapy. ...
  • Humanistic therapy. ...
  • Integrative or holistic therapy.

What are the 12 branches of psychology? ›

The major branches of psychology include:
  • Abnormal psychology.
  • Behavioral psychology.
  • Biopsychology.
  • Clinical psychology.
  • Cognitive psychology.
  • Comparative psychology.
  • Counseling psychology.
  • Cross-cultural psychology.
17 Oct 2022

What are the 2 main types of psychology? ›

Many psychologists believe there are two main types of psychology: experimental psychology and applied psychology. Experimental psychology focuses primarily on research, whereas, applied psychology takes this research and applies it to practical problems for people (as individuals, groups, or organizations).

Which type of psychology is best? ›

Top 5 Highest-Paying Psychology Careers
  • Outpatient Care Center Psychologist. ...
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist. ...
  • Forensic Psychologist. ...
  • Military Psychologist. ...
  • Psychiatrist. ...
  • Education.

What is Carl Jung's theory? ›

Q: What is Carl Jung's theory? Carl Jung's theory is the collective unconscious. He believed that human beings are connected to each other and their ancestors through a shared set of experiences. We use this collective consciousness to give meaning to the world.

What is Freud's most famous theory? ›

Experts consider the Oedipus complex as Freud's most contentious theory. According to Freud, it's the unconscious desire that begins during the phallic stage of development, between the ages of three to six. A child feels a sexual pull for their opposite-sex parent and jealously for their same-sex parent.

Which theory was Sigmund Freud most well known for? ›

Freud is famous for inventing and developing the technique of psychoanalysis; for articulating the psychoanalytic theory of motivation, mental illness, and the structure of the subconscious; and for influencing scientific and popular conceptions of human nature by positing that both normal and abnormal thought and ...

What are the 3 elements of psychodynamic theory? ›

There are several key assumptions in psychodynamic theory: All behavior has an underlying cause. The causes of a person's behavior originate in their unconscious. Different aspects of a person's unconscious struggle against each other.

What are some examples of behavioral perspective? ›

This theory says that an individual can be motivated to action by something that is outside of themselves. For example, getting a new car will motivate a teenager to graduate high school. Getting money will motivate an adult to go to work every day. Different types of motivation can be used in different ways.

What's the difference between psychodynamic and psychoanalytic? ›

The words psychodynamic and psychoanalytic are often confused. Remember that Freud's theories were psychoanalytic, whereas the term 'psychodynamic' refers to both his theories and those of his followers. Freud's psychoanalysis is both a theory and therapy.

What does a psychologist wear? ›

Appropriate clothing includes pants suits; a conservative dress; slacks and a sweater set; or a skirt that is only a couple inches above the knee when sitting.

Is a psychologist a doctor? ›

Is a clinical psychologist a doctor? Despite the word “clinical,” a clinical psychologist isn't a medical doctor. They usually can't order medical tests, like blood or imaging tests, and they generally can't prescribe medication.

What is the most common type of psychologist? ›

Clinical psychologist have training in the diagnosis, assessment, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses. This is the largest and most popular employment area in psychology. Clinical psychologists are employed in hospitals, mental health centers, and in private practice.

Who is the mother of psychology? ›

Margaret Floy Washburn (July 25, 1871 – October 29, 1939), leading American psychologist in the early 20th century, was best known for her experimental work in animal behavior and motor theory development.
...
Margaret Floy Washburn
Doctoral advisorEdward B. Titchener
7 more rows

Who discovered psychology first? ›

Two men, working in the 19th century, are generally credited as being the founders of psychology as a science and academic discipline that was distinct from philosophy. Their names were Wilhelm Wundt and William James.

Who founded behaviorism? ›

Why Is John B. Watson Considered the Founder of Behaviorism? Given the many past and present tributes to John B. Watson, we might fairly ask why he is uniquely revered as the father of behavior analysis.

What is cognitive perspective examples? ›

Examples of Cognitive Perspective. Example 1: Emily started college last summer and has not been able to improve her grades as much as her friends think she could. What they don't know is that Emily herself is not studying.

What is an example of biological perspective? ›

An example of the biological approach to psychology would be the fear response. The fear response gives way to fight, flight, or freeze behaviors. Which course of action an individual takes in the presence of a stressor relies on their biological make-up.

What are concepts in psychology? ›

Concepts are the building blocks of thoughts. Consequently, they are crucial to such psychological processes as categorization, inference, memory, learning, and decision-making. This much is relatively uncontroversial.

What are the 10 perspectives in psychology? ›

In psychology there are ten early perspectives. These perspectives are structuralism, functionalism, Gestalt psychology, behaviorism, psychodynamic, humanistic, physiological, evolutionary, cognitive, and cultural and diversity.

What are the 5 main approaches to psychology? ›

There are five major approaches in psychology. These are biological, psychodynamic, behavioural, cognitive and humanistic. Each approach attempts to explain human behaviour differently.

What are the 5 major domains of psychology? ›

Domains are the five major categories of psychology. They are: biological, cognitive, developmental, social, and clinical. Each domain represents a different area of focus within psychology. The five domains work together to provide a comprehensive understanding of human behavior.

What are the 4 big ideas in psychology? ›

Big idea 1 - Critical thinking is smart thinking. Big idea 2 - Behavior is a biopsychosocial event. Big idea 3 - We operate with a two-track mind. Big idea 4 - Psychology explores human strengths as well as challenges.

How many psychology theories are there? ›

In the field of psychology, there are six main theories that provide the foundation for various other studies, therapies, and perspectives. By reviewing and comprehending the following key theories, you truly begin to understand the types of psychology and what psychology is all about.

What's psychodynamic perspective? ›

Definition. The psychodynamic perspective encompasses a number of theories that explain both normal and pathological personality development in terms of the dynamics of the mind. Such dynamics include motivational factors, affects, unconscious mental processes, conflict, and defense mechanisms.

How many types of psychology are there? ›

Eight types of psychology to consider a career in include: abnormal, biopsychology, social, cognitive, developmental, personality, forensic and industrial-organizational.

What are Freud's main theories? ›

Freudian theory postulates that adult personality is made up of three aspects: (1) the id, operating on the pleasure principle generally within the unconscious; (2) the ego, operating on the reality principle within the conscious realm; and (3) the superego, operating on the morality principle at all levels of ...

What are the 3 psychological approaches? ›

Explanation of approaches in psychology, including behaviorism, cognitive and psychodynamic approaches, and biological approaches. Psychologists take different approaches, or perspectives, when attempting to understand human behavior.

Who is the father of psychology? ›

The Father of Modern Psychology

Wilhelm Wundt is the man most commonly identified as the father of psychology. 1 Why Wundt? Other people such as Hermann von Helmholtz, Gustav Fechner, and Ernst Weber were involved in early scientific psychology research, so why are they not credited as the father of psychology?

What are the 8 domains of life? ›

Life domains
  • Daily life and employment. What a person does as part of everyday life — school, employment, volunteering, communication, routines, life skills.
  • Community living. ...
  • Healthy living. ...
  • Safety and security. ...
  • Social and spirituality. ...
  • Advocacy and engagement.

What are the 6 life domains? ›

We propose and delineate six life domains—physical, professional, relational, emotional, psychological, and spiritual—that may require attention in each person's self-care practice, and briefly summarize some empirical findings that support self-care practices within each.

What are the 10 life domains? ›

Ten domains (relationships, work, money, health, and leisure, mindfulness, self-esteem, resolution of past life events, mental style and life management skills) were identified.

What is critical thinking in psychology? ›

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

Is critical thinking smart thinking? ›

Big Idea 1: Critical Thinking Is Smart Thinking. critical thinking thinking that does not blindly accept arguments and conclusions. Rather, it examines assumptions, uncovers hidden values, weighs evidence, and assesses conclusions.

What are the main ideas of social psychology? ›

The major themes are:
  • Social cognition and perception.
  • The self in a social context.
  • Attitudes and persuasion.
  • Group decisions.
  • Attraction and close relationships.
  • Prosocial behavior.
  • Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.
6 Apr 2022

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