Psychology has become one of the most studied sciences, and it is found in the curriculum of almost any educational institution. Experts at UT Dallas suggest that the main objective of psychology is to study mental processes, behavior, and the relationship between them. However, the suggestion presented by Reber (1995) allows concluding that such definition is very simplistic. According to Reber (1995), Psychology simply cannot be defined; indeed, it cannot be easily characterized. Psychology is what scientists and philosophers of various persuasions have created to understand the minds and behaviors of various organisms from the most primitive to the most complex. It is an attempt to understand what has so far pretty much escaped understanding, and any effort to circumscribe or box it in is to imply something that is known about the edges of our knowledge, and that must the wrong (p. 617).
Reber’s (1995) reflections provide insights into a great variety of psychological theories. The present paper examines five of them – Classical Conditioning, Cognitive Dissonance Theory, Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and Social Learning Theory. Each theory is examined in terms of a theorist, major concepts, strengths and limitations.
Classical Conditioning is a behavioral theory proposed by Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov. The main idea underlying the theory is that learning occurs through associations between an environmental stimulus and naturally occurring stimulus. Under these conditions, there is a transformation of conditioned response into unconditioned one, for example an individual has a fear of the road after the accident.Thus, the main concepts of classical conditioning are conditioned/unconditioned stimulus and conditioned/unconditioned response. Experts at Missouri University of Science and Technology suggest that unconditioned stimulus is “the stimulus that naturally and instinctively elicits the target response” (p. 2). In turn, conditioned stimulus comes to elicit the target response. Although the unconditioned and conditioned responses are “trickier to identify” (Missouri University of Science, n. d., p. 2) due to their being the same behavior, it is suggested that the main difference between the two is that the former is not learned, while the latter is formed in response to the previously neutral stimulus.In 1904, Pavlov received Nobel Prize for his work, as classical conditioning became a breakthrough in understanding the process of learning. However, some of his followers, including Skinner, considered the theory to be very simplistic, and the one that viewed human beings as tools that cannot make associations between a voluntary behavior and its consequence.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Cognitive Dissonance Theory was proposed by Leon Festinger, and it examines mechanisms by which individuals reach internal consistency. The theory has become very popular, as in everyday life individuals rarely face with problems that have only one solution. Cognitive Dissonance Theory includes two major concepts – net desirability of chosen and unchosen options and importance of decision (Festinger, 1964; Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959). Net desirability involves comparing between several options. If these options are very similar, the individual is likely to experience cognitive dissonance, for example choosing between …