The human body is the conglomerate of many organs.  The most complex organ is the human brain or the control center where the motivation for all behavior develops and is carried out.  How one tiny vessel holds the jurisdiction over all thought and behavior control is a phenomenon studied by psychologists.  Psychology combines the discipline of academic and applied science to study the mind and behavior while embracing all aspects of human experience.  The discipline of psychology is an evolutionary science that continually changes as new developments, theories, and treatments are founded, researched, tested and applied in the field.  Understanding the vitality of mental health paves the way for one to understand psychological illness and reduce the stigma society has attached to the “abnormal” behaviors disdained in the community.

Psychology encompasses all aspects of life.  From the thought to action, to perceptions of the world around us.  A discipline grounded in philosophical thought has now become a renowned science implicated in all aspects of life.  The motivation for the behavior, the architectural and decorative designs of buildings, the cognitive processes of learning, and attention grasping of consumers through lighting and product placement.  There is no single area that psychology does not have an effect giving potential as the one the most necessary sciences to understanding human behavior.  Aristotle considered psychology the “study of the soul” and laid the foundation of understanding man as he attempted to define the relationship of the soul to the body through his theory of hylomorphism (Caston).  Aristotle began the study of the mind-body existence leading to the eventual establishment of the first psychology lab by Wilhelm Wundt, who aimed to analyze the constituent elements of thought and sensation to establish the underlying structure of the mind (McLeod, 2008).  Wundt conducted the first scientific experiments in psychology and opened doors for the future of the discipline.

The thoughts of Aristotle created ingenious curiosity that led to the development of psychology as an independent and structured science.  Wundt, the Father of Psychology, began the scientific discipline that has turned into the fifty-four subdisciplines psychology holds today (“American Psychological Association”, 2016).  The subdisciplines vary in areas of coverage from behavioral, clinical, social, and environmental to topical areas such as development, cultural diversity, and traumatic experience (“American Psychological Association”, 2016). Despite a vast array of specialty areas, each subdivision maintains the same goal:  Gaining and understanding of the interaction of the human mind and body to understand the causes of certain behavior and modalities to modify behavior.


Sigmund Freud, despite his controversial theories,  founded the psychodynamic approach to personality.  A combination of all human functioning theories, the psychodynamic approach is based on the interactions of unconscious drives and motives that produce behavior (McLeod, 2007).  Freud believed that all behavior derives from internal or external motivation though one may not be aware of the unconscious motives (Rana, 1997).  Behavior and feelings are affected by unconscious motives, and early childhood experience affects adult behavior.  It is the unconscious drives and motivations that establish what behaviors will be displayed (Feist, 2009).  Freud’s development of the constructs of the Id, ego, and superego lead into the development of individual personality (Rana, 1997).  Although he believed the Id makes up the biggest portion of personality as it seeks out pleasure and immediate gratification despite potential consequences, he believed the three constructs work together to maintain emotional balance (Rana, 1997).  He further believed that the id developed a life and death instinct in all humans, and that instinct provides all motivation (Rana, 1997).

According to the psychodynamic perspective,  Id controls the majority of personality because it seeks immediate gratification of selfish wants, the primary drive of all humans.  The ego serves as the regulator for personality and control center for the Id.  The superego is the judgment center and delivers internal feelings of punishment or gratification which determines self-worth.

Freud also placed emphasis on early childhood development because he believed that unresolved trauma in these early stages of life reflected in adult personality and behavior (Feist, 2009).  Trauma would cause a fixation in the individual that would hinder growth and advancement until the traumatic experience was recognized and dealt with (Feist, 2009).  Finally, Freud thought that individuals develop a defense mechanism known as repression.  People who experienced a traumatic event would repress the memory deep in the unconscious mind as an avoidance effort. However, unless the repressed memory is brought to the conscious level and dealt with, Freud believed that an individual would not successfully transition to the next phase of life (Rana, 1997).

The psychodynamic approach does not have a solidly based grounding in that observation and talk therapy are the most widely used techniques.  What makes the psychodynamic approach reliable and widely used today is that it is a theoretical approach to understanding human behavior through personality and behavior that carries the basis of observable behavior.  Numerous researchers have come to the same conclusion as Freud:  Much of an individual’s behavior is derived from experience and much of an individuals hindered development is due to a lack of properly working through the stages of maturity as traumatic events delay development.

According to John Watson, the behaviorist approach of psychology is an objective and experimental natural science aimed at prediction and control (McLeod, 2013).  It is a behaviorist belief that behavior is deflected by life experience and is therefore learned from the environment and carries the ability to adapt to the effects of conditioning efforts (McLeod, 2013).  Primarily concerned with observable behavior that can be measured, the behaviorist perspective believes that individuals are born with a clean slate and all behavior is attained through the environment and a stimulus-response association (McLeod, 2013).  Behaviorism can define and measure the extent of behavior modification leading to simpler explanations of human behavior from a scientific standpoint (McLeod, 2013).  Pavlov set out to prove stimulus-response association by utilizing dogs in his scientific experiment that led to conditioning (McLeod, 2013).

While studying digestion in dogs, Pavlov found a cycle of salivation that occurred each time the dogs came in contact with him (McLeod, 2013).  However, noting the behavior was not pre-existing meant that the dogs had learned to associate Pavlov with food which created salivation (McLeod, 2013).  He launched an experiment in which a bell was introduced in a particular time frame before presenting food.  After several exposures to the bell before food, the dogs began to salivate at the sound of the bell.  Pavlov had triggered and perfected behavior modification in the dogs that resulted in the similar techniques seen in the present day (McLeod, 2013).  Pavlov’s experiment led to the development of classical conditioning (Naik, 2001).  Pavlov’s discovery intrigued other theorists leading to the development of behaviorism as a discipline of psychology.

Based on Pavlov’s observations, John Watson proposed the classical conditioning theory as a way to explain all aspects of human psychology (McLeod, 2013). Watson’s classical conditioning linked two stimuli to create a new or learned response (McLeod, 2013).  In stage one, an unconditioned stimulus produces an unconditioned, or natural response. In stage two an unconditioned stimulus is associated with an unconditioned response creating a conditioned stimulus holding expectation of producing new or learned behavior.  Several exposures to the conditioned stimulus may be necessary to achieve behavior modification (McLeod, 2013).  The final stage of classical conditioning is the point of perceived and measurable behavior modification (McLeod, 2013).

Despite the evidence that supported classical conditioning, Thorndike felt as though the theory was too comprehensive and could not explain the majority of behavior in the natural environment (Naik, 2001).  Through experimentation, Thorndike developed the Law of Effect which claims the influence of behavior derives from the anticipated result (Naik, 2001).   Thorndike’s Law of Effect set the basis for Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory.  Skinner believed that rewards, or positive reinforcement, for positive behavior increase the likelihood that desired behavior would continue whereas negative reinforcement would deflect undesired behavior (Naik, 2001).   Additionally, Skinner founded that behavior became extinct in the absence of positive reinforcement (Naik, 2001).  Furthermore, Skinner discovered once conditioning occurs, avoidance-escape behavior occurs as one is conditioned to the effect of a certain stimuli and continues “expected” bahvior to avoid a negative consequence (Nail, 2001).

Cognitive psychology is a relatively new branch that has developed as psychology continues to evolve.  It has taken views from all aspects of psychology and included them in determining what makes the brain work and how the brain make things happen.  Cognitive psychology opens a door of answers to questions that have been probing researchers for many years.  Cognitive psychology is the study of higher mental processes concerning how individuals receive, process, and use information (Galotti, 2014). How memory works, the process of thought and the process of perception are the key ideas of cognitive psychology (Galotti, 2014).  The development of cognitive psychology originated from the ideas of functionalism and behaviorism in addition to the study of individual differences and the development of cognitive science.

William James founded functionalism on the belief that behavior is the reflection of the functions of the mind (Galotti, 2014).  Functionalists believed that for the study of behavior should occur in the natural environment to gather the most accurate observations of behavior with little interference (Galotti, 2014).  Although the study of functionalism relied solely on observation of the outward behavior, it implied that there was a function to behavior and researchers used this idea to delve into the internal study of behavior through the functions of the brain (Galotti, 2014).

John Watson believed behavior was not innate, rather learned from environment.  Another behaviorist, Edward Tolman, believed the mind developed a map through cognition as new learning and memorization occurred (Galotti, 2014).  Other supportive disciplines include the psychodynamic approach of Freud which claims the unconscious mind and instinct play an important role in behavior and cognition as well (Galotti, 2014).  Additionally biological psychology claim genetics in conjunction with cognition and environment create behavior (Galotti, 2014).

Sir Francis Galton took an individual approach to the study of the differences between individual cognitive ability (Galotti, 2014).  Galton was fascinated with the fact that intelligence varied among individuals.  He questioned the assistance of genetics in attaining certain levels of intelligence.  He set out to find the answer he was looking for through developing a series of tests for cognitive ability (Galotti, 2014).

Behavioral observation is important in cognitive psychology because it allows researchers to see cognition occur naturally, not forced within the confines of a lab (Galotti, 2014).  Observation allows for testing of theories and hypotheses researchers develop.  Since observing internal mental processes is not possible, an inference can be made about a behavior based on the observation of the behavior.  Additionally, two aspects of behavior can be seen with one eye potentially to find a relationship between the two which allows for inference at the possibility of a change in one of the aspects (Galotti, 2014).  It is also vital to use observation in order to have a comparison for the unseen processes of behavior in order to establish any relationship between the conscious and unconscious aspect of the research (Galotti, 2014).


The humanistic approach to psychology emphasizes a hopeful view of humans and their ability to be self-determining (Feist & Feist, 2009).  The approach interprets behavior as guided by intentionality and ethical behaviors which distinguishes an effort in the enhancement of human qualities such as creativity, choice, spiritual well-being, and independence (Feist & Feist, 2009).   Humanists believe society and the unconscious influence behavior that may be negative and destructive placing emphasis on independent dignity and self-worth as well as the conscious human capacity to develop respect and personal competence (Feist & Feist, 2009).   The humanistic approach proves beneficial to personality psychology as it focuses on bettering the individual sense of self and independence creating an internal feeling of personal happiness leading individuals to find satisfaction in life.

The humanistic approach to personality emphasizes free will and personal experience exercised through the choices made in life and the consequences of those options (Feist & Feist, 2009).  Humanism focuses on the person as a whole, rather than just a certain aspect of the individual believing that the individual behaviors originate from inner feelings and thoughts of self.  The primary focus of this approach is self-concept (who the individual thinks they are) and self-actualization (who the individual desires to be) (McLeod, 2015).  A humanistic approach is an optimistic approach that views individuals as good with an innate desire to reach their maximum potential while making others’ lives better, declaring individuals continually strive for life improvement through attaining goals providing the sense of self- satisfaction and achievement (McLeod, 2015).

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was an effort to establish motivations for an individual (Feist & Feist, 2009).  The hierarchy emphasizes individuals motivation is to achieve needs, not necessarily rewards or fulfillment of unconscious desire (Feist & Feist, 2009).  Successfully reaching all five stages of the hierarchy are deemed necessary for one to fully self-actualize (Feist & Feist, 2009).  However, failure to do so will hinder later development as one cannot move through all stages of self-actualization (Feist & Feist, 2009). Satisfying the needs of the hierarchy implies the individual maximized potential and found a clear understanding of self (Feist & Feist, 2009).  However, according to Maslow, very few people reach this level in their life span (Feist, 2009).

Theory of evolution claims that all forms of life hold relationships through ancestral sharing (Donovan, 2009). For instance, the similarities in the skeletal makeup and human genes of chimpanzees, apes, and humans lead researchers to believe the three share ancestry with other larger historical primates (Donovan, 2009).  Charles Darwins idea of homology explained the more anatomical and genetic similarities between species implies closer relationships (Donovan, 2009). The philosophical theory of evolution paved the foundation of evolutionary psychology.

The evolutionary perspective “was built on Darwin’s principle of natural selection” (Kowalski, 2014, p. 20) and argues that the basis of current human behavior rests in ancestral behavior.  It argues that understanding ancestry is vital to understanding the relationship of human mental processes and behavior (Kowalski, 2014). The theoretical approach aims to understand the design of the human mind by explaining useful psychological and mental traits such as perception, memory, and language as products of natural selection (Cosmides & Tooby, 1997). The proposition of evolutionary psychology suggests the human brain comprises cognitive mechanisms which evolved through the process of natural selection (Cosmides & Tooby, 1997).  The idea stands that evolution resembles branching in that the genomes that survive in a certain environment last long enough to replicate genetic material and adapt to survive changing environments (Bridgeford, 2009).

Darwin faced his theory off four ideologies:

Generational individuals reproduce in increasing numbers that can survive evolving environments (Donovan, 2009).

Compensation for evolving environments gives credit to heritable variations in genetics (Donovan, 2009).

Individuals with genetically evolved heritable traits adapt to changing environments easier (Bridgeford, 2009).

New species of the same ancestry of a pre-existing species evolve from species that can no longer breed successfully with the same species (Bridgeford, 2009)

As of late, the evolutionary perspective has been used in studies trying to prove behavior is a genetic adaptation received from parents and ancestors. (Kowalski, 2014).  He evolutionary perspective provides an explanation of the diversity of species contained within the world and why so many variations of those species exist (Donovan, 2009).  According to Donovan, research stakes claim that 98% of human genes are a bacteria necessary for environmental survival (2009).

Biopsychology claims that humans are biological creatures that evolve from genetics, cause us to eat for survival, and behave because of the neuronal firings that throughout our brain (Feist, 2009).  These theories, just like dispositional theories seek to identify consistencies in individual differences.  However, biological theories tend to delve into the biological aspects of personality such as genetics and evolutionary origins (Feist, 2009).  Biopsychologists claim that personality develops through genetics derived from evolutionary history and impacted by hormones and neurotransmitters (Feist, 2009).  Biological psychology created a bridge between psychology and biology as it seeks to explain how the brain contributes to behavior (Feist, 2009).

Biological theories stem from Darwin’s theory of evolution and theory of natural selection (McLeod, 2015).   Harlow’s research of Phineas Gauge led Biopsychologists to the idea of localization (McLeod, 2015).   The tamping iron tore through only the frontal lobes of the brain.  The fact that Gage was able to remain in a “normal,” conscious stature after the accident implied that motor and muscular functioning, as well as life support functions, were unaffected by the accident.  Additionally, the records of severe behavior and personality changes post-accident led researchers to make the assumptions of localization (McLeod, 2015).

Trait theories assume the stance personality is biologically based and determines behavior through relatively stable traits which make up the origins of one’s personality (McLeod, 2015).   Many traits create a pre-disposition to certain behavior in individuals meaning traits should remain consistent across situations over time but vary among individuals (McLeod, 2015).   Cattell believed it is necessary to look at some traits to have a complete idea of a person’s personality leading him to identify sixteen personality traits (McLeod, 2015).   Additionally, Cattell made the distinction between easily identifiable surface traits and source traits which are more definitive of personality, but harder to recognize (McLeod, 2015).   Allport believed that personality is determined biologically at birth and shaped by the environment (McLeod, 2015).  He also believed behavioral influences are innate motivational processes and internal cognition such as temperament, attitude, and skills (McLeod, 2015).

Explanations of individual differences extended beyond the environment of the person and included evolutionary support (Feist, 2009).  Biological research opened doors for future studies on personality.  However, biological psychology emphasizes the genetic aspect of personality fragmenting the theories which leave unexplained holes (Feist, 2009).  The fact that these theories focus on genetics and evolution of culture leaves little availability of future adaptations of personality (Feist, 2009).  The fragmented ideas allow for further research in the future to fill the gaps.

Incentive theory of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation infers behavior is primarily motivated by incentives of extrinsic factors (Ryan, 2000).  A motive is the triggering force of behavior that lays dormant within an individual until the individual establishes a genuine desire to react to the desire (Ryan, 2000).  Motives are the pushing and pulling forces that lead a person to think, perceive, and display certain behaviors as an effort to obtain personal satisfaction (Ryan, 2000).  Obtaining personal satisfaction means achieving personal desires and needs, which vary from person to person, allowing for individual motives to vary widely as well (Ryan, 2000).  Motivation consists of internal and external factors that keep an individual interested and committed to obtaining a goal (Ryan, 2000).  Motivation begins with the development of goal and ends with feelings of accomplishments achieved through the use of ideas, energy, determination, and action, (Ryan, 2000).

I think this is one of the most critical theories to understanding human behavior.  Individual behavior does not just happen, as Freud claimed, there is an underlying cause of all behavior, whether known or unknown.  Additionally, I believe all behavior comes at a cost.  That cost could be a material gain or the internal feeling of gratification, but some gain.  Learning the causes of behavior allows for the understanding of how and why behavior occurs.  This theory, I believe, could be particularly helpful when helping those suffering addiction or phobia as a way of recognizing ways to deter or promote unwanted behavior.  I think particularly, understanding what causes negative behavior, to the abuse of substances enlightens the individual and therapist to potential triggers of the individuals abusive nature.

Albert Banduras social learning theory takes the stance of conditioning theory but adds that behavior is learned through observation in the environment and that processes of mediation occur between stimuli and responses (McLeod, 2007).  From the Bobo doll experiment, we learned that children will behave in one manner, however if they observe a different behavior, they will react the same way they observed even if the behavior is abnormal for the child (McLeod, 2007).

To put social learning theory into a different perspective, I think that observing addictive behavior can lead to the development of addiction in an individual.  Along the lines of conditioning I believe it works this way:

An individual observes an individual in their immediate environment consistently partake in reckless, or addictive behavior.  The individual becomes accustomed to the behavior as being socially acceptable and appears to be the norm.  When a behavior is perceived as a socially accepted norm, one tends to adopt the behavior to fit in with the environment surrounding them.

Both theories intrigue my mind as I have seen addiction struggles throughout my life.  As parents, we may not always realize the things are children are learning from us.  Something as subtle as coming home after a stressful day at the office and having a glass of wine teaches a child that drinking wine is a good way to cope with stress.  I believe the theory works for all aspects of life.  At work, we are expected to lead by example, therefore, if we set a positive image, we receive positivity from others.

Tolman’s “purposive behaviorism”, although noteworthy, is a theory I dislike.  Tolman believed individuals ac ton on holistic belief, attitudes, changing conditions, and are goal oriented, but disregarded that humans act on incentive.  This theory tells me that humans have innate behave and act on thought with the purest of intentions.  I do not agree with this theory, as I believe all humans have some type of incentive motivation that causes behavior.  He believed that behavior was a cognitive coping mechanism similar to Freuds theory of repressed memories.  However, I tend to angle more with Freud in the effect that I believe we behave according to past experience which may hinder development, in the event that we do not cope with experience, rather repress the distasteful memories we want to forget.

Over the years, psychology has proven to be a field of continual evolution.  I believe understanding motivation can give incite to all aspects of life.  Understanding behavior or lack of behavior holds the potential to alter negative behavior before it starts.  Today, drugs and crime run the streets as if it has always been an acceptable norm.  I believe those who do wrong should be punished for their behavior, however, I think that if the punishment included ways to enlighten the individual on portraying positive behavior and the effects of positive behavior on self and others he or she may be more inclined to develop the necessary motivation to undergo behavior modification.

I think that if prisons and jails offered more recovery and intervention services, more criminals and addicts would rehabilitate.  I believe the justice system could greatly benefit from teaching and implementing psychological healing in the prison systems and reduce repeat offending.  Many offenders are repeat offenders because their crime has become their way of life.  It is highly likely they were raised in an environment of criminal activity and that is all that they are accustomed to.  If the jails mandated psychological rehabilitation to all inmates, I believe there would be a drastic decline in the repeat offenses.

Social learning theory and incentive motivation theory both imply behavior can be modified through conditioning.  I think if we begin more early interventions in the lives o the at risk youth, adult crime would undergo a drastic decline as well.  There are infinite possibilities that psychology holds for the future.  I chose to focus on behavior in the aspect of crime and addiction because my children are statistically,  “at risk youth”, and I hope they do not become the product of our South Central, Los Angeles.

My world view has changed drastically since beginning the psychology program.  At one point, I believed that all people were bad in a sense.  I believed that people ch;ose to behave and react in certain manners consistent with their belief.  As a survivor of domestic violence and other abuse, I firmly believed that there was no hope for change.

However, taking classes has taught me that individual behavior is learned and caused by something.  I believe that all people are typically “good”, but react in ways conditioned in them at an early age.  I believe through conditioning efforts, behavior is modifiable and the majority desire to behave in a positive manner, but do not have the external motivators to trigger the internal motivations necessary to make the changes necessary.

I have learned that all behavior begins with internal motivational desire and as therapists, it is necessary to theorize creative ways to trigger the internal motivation externally to help the desire become reality.

Most importantly I believe my worldview has changed as I have learned all individuals are just that… individuals.  We all vary from beliefs, values, and ethics to the physical cultural aspects of life.  I have learned that it is important to be understanding of the minority just as it is of the majority.  I live in a culturally diverse city, but I am the minority.  Sitting in my home, learning of the cultural differences among society, I learned we are all equal in a sense, but we vary greatly in who we are and what we believe.  All beliefs, thoughts, and opinions should be considered and taken in the highest regard as what is of no importance to me is of the greatest importance to another.

The portfolio presentation proved to be both critical thinking and creative thinking.  Students were made to demonstrate understanding of acquired knowledge as well put it all into perspective that can be applied into the real world.  The portfolio presentation created a self-reflection piece in a sense.  There was no definitive direction given therefore, students were required to trust their own instinct and thought process to bring it all together.  This allowed creativity to flow as the students reflected on their newly acquired knowledge and created a masterpiece of information.  The masterpiece reflected our personal likes and dislike, our personal arguments and desires for the future.  By he end of the assignment, students actually made decisions to put their feet in a certain direction and future use of learned material.




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