The three most prominent schools of psychology are Behaviorism, Social Psychology, and Process Psychology. They all have their unique characteristics, but they also complement each other well. The most common characteristic of these three schools is their strong influence on the classical conditioning theory. All three theories are based on a particular framework, which consists of five major stages: instinct, learning, memory, behavior, and structures.
The classical conditioning theory postulates that human behavior is controlled by a number of primary factors. These factors include both the physical and mental elements of an individual. Conditioned stimuli (i.e. unconditioned or negative stimulants) are introduced in the environment, which act as shock absorbers to unfavorable stimuli coming from the world around them. After time, these stimuli become part of the individual’s behavioral repertoire and serve as the primary control mechanism for their behavior. In effect, these conditioning stimuli “condition” the individual to act in a certain way in every situation.
Over the years, this theory has been refined and new models of behavior were discovered. Two of these models are called the Positive System theory and the Negative System theory. According to the Positive System, positive reinforcements such as a pat on the back to work just as effectively as negative reinforcement such as punishment do to help an individual improve their behavior. On the other hand, according to the Negative System, negative reinforcement such as criticism and isolation only serve to reinforce the undesirable behavior of a person.
Today, many psychologists have incorporated these theories into their own psychology. For instance, Ericksonian Psychology assumes that human behavior is primarily governed by the cognitive processes rather than the sensory organs or the behavioral patterns. The goal of psychology is to delve deeper into the workings of the brain and learn more about how our minds work. As such, some psychologist to conduct studies on the different mental states including anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. In addition, they also research the factors that can cause these states as well as how these factors can be treated.
Another branch of psychology that bears the mark of its roots in science is Structuralism. This school of thought is sometimes referred to as functionalism because it applies psychology to real life. What is structuralism? It believes that human behavior is shaped by four main factors namely, language, action, posture, and structure. In short, this school suggests that our behavior is shaped by a number of factors that were previously unidentifiable or were the object of theoretical study, but that can now be empirical study.
Then, there are theories which apply to humans as a species and those that apply to only a small portion of the population. Two examples include evolutionary psychology and anthropological psychology. According to the former, human behavior is shaped by natural selective pressures acting on the gene pool over thousands of generations; the latter suggests that human behavior is shaped by cultural and historical factors over several hundred years. Finally, according to scientific study, the causes of psychological illnesses are biological and social and can be biologically influenced by environmental factors as well as social factors.
If you believe that your answer to the question what is psychology? is limited to the explanations provided here, think again! There are many other theories and concepts out there and each one is designed to address different aspects of human behavior. Some of these include proximal reinforcement, emotional intelligence, cultural evolution, cognitive evolution, linguistic evolution, and even structuralism. These are just a few of the many different theories and concepts that scholars in the field of psychology currently consider.