There are various different approaches in contemporary psychology.
An approach is a perspective (i.e. view) that involves certain assumptions (i.e. beliefs) about human behavior: the way they function, which aspects of them are worthy of study and what research methods are appropriate for undertaking this study. There may be several different theories within an approach, but they all share these common assumptions.
You may wonder why there are so many different psychology perspectives and whether one approach is correct and others wrong. Most psychologists would agree that no one perspective is correct, although in the past, in the early days of psychology, the behaviorist would have said their perspective was the only truly scientific one.
Each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses, and brings something different to our understanding of human behavior. For this reason, it is important that psychology does have different perspectives to the understanding and study of human and animal behavior.
Below is a brief summary of the 5 main psychological approaches (sometimes called perspectives) in psychology.
If your layperson's idea of psychology has always been about people in laboratories wearing white coats and watching hapless rats try to negotiate mazes in order to get to their dinner, then you are probably thinking about behavioral psychology.
Behaviorism is different from most other approaches because they view people (and animals) as controlled by their environment and specifically that we are the result of what we have learned from our environment. Behaviorism is concerned with how environmental factors (called stimuli) affect observable behavior (called the response).
The behaviorist approach proposes two main processes whereby people learn from their environment: namely classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning by association, and operant conditioning involves learning from the consequences of behavior.
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