You may not believe this, but for me one of the most confusing parts of psychology is the categorizations. The turning point for me which helped me overcome being overwhelmed by the coursework (which I was entirely new to two years back) is getting the taxonomy clear. For this reason, I believe starting off by understanding the definitions of the various classifications, perspectives, fields and subfields can help students understand what to expect throughout the coursework of a psychology degree.
The Psychology Perspectives
One of our first priorities the moment we start having classes is to fully understand the various perspectives, especially if this is your first contact with psychology academically. Note that perspectives are not exactly “fields” per say, but rather one’s orientation and the assumptions made when he or she asks questions about psychology.
#1 Biological Perspective
Assumes that behavior and thought have biological basis
#2 Cognitive Perspective
Assumes that behavior is primarily mediated by thought
#3 Behavioral Perspective
Assumes that behavior is often shaped and conditioned by external factors
#4 Sociocultural Perspective
Assumes that behavior is strongly influenced by social and cultural contexts
$5 Psychodynamic Perspective
Assumes that behavior is driven by conflicts between psychological constructs that are often unconscious
#6 Whole-Person/Humanistic Perspective
Assumes that behavior is strongly connected to an individual’s personality traits, inner feelings, and self concept
#7 Developmental Perspective
Assumes that behavior is influenced by the changing of life stages throughout the course of one’s life
#8 Evolutionary Perspective
Assumes that behavior is a result of various processes that supports the survival of the human species
#9 Critical Perspective
Assumes that what we know about human behavior should be actively criticized for the sake of diversity and accurate discussions as they are essential for humanity
There are about 9 perspectives that are recognized in modern psychology, which may seem overwhelming at first sight. Do note that the perspectives are not mutually exclusive with each other. Quite the contrary, researchers and students are encouraged to examine topics from multiple perspectives. The best, most solid theories that can be supported with multiple perspectives.
Note that most of us won’t be necessarily learning all of them but at least 6 or 7 of these (excluding probably #7,#8, and #9) should be taught in most textbooks and courses. Developmental perspective is often omitted as a perspective due to it being mostly being covered by biological, psychodynamic, and sociocultural ones, but psychologist Phillip Zimbardo deems it important enough to stand out as separately. Also, the critical (poststructural) perspective is too complicated and not pragmatic for fresh undergraduates to understand, thus deemed not important enough to be taught explicitly, as it isn’t directly rooted in any specialization of psychology and science, but rather a stance of epistemology, a philosophy branch.
My upcoming post will be on the specializations of academic psychology.
References for external reading