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Self-Reflection Related to Influential Psychology Theories



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    When psychologists were first acknowledged they began studying behaviors and biological processes. There are numerous recognized psychologists that have contributed to the seven major perspectives of today’s modern psychology. These theories include: Evolutionary theory, sociocultural theory, biopsychological theory, psychoanalytic theory, cognitivism, humanistic theory and behaviorism. The three theories that I would like to describe, analyze and reflect upon are the behaviorism, cognitivism and psychoanalytic. The term “behaviorism” developed from the renowned behavioral psychologist named John B. Watson (Molm, 2005). Many influential theorists became associated with behaviorism including: Ivan Pavlov, Edward Throndike, William James and B. F Skinner. Ivan Pavlov studied behaviorism through learning which scientifically was called conditioning (Younger, Vanson, & Huffman, 2010). Edward Throndike “determined that the frequency of a behavior is modified by its consequences” (Younger, Vanson, & Huffman, 2010, p. 157. ) William James expanded and broadened psychology by incorporating animal behaviors along with human behaviors into his studies.

    B. F Skinner became interested in the behavioristic approach and ended up being one of behaviourisms biggest advocate (The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2001). His version of behavioral psychology is one the most influential theories developed in the twentieth century (Robinson, 2004). “Scientific psychology has four basic goals: to describe, explain, predict, and change behaviour or mental processes through scientific methods” (Younger et al. , 2010, p. 7). In Pavlov’s case he used scientific experiments to describe learning.

    Using classical conditioning he showed a connection between how different stimulus’s can create a learned (conditioned) response. His experiment included “a neural stimulus which becomes associated with an unconditioned response to elicit a conditioned response” (Younger, Vanson, & Huffman, 2010, p. 175). Skinners most well known experiment was a cage with a rat in it, with a bar inside and every time the rat pressed down on the bar they received food. This explained that behavior was the result of either positive or negative reinforcement (The Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2001).

    This has significant value when dealing with several emotional and mental disorders psychologists have been able to use behaviour therapy to change maladaptive behaviors through classical conditioning techniques (Younger et al. , 2010). “Behavior theorists define learning as nothing more than acquisition of new behavior based on environmental conditions” (Molm, 2005, p. 45). Not surprisingly because I’ve grown up with behaviorism all my life being raised in a family that rewarded me for when I did housework, received good grades or for good behavior.

    An example of a behavior change in myself resulting in an observable response would be when I hear the sound of a child crying. I’ve learned that hearing the sound of crying (makes me instantly think if my daughters ok). The neutral stimulus (crying) paired with physically having my daughter in my presence (unconditioned stimulus) over time became the conditioned stimulus resulting in my conditioned response of being worried an anxious when I hear crying. If you understand the behaviorist theory it can be a very useful tool in everyday life.

    As a nurse I may find many different ways to use different types of reinforcements to strengthen a specific response of a patient. This is called operant conditioning (Younger et al. , 2010). The behaviorist theory is one that I find easy to understand and very useful and applicable to real-life situations. Whether it is as simple as teaching your dog a new trick or as complex as raising children; the behaviorist theory is one that we can all learn from and easily apply in everyday life or in the health care field.

    Unlike behaviorists cognitive theorists deal with the inner mechanisms of human thought. The most influential contributors to this theory are Jean Piaget, Albert Ellis, Albert Bandura, Robert Sternberg, Howard Gardner and Clark Hull. The cognitivism theory emphasizes on thoughts, perception and information processing. It is one of the most influential modern-day approaches to psychology and one that I find very interesting. Jean Piaget “generated the most influential and comprehensive theory of cognitive development” (Dewolfe, 2005, p. 73). His perspective involved describing how the maturing child interacts with the environment resulting in predictable sequences of changes in certain crucial understandings of the world (Dewolfe, 2005). He focused his research on children from birth to adolescence. Using these concepts Piaget developed stages of cognitive development (Younger et al. , 2010). This consists of four stages of cognitive development that everyone goes through as children. The first is sensorimotor from birth to age two.

    In this stage senses and motor skills are developing the most and you lack object permanence. The second is preoperational from age two to seven where symbols and language begin to take shape. Next is the concrete operational stage from age seven to eleven where you can perform concrete operations on concrete objects but you can’t yet think abstractly or hypothetically. Finally, the formal operational stage from age eleven and up is where abstract knowledge and thinking hypothetically is developed (Younger et al. 2010). This can be a very useful tool to better understanding children of all ages and there are some fun and easy ways to test them to see exactly where the child is developmentally in these stages. I tested my step daughter who is an eight years old. I wanted to see if she had already advanced to the formal operational stage or if she remained in the concrete operational stage. It was rewarding for me to perform the test of “conservation of liquids” (Younger et al. , p. 258).

    My findings were that she still remained in the concrete operational stage but was happy to be part of the test. Piaget has made huge contributions to the cognitivism theory and this is just one of them. In order for me to be in the practical nursing course I think I have a good mix of life experience, a positive environment and most importantly motivation which was a result of my healthy cognitive development. I believe my achievements in life are from believing in myself and knowing that I create my own success by using my skills, attitude and experience.

    There are also a few of Albert Bandura’s concepts that I have learned about I can relate to directly. His concepts of “cognitive expectancies” and “self efficacy” describe how I am where I am today and how I will keep on succeeding (Younger et al. , 2010, p. 344). Lastly the psychological perspective to be discussed is the psychoanalytic theory. The main contributor to this theory was Sigmund Freud. The psychoanalytic theory goes hand in hand with the psychodynamic theory. Although they differ quite significantly the psychodynamic theory developed from Freud’s theory.

    These theories both describe personality and examine “how unconscious mental forces interplay with thoughts, feelings, and actions” (Younger et al. , 2010, p. 334). Although Freud to this day is highly influential, his theory is also extremely controversial. He describes the human mind as the psyche and it consists of three levels of consciousness. This concept of “psyche” I can say I understand and agree with and that these levels probably do exist and play a role in my life.

    The first is the conscious level which is where a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions are made accessible. The second is the preconscious which consists of a person’s mental activities. And finally the unconscious level, in a person’s unconscious there are thoughts and motives which are beyond grasp (Carpenter, 2008). These levels of consciousness are compared to an iceberg. The tip representing the conscious, the area just above water is the preconscious and the large remainder of the iceberg that is under the water is the unconscious (Younger et al. 2010, p. 334). In addition to the levels of consciousness concept “Freud believed that human personality was constructed of three mental structures the id, the ego, and the superego” (Hallahmi-Beit, 2006). The ego relates to “self”, our conscious identity of ourselves as a person and throughout life the ego is in a balancing act with the id and the superego. The two concepts that I believe play a role in my life and have influenced me are Freud’s concept of “levels of consciousness” as well as his concept of “defense mechanisms”.

    The concept of the mind’s defense mechanisms is the “ego’s” protective method of distorting reality to reduce a certain stress (Carpenter, 2008). There are a few ways the mind can do this but in my personal experience I repressed a memory for years that could have been damaging to my psyche at the time. When I was seven my grandmother had passed away in my presence, my grandmother had lung cancer and didn’t want to go to the hospital until the last day of her disease. My whole family was at her house and my aunty had called the ambulance for her.

    My grandmother asked me to rub her back, while I was doing this she peacefully passed away. At this point I had suppressed my feelings. Being so young no one had explained death to me, so I ended up hiding this memory in my unconscious mind for years. For years I couldn’t remember many of the details even many of the events that occurred just shortly after my grandmother’s death. It wasn’t until years later that one memory at a time would surface into me conscious mind. I believe that if I could recall every detail at the moment when it happened in my life, it could have a devastating impact on my sychological wellbeing. Especially being so young, I think that this defense mechanism was definitely helpful not hindering. The painful memories that came to me years later came to me at a time in my life when I could deal with them in a healthy matter. It wasn’t early adulthood I had a psychologist assessment and was diagnosed with having post traumatic stress from the situation. The concept of the mind using different defense mechanisms is definitely a concept of Freud’s that I believe is true and one that can be utilized in different high stress careers in a positive way.

    Such as careers like a doctor working in surgery or a police officer they often intellectualize the procedure or experience so they can deal with their personal anxieties positively (Carpenter, 2008).. In this way we can learn from the psychoanalytic theory and use it to identify different behaviors or patterns in patients. That is how I can relate these concepts into my career as a nurse. I think it is extremely important to have a general understanding of these concepts and compassion for those who are suffering from different challenges in their life or personality disorders.

    To be able to better understand that people have an unconscious mind with thoughts and feeling that they might not even be aware of is important. From my experience in life and by completing this course I think I have a better understanding of how everyone deal’s with stages and conflicts in life in different ways and at different rates. The psychoanalytic theory has great use in determining and treating different personality disorders and determining where the problem may have arisen.

    The three psychological theories of behaviorism, cognitivism and psychoanalytic and have all played a big part in my life. They have helped me to explain and understand my thinking patterns, emotions, aspects of my life, and behaviors. All of these theories consist of important and individual ideas and concepts that can be utilized together to describe, explain, predict and change mental processes and behavior. I have been able to relate apply these three theories to my life and I hope I will be able to utilize this knowledge in my future career as a nurse.

    Self-Reflection Related to Influential Psychology Theories. (2017, Mar 01). Retrieved from

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