4 Overview of Theories of Psychology

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By Kendra Cherry, About.com Guide to Psychology
http://psychology.about.com/od/psychology101/u/psychology-theories.htm 09/05/10
Much of what we know about human thought and behavior has emerged thanks to various psychology theories. For example, behavioral theories demonstrated how conditioning can be used to learn new information and behaviors. Psychology students typically spend a great deal of time studying these different theories. Some theories have fallen out of favor, while others remain widely accepted, but all have contributed tremendously to our understanding of human thought and behavior. By learning more about these theories, you can gain a deeper and richer understanding of psychology's past, present and future.
1. Behavioral Theories
2. Cognitive Theories
3. Developmental Theories
4. Humanist Theories
5. Personality Theories
6. Social Psychology Theories
Behavioral Theories
Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Advocated by famous psychologists such as John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner, behavioral theories dominated psychology during the early half of the twentieth century. Today, behavioral techniques are still widely used in therapeutic settings to help clients learn new skills and behaviors.
· What is Behaviorism?
· Classical Conditioning
· How Pavlov Discovered Classical Conditioning
· Principles of Classical Conditioning
· Operant Conditioning
· Schedules of Reinforcement
· What is Behavior Analysis?
· Stages of Change
· Conditioned Taste Aversions
Cognitive Theories
Cognitive theories of psychology are focused on internal states, such as motivation, problem solving, decision-making, thinking, and attention.
· What is Cognitive Psychology?
· Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
· Theories of Intelligence
· What Is a Genius IQ Score?
· Perceptual Organization
· Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences
· Attention
· Memory
· 4 Explanations for Forgetting
· Left Brain vs. Right Brain Dominance
Humanist Theories
Humanistic psychology theories began to grow in popularity during the 1950s. While earlier theories often focused on abnormal behavior and psychological problems, humanist theories instead emphasized the basic goodness of human beings. Some of the major humanist theorists include Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.
· What is Humanistic Psychology?
· Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
· Self-Efficacy
Personality Theories
Almost everyday we describe and assess the personalities of the people around us. Whether we realize it or not, these daily musings on how and why people behave as they do are similar to what personality psychologists do. Personality psychology looks at the patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behavior that make a person unique. Some of the best known theories in psychology are devoted to the subject of personality.
· What is Personality?
· Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality
· Freud's Psychosexual Theory
· Erikson's Psychosocial Theory
· Trait Theory of Personality
· The "Big Five" Theory of Personality
· Murray's Psychogenic Needs Theory
· Neurotic Needs
· Defense Mechanisms
· Jung's Archetypes
Social Psychology Theories
Social psychology is focused on helping us understand and explain social behavior. Social theories are generally centered on specific social phenomena, including group behavior, prosocial behavior, social influence, love and much more.
· What Is Social Psychology?
· The Bystander Effect
· Theories of Love
· Leadership Theories
· Conformity
· Obedience


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