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Psychology: The Quest for Understanding Essay

Much of the ever-changing world of psychology had posed itself in the midst of diverse discussions based on both historical evidences and the latest discoveries, which were and are by-products of the complex minds of experts and heedful practitioners. Some elements of psychological concepts may have existed ever since, while some had been subjects of criticisms and debates for decades now. Nevertheless, this development never ceases to provide the base of perspective formulation for people studying Psychology. It enriches their ways of interpreting behavior based on empirical evidences, depending on their varying priorities and methodologies.

Psychology employs the scientific methods in its efforts to discover the reasons for human behavior. There has been several different approaches developed for psychology and each perspective seems to attribute human behaviors and actions to different factors. In this paper, I shall be providing an insight of the five (5) major Psychological Issues that have come about as a result of varying positions and beliefs, giving emphasis on their basic concepts, arguments, and my personal standpoints on each.

The debate over whether humans are the result of predisposed genetics or if their lives and personalities are shaped by the surrounding environment began in the 1600’s when a man named Richard Mulcaster wrote his book, “Nature Makes the Boy Toward, and Nurture Sees Him Forward. ” Arguments on this issue contrasts genetic information against developmental process, instinct against learning, and history against environment. Moreover, debates over whether language is innate or learned and behaviorism are among the most popular topics of Quest for Understanding 3 discussion under this matter.

It is hard to believe that something as complex as human behavior can be completely explained by either side of the argument. For instance, men are seen to be superior over women since birth. Through time, women had proven that they are just as valuable as men, in all fields for that matter. In Psychology, women’s contributions were overlooked. Who would have thought that the likes of Anna Freud, Karen Horney, Mealanie Klein, and Mary Whiton Calkins can surpass the underestimation to women during their time. It is just difficult to separate the role of genetics and environment.

We should, rather, appreciate the interactions that take place between nature and nurture. Personally, I do not feel that either has any greater of an influence than the other. I believe that nature influences nurture and nurture influences nature simultaneously. We should seek a sense of equilibrium between the two. This issue tries to put a dichotomy to whether behaviors can be attributed to the unconscious or the conscious level of thinking. The word ‘conscience’ is derived from the Latin word ‘conscientia’ which means ‘knowledge within oneself. Sigmund Freud partially forged to the development of this issue with his Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality. Aside from the ego-ideal, he viewed conscience as a vital part of the superego. Within this proposition, people are hindered by the conscience to do immoral and punishable deeds, while the ego ideal motivates people to do morally acceptable acts. His theory also suggests that a child’s conscience is shaped by what is taught to him by his or her parents. On the other hand, dreams and “slips of the tongue” usually express the unconscious. Thoughts, memories, and desires, which comprise this

Quest for Understanding 4 level of the mind situated below the conscious has a considerable influence on one’s behavior. Maslow supports Freud’s claims regarding the conscience. He (Maslow) believes that it is our human nature to have a basically “good” personality and have an intrinsic conscience, which is based on the unconscious and preconscious perception of our own nature, of our own destiny, of our own capacities, of our own ‘call’ in life. ” (Maslow, A. Toward a Psychology of Being. page 7).

Also, Karen Horney speaks of unconditional love being valuable to a child’s well-being. She quotes: Unconditional love is an essential for the child’s normal development, and when this is refused, the environment comes to be dreaded… – it is perceived as a menace to his individuality, his development, his instinctive strivings to grow, his freedom and his happiness. In an environment in which the basic anxiety develops, the child’s free use of energies is thwarted, his self-esteem and self-reliance are undermined, fear is instilled by intimidation and isolation, his expansiveness is warped through brutality or overprotective ‘love’. ” It is my utmost belief that each of us has a conscience, being the source of our judgments.

As a child, many of us were brought up to distinguish and practice our moral values. That is, we always strive to do good things, and avoid actions that may bring us feelings of frustrations and guilt. However, much is random that many people have “claimed consciousness,” that sometimes justifies acts offensive to others. That is why pursuing education, in addition to everyday life experiences to make it holistic, shall foster the preservation of our moral integrity. Situated at the core of our personhood, molded by our experiences form birth, it should be nourished and Quest for Understanding 5 developed.

With regards to the unconscious, I honestly deem that it indeed has interplay with our conscious minds. Our aspirations, hidden thoughts, and memories do manifest with the way we think and react to every situations. B. F. Skinner is known to have pioneered the concept of behaviorism or the learning perspective. He argued that human beings respond to their environment, but also work on that environment to create certain consequences. This framework is based on a scheme which states that all actions that living things do should be regarded as behaviors.

It assumes that the material world is the absolute reality, where man exists in the absence of mind and soul; that man is a biological machine that responds to conditioning; that we, human beings, are not responsible for our actions; and that people’s behaviors can be predicted and manipulated. In brief, great are the ethical consequences of behaviorism. Man is reduced to a purely biological being, unaccountable for the consequences of his actions, exempted from his responsibility, informed freedom, and dignity. He is to be “shaped” by those who can utilize the tools of behaviorism effectively.

Alternatively, the examination of Internal Mental Process such as problem solving, memory, and language comprises Cognitive Psychology. This psychological framework has its foundations in the works of Wertheimer, Kohler, Koffka, and Piaget. They were all cognitive psychologists who were very much interested in how people comprehend, diagnose, and solve problems, focusing on the processes between stimulus and people’s response. It differs from behaviorism as it accepts the use of scientific method and openly acknowledges the existence of mental states like motivation, belief, and desire.

Quest for Understanding 6 Underlying issues within the presumed dichotomy between behaviorism and cognitivism could include for instance how people use information in remembering and reasoning, how our senses define the character of our perceptions, how fear is learned from particular objects or situations, and the causes of anxiety and phobic disorders. I find it unethical to say that people’s behaviors should be manipulated and shaped, even by those who can effectively use the tools of behaviorism.

Is there really such a person who can “effectively” do this? Are the minds of children for instance blank slates which shall be exclusively filled with his parents’ and teachers’ inputs? In our ever-changing world, especially that human beings are above the instinctive species, the concept of behaviorism cannot be absolute if not, utilized. Humans always learn to adapt in varying situations. The concept of cognitivism, I should say, is agreeable as it is more organized, and provides for empirical evidences that acknowledge scientific processes.

It paved the way for scientific tools to emerge and measure cognitive levels, consequently identifying learning methodologies most suitable for different kinds of people. Free will is the belief that our choices are, ultimately, “up to us” and that an individual has control over his or her behavior and understands the motives behind it. Determinism, as one of the major concepts of psychoanalytical assumptions (Freud, 1940), asserts that our gestures, mistakes, and slips of the tongue are meaningful and non-accidental and that these seemingly innocent errors are in fact outcomes of the unconscious area of the mind.

Other determinists Quest for Understanding 7 further claim that behavior is determined by some force over which humans have no control, such as genetics, upbringing, or fate. Although there exists a discussion whether everyday occurrences are determined or not (determinism versus indeterminism), debates involving these concepts do not strictly lie at putting a line between the two. Interestingly, it is whether determinism and free will can coexist (Compatibilism) or not (Incompatibilism).

Compatibilism is the view that determinism and free will can coexist, and stands in direct contrast to incompatibilism, which posits that either determinism or free will is true, but not both. Incompatibilists believe that if determinism is true, then we are not free and cannot be held responsible for our actions. Most of us would like to believe that we have free will because we would like to think that we have a mind of our own and that everything that we do is up to us and the events of our lives were caused by our own choice of actions. Religiously speaking, free will is what distinguishes us from other creatures.

It makes us believe that we control our lives. With that, it liberates us from the bondage of conforming and mediocrity brought about by our difficulty of fitting ourselves in. Accepting, however, that we are free consequently requires us to have a great deal of responsibility. And that responsibility makes free will not only a psychological issue. Mean to say, we cannot speak of free will without considering relationships, because we usually base our choices on existing political structures, our socio-economic situations, and cultural practices.

Take a prostituted woman in a third world country for example. No girl has dreamt of being victimized by commercial sexual exploitation. Most of us would easily throw criticisms on her situation as we righteously speak of the alternative choice she could have opted to take. Does Quest for Understanding 8 she really have a choice if she is the eldest of eight siblings, with her mother and father separated; if poverty deprived her of finishing her studies; and if her body was her last resort to earn money to support her family’s needs?


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