Reviewing human behaviors from different perspectives, including the five main perspectives of biological, learning, social and cultural, cognitive, and psychodynamic influences, can sometimes shed light on why humans act the way they do. Using these perspectives to review how relationships begin, develop, and are maintained can provide a deeper understanding and context of this phenomenon. Framing love relationships with these different perspectives also helps to show how the perspectives themselves differ or are similar in relation to how they consider relationships as being formed and maintained.
The biological perspective contends that innate causes drive human behavior. Specifically, this perspective states that the actions of the nervous system and genetic heredity lead to different types of behavior (McLeod, 2007). From this perspective, hormonal reactions and feelings of reinforcement in the brain that are associated with a particular individual lead people to start relationships (McLeod, 2007). Additionally, the relationship is maintained because humans have an innate desire to reproduce and pass their own genetic material on to their offspring, and in order to drive this urge, the brain continues to trigger feelings of pleasure and hormonal releases to strengthen the association between a given person and good feelings (McLeod, 2007). This perspective is somewhat unique from the other ones in how it views relationships, because it claims that advanced cognitive processes are not even necessary for a relationship to last; instead, only biochemical processes are required.
The next type of perspective, the learning perspective, claims that learning through association leads to specific behaviors, and that individuals will generally learn to enact behaviors that they see are rewarded (Mikkelson & Pauley, 2013). From this perspective, humans form relationships because they see other relationships, such as those of their parents, externally rewarded, and come to associate the notion of “love” with reward. The rewards that one receives from a relationship, such as attention, compassion, or even financial security, are associated with “love” over time, which strengthens the relationship and makes people more likely to maintain a relationship after they have been involved in it for some time (Mikkelson & Pauley, 2013).
Like the biological perspective, the learning perspective deems relationship behavior as something beyond humans’ conscious control and does not necessarily require conscious thought, although the learning perspective does not claim to know the internal processes that drive it, and it does require that humans have at least the ability to learn in order for them to be involved in relationships (Mikkelson & Pauley, 2013).
Social and cultural perspectives claim that humans are ingrained with what constitutes “right” behavior through socialization. Because people grow up, in many cases, in households with married parents, or at least where the parents date other individuals, children learn early on that relationships are not only acceptable, but actually desirable (McLeod, 2007). This notion is further reinforced through messages given to the child through the media, their friends and other family members, and most people they come in contact with, all of whom deem “love” to be one of the highest goals a person can achieve.
Individuals therefore seek out relationships in their teen years because they have been told that it is a positive objective to strive toward, and they are further reinforced in their views by their partner and others who know them after dating or getting married, which leads the person to continue their relationship (McLeod, 2007). This perspective is unlike the learning and biological perspectives in that it does not rely on reflexes or innate drives, but instead requires complex thought, and, moreover, socialization; a person living outside of society would likely have no desire to be in a relationship, according to this perspective.
The cognitive perspective claims that human thought is what drives all behavior. In this sense, then, humans enter relationships because they see relationships as something that they desire, and which will provide them with some type of enjoyment or reward for seeking out (Mikkelson & Pauley, 2013). If they find that they do receive some type of benefit from dating a person, they will make the decision to develop the relationship further, learning more about the person and perhaps even getting married, if they believe that they are sufficiently compatible with the other person for the relationship to last and continue to be rewarding (Mikkelson & Pauley, 2013). This perspective, like the social and cultural perspective, is very reliant on human thought as a driver of relationships, but the cognitive perspective deems relationships an individual choice rather than a result of societal pressure.
Lastly, the psychodynamic perspective contends that behavior is due to interactions between the conscious and the subconscious mind. A relationship might begin because a member of the opposite sex might remind an individual of the loving relationship they had with their parents, but in order to sublimate the inappropriate desire for one’s parents, the individual seeks out a relationship with a person outside of their family. The relationship is maintained because it provides the person with ego fulfillment (McLeod, 2007).
Like the cognitive and social perspectives, the psychodynamic perspective describes relationships in terms of human thought and cognitive activity, but unlike those other perspectives, the psychodynamic outlook believes that humans are essentially bound to enter into relationships, because it ascribes the behavior to innate drives. In this sense, the psychodynamic perspective is somewhat like the biological perspective. All of these different perspectives, then, can provide different types of insight into human relationships.
McLeod, S. (2007). Psychology Perspectives. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/ Mikkelson, A. C., & Pauley, P. M. (2013). Maximizing Relationship Possibilities: Relational Maximization in Romantic Relationships. Journal Of Social Psychology, 153(4), 467-485. doi:10.1080/00224545.2013.767776