Foundations of Behavior

Posted: November 27th, 2013

Foundations of Behavior






Foundations of Behavior


Psychology involves a number of perspectives that have assumptions concerning the way human beings behave. For instance, this could be the way human creatures function, their aspect that is worthy of studying, and the research methods that are appropriate in undertaking the study. The good thing with all the psychological perspectives is that they all share the same assumptions despite the different theories within their methods or approaches. There have been arguments that no single perspective is right because every perspective has its strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, as a result, each perspective brings in something different to the understanding of human character and behavior (Nevid, 2011). This is the reason as to why psychology has very many different perspectives that help in the study of human behavior.

Behaviorism Perspective

This perspective mainly deals with the way people behave more than the way they think, feel and even understand. It is based mostly on the objective and observable characters of behavior. Behaviorism attempted to make psychology a more scientific aspect by basing mainly on purely observable characters. It is noted that John B. Watson contributed a lot in this approach where he had the view that psychology should only deal with the study of behavior. Another researcher by the name of B.F. Skinner revealed that human creatures react to their environment to produce certain effects. Therefore, behaviorism is said to be naturalistic meaning that the outside world is the ultimate reality thus all things can be elaborated in terms of natural laws (Sandra, 2008). Hence, a human being lacks a soul and the mind but only has a brain that reacts to external stimuli. It is also noted that thoughts, feelings and mental processes do not dictate what humans do. According to behaviorism theory, human beings are not responsible for their actions. This is because they lack minds or souls; thus, they only react to stimuli implying that anything they do is inevitable. Behaviorism aims at predicting human behavior and taking full control of it. For instance, through rewards, control and punishments a person is able to shape another person’s behavior.

Example representing behaviorism perspective

A classroom setting is the best example to illustrate behaviorism perspective. For instance, good grades and bad grades call for reward and punishment. When a student gets good grades, teachers may reward the student as a way of motivating him or her hence changing the behavior of that student to someone better. On the other hand, a student who scores bad grades may be punished as a way of shaping him or her to work even better in order to earn good grades. This is according to Skinner who claimed that behaviorism focuses on manipulation of behavior. This means that it takes full control and shapes behavior as required.

Behaviorism influences psychology today by demonstrating personality of a person concerning the effects of external stimuli on behavior.

Cognitive Perspective

This perspective aims at analyzing the internal mental processes including perception, creativity, thinking, solving problems, language, and memory. The main purpose of cognitive psychologists is to find out how a person is able to understand, diagnose and solve problems that bother them with the mental processes that mediate between stimulus and response. According to Hjelle and Ziegler (1992), cognitive perspective focuses on studying how human beings perceive, remember, think, make a decision, and solve problems in order to get the solution to mental illness. According to the cognitive perspective, human beings are compared to computers in the way in which they process information. Therefore, it assumes that human beings just like the computer are able to process information, store data and retrieve the data.

An example of cognitive behavior

Since the cognitive processes are like those of a computer, this example will clearly demonstrate the concept better. For instance, a person may receive a stimulus through the senses. This could be in form of listening to a red bird sing early in the morning. After hearing the sound, the brain inserts this information into the sensory register. Later on, the information may be transferred into short-term memory. In case this data is not encoded from short-term memory to long-term memory, it may be lost. Nevertheless, the information may be ready for retrieval only if it was placed in the long-term memory. Therefore, the next time a person hears the sound of the bird sing in the morning, he or she will be able to recognize that it is the red bird singing and not the blue bird.

Cognitive perspective influences psychology in that it enables a person to think right, be creative, master ideas faster and be able to solve any problems that may be affecting him or her. Therefore, it is an important theory in the study of human psychology.

Humanistic Perspective

The focus of humanistic perspective is on calculating a positive image as a human being. Humanistic theorists try to elaborate more on the approaches that promote fulfillment of the potential. According to Abraham Maslow, a person is mostly encouraged by a hierarchy of needs. This means that it is necessary for every person to ensure that basic needs are fulfilled before higher ones could be met. For instance, it is important to satisfy hunger and thirst first, then security, cultivating love and belongingness, enhancing self-esteem, and finally on the hierarchy is recognition of one’s full potential. According to Maslow, a person who has achieved full potential experiences feelings of immeasurable peace and total happiness during the lifetime.

An example representing humanistic perspective

According to this perspective, a person stands a good chance of achieving full potential in life through the childhood experience. For instance, it is very vital for a child to receive a positive influence that is affectionate and approved from the close people in his or her life. Because being loved and approved as a child results into a well disciplined quiet and assertive child.

Therefore, humanistic perspective influences’ psychology through the emphasis of individual worthiness and the centrality of human values.

A Comparison of the Three Perspectives

 The focus of behaviorism is the behavior that can be observed. It also assumes certain events are studied by associating with certain consequences and will behave in the way with the most significant consequences. Behaviorism approach is a philosophy of psychology that emphasizes that all things such as thinking, feeling and acting should be considered as behaviors. On the other hand, cognitive perspective focuses mostly on the internal mental processes such as problem solving, creativity, and perception. It mainly aims at examining how a person can think, perceive and remember a certain concept (Shiraev, 2010). Cognitive perspective relates a human being to the computer where it is able to receive the information, store it and the retrieve it later on demand. While behaviorism deals with observable events, cognitive is concerned with the inner characters. However, humanistic perspective aims at cultivating a positive personal image in order to achieve full potential. Humanistic approach can be viewed as a process that tries to seek the issues concerning the right and the wrong through investigation. The only similarity between these three perspectives is that they both try to examine the behavior of human beings. These theories are also old theories that have been replaced by other advanced theories.






















Hjelle, L. and D. Ziegler (1992). Personality: Basic Assumptions, Research and Applications. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Nevid, J. (2011). Essentials of Psychology: Concepts and Applications. Los Angeles, CA: Cengage Learning.

Sandra, H. (2008). Psychology. Boston, MA: Worth Publishers.

Shiraev, E. (2010). A History of Psychology: A Global Perspective. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.


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