Seven Modern And Theoretical Perspectives In Psychology

Updated January 18, 2022
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Psychology is an inherently broad field which countless people have dedicated their lives to understanding and furthering. Understanding some of the modern theories utilized to conceptualize problems people face and how they function can be very helpful.

The Psychodynamic Theory

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The psychodynamic theory of psychology maintains that human behavior and mental issues can be traced back to each person’s childhood, interpersonal relationships, and unconscious thoughts. The activity and construct of the unconscious mind is considered very important. The psychodynamic theory proposes that each person’s mind is made up of an id, which acts on underlying urges and instincts; an ego, which is seen to be battling with the unrealistic or instinctual id; and a superego, which brings morals and ethics into the equation. One of the major goals of this theory is understanding influences on conscious and unconscious motivation and how the two may conflict and influence our behavior and decisions.

Often called psychoanalytic theory, this perspective was originated by Sigmund Freud in the early part of the 20th century. Though much of Freud’s thinking was very controversial at the time, most modern perspectives in psychology have taken from psychodynamic theory. There are three core assumptions at the heart of psychodynamic theory:

Primacy Of The Unconscious

Those who practice psychodynamic theory believe that the majority of the psychological processes that drive us happen unconsciously, meaning we do not have access to them.

Critical Importance Of Early Experiences

This is the idea that events that happen in our childhood, especially substantial or life-changing ones help mold us and our personalities.

Psychic Causality

Psychic causality, also called psychic determinism, is the third element of psychodynamic theory, stating that there is no such thing as random feeling, thought, or behavior. This is where the term “Freudian slip” comes from.

The Behavioral Theory


Behavioral theory, also called behaviorism, was initiated as a systematic approach to understanding behavior. One premise of this theory is that all behaviors are acquired by conditioning, or learning. Behaviorism dominated psychology during the first half of the twentieth century. The information that was gained during the development of behaviorism on how and why we learn certain behaviors is still in use today, implemented to help people learn new skills and behaviors and extinguish unhelpful behaviors. Here is what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has to say about behavioral theory:

Wilfred Sellars (1912–89), the distinguished philosopher, noted that a person may qualify as a behaviorist, loosely or attitudinally speaking, if they insist on confirming ‘hypotheses about psychological events in terms of behavioral criteria’…. A behaviorist, so understood, is someone who demands behavioral evidence for any psychological hypothesis. For such a person, there is no knowable difference between two states of mind (beliefs, desires, etc.) unless there is a demonstrable difference in the behavior associated with each state. Consider the current belief of a person that it is raining. If there is no difference in his or her behavior between believing that it is raining and believing that it is not raining, there is no grounds for attributing the one belief rather than the other. The attribution is empirically empty or unconstrained.

Arguably, there is nothing truly exciting about behaviorism loosely understood. It enthrones behavioral evidence, an arguably inescapable premise not just in psychological science but in ordinary discourse about mind and behavior. Just how behavioral evidence should be ‘enthroned’ (especially in science) may be debated. But enthronement itself is not in question.

Not so behaviorism the doctrine. It has been widely and vigorously debated. This entry is about the doctrine, not the attitude. Behaviorism, the doctrine, has caused considerable excitation among both advocates and critics. In a manner of speaking, it is a doctrine, or family of doctrines, about how to enthrone behavior not just in the science of psychology but in the metaphysics of human and animal behavior.

Behaviorism, the doctrine, is committed in its fullest and most complete sense to the truth of the following three sets of claims.

  1. Psychology is the science of behavior. Psychology is not the science of the inner mind – as something other or different from behavior.
  2. Behavior can be described and explained without making ultimate reference to mental events or to internal psychological processes. The sources of behavior are external (in the environment), not internal (in the mind, in the head).
  3. In the course of theory development in psychology, if, somehow, mental terms or concepts are deployed in describing or explaining behavior, then either (a) these terms or concepts should be eliminated and replaced by behavioral terms or (b) they can and should be translated or paraphrased into behavioral concepts.

The Cognitive Theory

Cognitive theory deals with the various inner workings of the human mind. This includes language, memory, learning, thought process, and problem-solving. The unseen processes of the mind and internal states like motivation and attention are explained by cognitive theory.

The Biological Theory

The biological perspective of psychology deals with how genetics and hereditary factors can influence or contribute to human behavior. The brain, nervous system, immune system, genetic factors, and more are regularly studied by psychologists to understand behavior.

Psychology And Contributions To Society

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Psychology has made tremendous contributions to society. Thanks to psychology, we understand more about people, the choices they make, and how various factors influence the way we develop as people.

Therapy is one of many contributions to society that is supported by psychology. The benefits of therapy are well-documented in research. The challenges that people face in daily living, learning difficulties, addictions, and many other difficulties are helped by certain types of therapy.
Psychology has also contributed research that has helped create testing and evaluation tools, which provide therapists with insight into how their clients function and what problems they may be facing.

An increasingly large number of studies points to online therapy as a safe, accessible, and effective means of treating a wide range of psychological concerns. In a broad-based review published in World Psychiatry—a peer-reviewed medical journal—researchers assessed the value of online therapy, and specifically online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on those experiencing a broad array of mental health concerns. This study primarily looked at the possibility for innovation that online methods of psychological treatment can foster, in addition to the usefulness of online modalities when administering acceptance and commitment therapy and the most common form of therapy, online CBT. CBT works by helping individuals understand and reframe the negative thought patterns that may be underlying unwanted behaviors and feelings, so that potentially triggering or difficult situations can be managed more easily.

Online counseling with licensed therapists who employ combinations of the theories discussed briefly here can help you meet your goals, face challenges, and learn more about yourself. With BetterHelp, you will be able to connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection)—via live chat, video conference, messaging, or voice call. Also, you will have the option, if you choose, of reaching out to your therapist outside of sessions. If you need to review a specific psychological topic, have a question about something, or just want to chat, send your counselor a message and they will get back to you as soon as they are able. The qualified mental health professionals at BetterHelp have given thousands of people the tools to better understand their psyches. Read below for counselor reviews, from those who have sought help in the past.

Counselor Reviews

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Psychology research is ongoing, and new developments occur each day that help inform treatments, public health initiatives, and provide insight into our complex lives. If you want to know more about how psychology can apply to your life, reach out to a professional today.

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