Foundations of Psychology
According to science philosopher Thomas Kuhn, the ongoing development of scientific paradigms is responsible for scientific progress. A scientific paradigm has three basic characteristics: a series of assertions that provide a model of the object of study, a group of common metaphors that assist with comprehension of the object of study, and a methodology that is accepted by the scientific community to provide legitimate and valuable data when carried out correctly. Within the social sciences, Kuhn stated, there is an absence of accepted paradigms. Instead, perhaps because these fields of study are younger than the hard sciences such as biology or physics, there are several fragmented perspectives that nonetheless share these characteristics of a paradigm. There are four of these perspectives that inform contemporary psychological thought: the psychodynamic, behaviorist, cognitive, and evolutionary perspectives (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).
The psychodynamic perspective of psychology stems from the work of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, during the late nineteenth century. This perspective contends that behavior demonstrates that behavior is caused by the mental connections between thoughts, emotions, and desires; that these mental processes happen mainly beyond conscious knowledge; and that when mental processes are in conflict with each other the mind must find a way to settle the conflict. Despite the historical use among psychodynamic theorists of case studies drawn from patients' dreams and fantasies, bearing and demeanor as a primary means of observation, contemporary psychodynamic psychologists are using scientifically valid experimental methodology more frequently than in the past. This may help to eliminate some of the longstanding criticism of psychodynamic psychology's use of speculative methods and subjective measures (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).
The behaviorist perspective of psychology originated in the early twentieth century with Russian researcher Ivan Pavlov, who accidentally discovered learned behavior in dogs whose digestive systems he was researching, and was the most influential psychological perspective from the 1920s to the 1960s. Behaviorist theory proposes that behavior is influenced almost entirely by learning and can be interpreted without discussing thoughts, feelings, and motives, which cannot be objectively observed. Behaviorists see psychology as the science of behavior and insist on strict scientific methodology for psychological research, especially when performing experiments. Because behaviorist theorists do not place any value on unobservable internal states, they suggest that there are laws of behavior, like the laws of physics, that can be...