The psychodynamic approach
Basic assumptions behind the psychodynamic approachbehaviour is determined by unconscious thoughts and
desires.Maladaptive behaviour is the result of unresolved unconscious conflicts
originating in childhood.Resolution occurs through accessing and confronting unresolved conflict
Strengths and weaknesses of the psychodynamic approach
Strengths● Freud’s ideas have had a significant impact on psychology.
● Acknowledges that unconscious desires influence behaviour.
● Recognises that childhood is a critical period of development.
● Recognises that childhood experiences are fundamental determinants
of adult behaviour.
Weaknesses● Theories are post hoc, i.e. based on historical reconstruction.
● Freud’s theories were based on a very small, rather unique sample of
people and so may lack generalisability.
● Freud’s theories are highly reductionist and deterministic.
● Too much emphasis on innate biological drives.
Assumptions of the behaviourist approach
● Only observable behaviour should be studied.
● Behaviour is determined by the environment.
● All behaviour can be reduced to simple stimulus response associations.
Strengths and weaknesses of the behaviourist approach
● Emphasises objective measurement.
● Large number of successful applications (e.g. therapy).
Weaknesses● Mechanistic (machine like).
● Reduces complex human behaviour to stimulus response associations.
● Environmental determinism.
● De-emphasises the influence of knowledge, motivation, subjective
experience and emotions; denies the role of innate factors and excludes
the role of cognition.
Social learning theory
Assumptions of social learning theory● All behaviour is learned.
● Classical and operant conditioning cannot adequately account for all
● Cognitive variables mediate between stimulus and response.
Strengths and weaknesses of social learning theoryStrengths● Considerable impact on nursing and health practice.
● Numerous applications.
● Illustrates how behavioural, cognitive and environmental factors interact.
Weaknesses● Ignores biological factors underlying cognition and behaviour.
● Does not consider the role of emotion or personality.
● Observers do not always show strong tendencies to imitate the
behaviour of a model.
Cognitive psychologyAssumptions of the cognitive approach● Acknowledges the existence of unobservable mental processes and emphasises their importance in determining and predicting behaviour.
● Views the mind as an information processor, i.e. it computes answers to
problems in a manner analogous to a computer.
Strengths and weaknesses of the cognitive approachStrengths● Scientific.
● Large number of successful applications.
● Focuses on processes unique to human beings (i.e. thought).
● Combines easily with approaches, e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy.
● Many empirical studies to support theories.
● Mechanistic (machine like).
● Lacks human element, i.e. ignores social factors and the role of emotion.
● Research on which cognitive explanations are based is rather artificial.
● Ignores biology (e.g. hormones)
Criticism by Binish
● Human beings cannot be reduced to components;
● Human beings have in them a uniquely human context;
● Human consciousness includes an awareness of oneself in the context of
● Human beings have choices and responsibilities;
● Human beings are intentional; they seek meaning, value and creativity.