Theories In Psychology: Cognitive Psychology Versus Psychoanalysis

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Psychology has many theories that have made it what we know today; in this essay, we will discuss psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology. These two schools of thoughts have started as different versions of what they are now, the adaptions of many other psychologists. They have also been changed due to new information coming alight, new technology which adapt the theories to be more modern, as well as different policies that have come about since the discovery of these thoughts. the two theories listed above look are shown through research to effect many different stages of life we go through. Though these theories are not without fault and criticism for the methods that are sometimes seen to be inhumane looking back at them after years have passed.

Cognitive psychology looks at how humans mentally process the information they are given or the situations they are in. This can be done by looking at how they got the knowledge and how they broke it down to simpler terms to understand it. A simple way we process is like this: the information is inputted into the brain, we then take in this information through mediational processes, we retrieve it when it is necessary for a situation and then it becomes normal in our day to day thinking (Groome, 2013). Mediational processes include memory, perception and attention. Memory is when we encode, store and retain information and then recall it and past experiences when necessary from our brain, our memories can be used explain how we act in different situations (Anon., 2019). Perception is our recognition and interpretation of sensory information and it allows us to know how to interact with our environment (Anon., 2018). Attention is the ability to concentrate solely on one stimulus. Cognitive psychology became important around the 1950s (McLeod, 2015 ) this was when behaviourism was rejected. While cognitive psychology agree with behaviourism in the sense that learning should have outcomes that must be achieved, but disagree when it comes to how we observe it and how the information is processed and learnt. In the 1950s people also starting comparing human minds with computers (McLeod, 2015 ). This came about because someone realized a computer is like a human brain but is more advanced in the sense has already processed all the information it has, while a human brain in still gaining new information and processing it daily but in a similar process to how a computer would.

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Jean Piaget is a famous psychologist, he looks at the early stages of cognitive development in children. He looks at how children build up an image in their mind of the world they’ve been put into. He was interested on when the concepts of time, numbers, justice etc. emerged (Mcleod, 2018). Piaget was trying to show the difference in the way children think and process things compared to adults.

Piaget has three components to his theory: schemas, adaption processes and stages of cognitive development. (Mcleod, 2018)Schemas are described as the ‘basic building blocks’ to knowledge. They help build up a view and understanding of the world and get added to once we come across something we have yet to see. An example of a schema in a young child could be about their family dog: it has four legs, they can be big or small, has fur and a tail; but then it might meet a cat it might think it’s a dog but when its told it’s not a dog they will make a new schema for a cat so next time they can tell the difference between a dog and a cat (Mcleod, 2018). Similarly an adult going on a date for the first time might not have a lot of knowledge of how to act on a date but once they’ve experienced more than one date they will build up a schema of how dates should go and how to act during them. It is said people are at a state of equilibrium of cognitive state once they are able to explain what is going around them and aren’t constantly taking in new information and it create a balance of mental information (Mcleod, 2018). Assimilation and accommodation are methods Piaget uses to describe the changes and adjustments made to the schemas. Assimilation is how we use our existing knowledge of something to deal with a new object or situation and accommodation is when we have to update a schema due to it being out dated. These processes help keep us at the mental equilibrium. The strive towards to always be at equilibrium level is what drives the process of level so we can be satisfied and content (Mcleod, 2018).

Lastly Piaget gives us four development stages of cognitive development of children from birth onwards. The first stage is from birth till two years and it’s called Sensorimotor stage. In this stage babies get used to and also explore the kids they were born with- looking, eating and movement. Doing this they gain knowledge of their environment using their senses- touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell; hence why it is called the sensorimotor stage (Cherry, 2019). The main goal of this stage is to achieve object permanence. This is the knowledge that an object exists even if its hidden (Mcleod, 2018). The second stage takes place from age two to seven years old and its called preoperational stage. It was in this stage that children were to start talking but the child would still find it hard to take in other people’s opinions and feelings (McLeod, 2015 ). The third stage called concrete operational stage was typically for kids aged seven years to eleven years. Here the child can think logically and become sophisticated in their thinking. An example of this is a child always having a running nose when there’s a cat present and then realizing they are allergic to cats so staying away from cats. (Cherry, 2019). And finally the last stage is called the formal operational stage and it is from ages twelve upwards. Children can think of way to solve problems, they can plan and test their knowledge and their ideas (Cherry, 2019).

Paget’s theories have been criticise for putting time constraints on each cognitive growth aspect as people all develop at different times and how the process is better described as continuous not different stages (Mcleod, 2018). Piaget also didn’t take into account the children’s social setting or how they were being brought up or any learning difficulties etc. The few children used in the tests were his own kids and kids of his fellow psychologists who all came from a good socio-economic background, this made the results too constricted (Cherry, 2019).

The second school of thought we will look at is psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is the study of peoples unconscious thoughts and making them conscious thoughts to understand them. This idea first came about by Freud in the 1890s. it was influenced by early ideas on psychotherapy, evolutionary theory and Philosophical speculations about unconscious psychological phenomena (Schultz, 2011). It was used as method of therapy to gain access to people’s emotions and their experiences and then use the information they have found out to ‘cure’ the problem.

Psychoanalysis was an improved, more humane way to cure mental disorders compared to the way they were dealt with in 2000BC. In 2000BC they believed mental illness to be caused by demons possessing you, this was treated with prayer or magic as it was seen to be a punishment for sin (Schultz, 2011). And then when the church became involved torturing and executions. The torture methods could include Trephination: the removal of a small part of your skull to let the evil spirits out, bloodletting, purging vomiting to stop mental imbalances, isolation and asylums and Metrazol therapy which was induced seizures (still used in some form today even though it has no proven positive effects) (Hussung, 2016). And then Juan Luis Vives a Spanish psychologist came to the conclusion that patients with disorders were to be looked after sensitively and humanely. Unfortunately, this wasn’t heard of outside of Spain till Philippe Pinel, a French psychologist came to the same conclusion (Schultz, 2011).

Freuds idea of a psychoanalytic approach of interpreting unconscious thoughts is similar to how therapy works today. Freud had four processes of making unconscious thoughts conscious and breaking down walls people had up to try hide what they were going through. These were: interpreting ink blots, Freudian slip, free association and dream analysis (Mcleod, 2019). The ink blot method showed how people saw random ink blots that had no specific shape, and this indicated to the psychologist what type of unconscious thoughts a person had (Mcleod, 2019). The Freudian slip is when someone is supposed to say something but instead by accident says their true feelings on something- an example is a friend saying their ex boyfriends name instead of their current one, this could indicate that they prefer/ are more attached to the ex. (Mcleod, 2019). Free association is when the patient is the patient says the first thing that comes to mind when they hear different words, these random words could trigger memories or feelings for the patient which then can be seen by the psychologist (Anon., 2019). And the last technique is dream analysis, Freud came up with this idea as he wanted to be the therapist and the patient but couldn’t do this with free association. Freud would write down his personal dreams and then analysis them. From this he realized his hostility towards his father and also his sexual longings for his mother and his feelings towards his daughter. (Schultz, 2011)

Freud also looked at what made up peoples personality: Id, Ego and Superego. The id is the part of the brain that holds our drives/motivation, its where our needs, wants, sexual and aggressive pulls come from (Cherry, 2019). The id needs the other two parts of the brain to help control the desires it has and to stop us going after our drives without thinking our actions through first. The second part is the ego, it deals with the reality of the world and helps us deal with what life hands us (Cherry, 2019). It helps us be realistic about our needs and fulfil them in a socially acceptable way (Mcleod, 2019). The final aspect is the super ego holds the guidelines, norms and rules we have learnt through life, to act acceptably in society (Schultz, 2011).

Freuds theories and methods of psychoanalysis still stay relevant today and there has been little improvements of them to date. The main criticism of his ideas were that psychoanalysis was costly in money and time as it was a long term investment to help treat people with mental illness not an automatic one (Cherry, 2019).

Cognitive and psychoanalysis have both had many changes to make it the modern day versions we know today. They have both come from backgrounds of inhumane procedures which have been looked back on unfavourably. Even so, these changes are have both been from the original oldest versions of themselves. While they still face criticism today they are still very influential today.


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