The top 10 psychological theories

Psychology has been built on decades of research into behavior and mental processes, which makes it easy to get lost among so many approaches and concepts that cannot be understood without understanding the theories in which they are framed.

The main theories in psychology

Different psychological theories attempt to describe different important aspects of our personality, behavior, cognitive development, and motivations, among others. Then you can see some brushstrokes on the main psychological theories that they sculpted what we know of the human mind.

1. Cartesian dualist theory

the dualist theory of René Descartes establishes that the mind and body are two entities of a different nature, that the former has the power to control the latter, and that they interact with each other somewhere in the brain.

It is basically the transformation into theory of a kind of philosophical position of dualism, one of the greatest representatives is Plato. Although the theory of Cartesian dualism has been formally rejected for decades, it continues to take new forms and remains implicit in how much research in psychology and neuroscience is approached. Somehow, it “creeps” into the minds of many research teams without them realizing it, so it is still relevant even if it is not valid.

2. Gestalt theory

the Gestalt psychological theory it deals with how we perceive the outside world through our senses. Through the laws of Gestalt, developed primarily by German psychologists in the first half of the twentieth century, reflects the way in which perception is realized while giving meaning to what is perceived, and not something after another. You can read more about this theory in this article.

3. Behavioral theory of stimulus-response

Behavioral psychology researchers who have relied on operant conditioning by BF Skinner defended the idea that the learning we do depends on how certain behaviors are more or less reinforced by pleasant or unpleasant stimuli right after that behavior has been performed.

This theory was challenged by Edward Tolman who, in the mid-twentieth century, showed that learning could take place even if certain behaviors were not immediately rewarded, thus paving the way for cognitive psychology to come into the future. 60s.

4. Jean Piaget’s learning theory

One of the most important psychological theories on learning is that based on constructivist approach by Jean Piaget. This Swiss researcher believed that the way we learn is our own construction of our own experiences, that is, what we experience is seen in the light of what we have experienced before.

But learning does not depend only on our past experiences, but also on biological factors marked among other things by the vital stage in which we find ourselves. That’s why he established a model of cognitive development stages, which you can read more about here.

5. Sociocultural theory of Lev Vygotsky

While at the start of the 20th century, many psychologists studied learning by focusing on how individuals interact with the environment, the Soviet researcher Lev Vygotsky he gave a social orientation to the same object of study.

For him, society as a whole (but above all through parents and guardians) is a means and at the same time a learning tool through which we can develop intellectually. You can read more about this psychological theory in this article.

6. Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

Throughout his research, Albert Bandura has shown how learning does not only happen by tackling challenges, but also by being immersed in an environment in which we can see what others are doing and the results others have by following certain strategies. To learn more about this psychological theory, click here.

7. Cognitive dissonance theory

One of the most relevant psychological theories concerning the formation of identities and ideologies. The concept of cognitive dissonance, Formulated by the psychologist Leon FestingerIt is used to explain the state of stress and discomfort that occurs when two or more beliefs are held at the same time and perceived as contradictory. To learn more on the subject, you can consult these two articles:

  • Cognitive dissonance: the theory behind self-deception

  • How do sects react when prophecies do not come true?

8. Information processing theory

This theory is based on the idea that the mind works as a set of mechanisms that process sensory information (Input data) to store some of it in “memory repositories” and at the same time transform the combination of this information about the present and information about the past into chains of action, like a robot would.

In this way, our perceptions go through a series of filters until the most relevant data is involved in complex mental operations and, therefore, comes to have an impact on the behavior that occurs in response to these. stimuli. It is one of the most relevant psychological theories in cognitive psychology.

9. Theory of embodied cognition

The idea of embodied cognition, Initially offered by the psychologist George lakoff, Can be classified as both a psychological theory and a philosophical approach that affects neuroscience. This theory breaks with the idea that cognition is based on brain activity and extends the thought matrix to the whole body. You can read more about her here.

10. Rational choice theory

It is part of both the field of economics and cognitive psychology, Thus, it can be considered an important representative of psychological theories. According to this idea, each individual makes decisions according to his own interests and chooses the options that he perceives as the most advantageous (or least harmful) for himself on the basis of a rational criterion.

the rational choice theory it has had considerable importance in the social sciences, but it is increasingly challenged by new paradigms from which the frequency which is classically considered to be “irrational” behavior in us is shown.

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