Final Paper

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Marina Morrison


Prof. Dalke

The Isolated Evolution of Psychological Models

            Thestudy of psychology has been crucial to the understanding of behavior and thehuman mind as early as 1000 B.C. (Rescorla). With its wealth of research andstudies, psychology has provided valuable insights into the human mind and it’s functioning. These insights, however, rely on many models of psychology and require a complete understanding of all psychological models to be successfully applied to the understanding of human behavior. The four main models of psychology are the biological model, the psychodynamic model, the cognitive model, and the behavioral model. Each model brings its own unique view toconcepts in psychology, but more often than not, each model attempts to distance itself from other models as it attempts present itself as the superiormodel. The biological model seems to be the worst culprit of such separation as it relies far too heavily on prescription drugs and medical intervention and ignores other methods of treatment that could be far more efficacious. The separate evolution of these models seems to severely limit the value of psychological research as an integration of all the models could reveal insights valuable to the psychological community.  Each model has diverged and converged on its own theories and practices but has done this separately and isolated from one another.

            This separation of the psychological models is most clearly demonstrated by the biological model, which relies heavily on biological methods and ignores other valuable approaches to mental disorders. The branch of biological psychology seems to evolve the most separately from the other models as it rarely consults the other models for insights that biology cannot explain. Among the most influential founders of the biological model are Hippocrates, Avicenna, andWilliam James. Hippocrates is considered one of the first physicians tointroduce the medical model to psychology as he rejected any demonological etiologies of mental disorders and brought a new clinical approach to psychological disorders by describing symptoms and classifying disorders. Hippocrates believed that mental disorders were due to brain disease that could be treated with ancient techniques such as bleeding or changing dietary habits(Rescorla). Another major contributor to this model, Avicenna (AD 980-AD 1037),a Muslim physician and philosopher, compiled the Canon of Medicine, which brought a new biological view to the field of medicine (Shoja 228). The new, groundbreaking medical text shed light onareas of medicine such as anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, internal pathology, fever, and provided wealth of information on the preparation of 760 types of drugs.  The text also brought attention to the neurological sciences as it provided many details on intracranial anatomy and neurosurgical techniques such as trephination, a procedure of drilling holes in the skull to cure mental disorders (“Ibn Sina”). William James furthered the ideas of Avicenna and Hippocrates by claiming that an understanding of biology was necessary totruly comprehend the study of psychology. James states this in his text Principles of Psychology:

Bodily experiences, therefore, and more particularly brain-experiences, must take aplace amongst those conditions of the mental life of which Psychology need take account…Our first conclusion, then, is that a certain amount of brain-physiology must be presupposed or included in Psychology (James 4-5).

In his text, James emphasizes the biological model of psychology and also provides details on neuro-anatomy, pointing outcertain functions of brain areas. James seems to be most concerned with themedical/biological model of psychology to gain insight into human behavior. Asa result of these early pioneers in biological psychology, a wealth of medicalresearch has led to new treatments for mental disorders and neurologicalabnormalities including chemical drug treatments, psychosurgery, andelectro-convulsive therapies among others (“The Biological Model”). As historyhas shown us, the medical model has certainly evolved to provide increasinglyscientific and accurate biological approaches to mental disorders andpsychological illness, but it has done this completely separately from theother models of psychology and doesn’t attempt to approach the other models fornew insight, could the separate evolving of these models harm the overallcourse of psychology?  Thebiological model has been criticized for this isolation as it disregards rivaletiologies, relies on medical techniques that usually don’t suffice alone, andignores individual patient needs (Rescorla). These weaknesses of the biologicalmodel alone suggest that an integration and sharing of concepts between themodels would be beneficial to the study of psychology.

Sigmund Freudfounded the psychodynamic model of psychology in the 1940s and 1950s. The modelemphasized unconscious processes and childhood experiences to explain mentaldisorders and maladjustment. Freud postulated that an understanding of theunconscious through uncovering repressed memories and emotions was crucial to theunderstanding human behavior. Freud believed that the main goal of the patientwas to regain insight into their unconscious, which could occur with the helpof a therapist through the processes of free association, Rorschach tests andother styles of therapy. In addition to his emphasis on the unconscious, Freudalso put much emphasis on the understanding of personality through his theoryof the three egos. This theory states that there are three principles thatexplain human behavior: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id seekspleasure while the ego tries to keep the id satisfied and the superego is amoral authority making the ego feel guilty when it gives in to the hedonisticdesires of the id. Freud also developed the psychosexual stages that includethe oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages (Jeglic). Freud claimedthat each stage had to be experienced by all children and if one stage were notsufficiently mastered by the child, it would later be maladjusted. For example,if a child failed to thrive in the anal stage, the child would later develop anal-retentivequalities such as fussiness and pickiness. In addition to Sigmund Freud, CarlJung was one of the most influential figures in psychodynamic theory. Jung wasmost famous for his discoveries in depth psychology and the collectiveunconscious.  Depth psychologyattempted to bridge the gap between the conscious and unconscious by usingdreams as material to understand the unconscious processes (“Carl Jung”). Thecollective unconscious proposed that below the personal unconscious of eachperson is a collective unconscious that stores the shared unconscious contentpresent in all humans (Schuelers). The main psychodynamic treatments that arosefrom these theories were the psychodynamic therapies that attempt to find awindow to the unconscious of the patient. The evolution of the psychodynamicmodel clearly has happened completely isolated from the development of thebiological model and doesn’t take into account any biological features of majormental illnesses as it instead focuses on the unconscious desires of humans andtheir influence on human behavior. This isolated development of thepsychodynamic model further shows how psychology is a discipline that has manydifferent approaches but each approach is separate and doesn’t reap the benefitsof the other models.

The evolution ofthe behavioral model of psychology, pioneered by Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner,also commits the error of developing its theories and major tenets withoutcollaboration with other models. The main principles of behavioral psychologylie in the study of operant and classical conditioning as well as observationallearning. The study of operant conditioning is the study of how a particularbehavior is either strengthened or weakened depending on the consequences ofthat behavior (Levine). For example, every time a dog obeys a command and receivesa treat, the behavior will strengthen as a result of the positive reinforcementof the treat.  Classicalconditioning, founded by Ivan Pavlov, is different in that it does not dealwith voluntary behavior. In classical conditioning there is an unconditionedstimulus, an unconditioned response, a conditioned response, and a conditionedstimulus that are used to explain human behavior. One of the more famous andunethical studies that exemplify this model is John Watson’s Little Albertexperiment. Watson devised a plan to classically condition a small child,Albert, to become deathly afraid of white fluffy objects. First, Watsonpresented Albert with a rat and initially Albert had no fear of the rat. Then,instead of presenting the rat alone, Watson would make a loud banging noise rightbefore he presented the rat. Albert’s attitude toward the rat then changed frombeing unafraid to being extremely fearful. Albert’s fear of the rat was sogreat that it he began to generalize his fear to other white fluffy objects.The behavioral model cites the root of Albert’s behavior to his associations ofthe events. In Albert’s case the conditioned stimulus was the rat and theconditioned response was his fear while the unconditioned stimulus was the loudnoise. Albert began to associate the loud frightening noise to the rat becausethey were presented together. Thus, when Albert was presented with the rat, hewas also expecting a loud noise and would enter a state of fear.   Modeling is another behaviorist theory that proposes humanbehavior is formed through the imitation of others. The behavioral theory hasbeen strongly criticized for its neglect of mental events and thought processesthat contribute to behavior. Other arguments against this model claim that itis not applicable to many disorders such as depression and schizophrenia,disorders that would be difficult to understand on observable behavior alone (Rescorla).The behavioral model, like the other psychological models has developed and evolvedcompletely separately from the other models which has led to many weaknesses inits theories- it completely ignores human thought and cognition, it neglectsbiological theories, and rejects psychodynamic theory in favor of basing theunderstanding of psychology on observable behaviors.

The cognitivemodel is yet another model of psychology that has evolved isolated from otherpsychological models. The cognitive model is often cited as founded by AlbertEllis and Aaron Beck, both famous American psychologists. The key belief isthat thought processes determine human behavior. Psychologists who use thecognitive model often attribute mental illness to persistent negativecognitions about the self and the world that the patient endures. The theory ofthe negative triad states that people who have dysfunctional thoughts havenegative feelings and thoughts towards themselves, the future, and others. Thecombination of these negative thoughts, according to the negative triad, leadsto more mental instability and illness (Jeglic). The cognitive model was a directoppositional response to the behavioral model as its founders believed humanthoughts were more valuable to the understanding of the human mind than actualobservable behaviors of humans. As a result, the cognitive and behavioralmodels are very separate and often challenge each other’s theories andtreatments. Additionally, The cognitive model makes no use of biological or medicalresearch that has proved valuable to the study of psychology. The psychodynamicmodel and the behavioral models are also ignored with the cognitive approach asit puts less emphasis on the unconscious and observable behavior. Critics ofthe cognitive model point out that human thoughts and cognitions do not provideenough insight to fully explain human behavior and argue that human cognitionsand thoughts are unreliable sources. Another complaint stems from the beliefthat cognitive therapists are too instructionally based as cognitive therapyoften relies on techniques such as goal setting, homework assignments, and psychoeducation.  These complaints are mostly stemmedfrom the behavioral model, which shows the amount of competition and hostilitybetween the two models when it comes to comprehending human behavior.

As a result oftheir separate, isolated nature these four psychological models have eachreached their own complex and unique answer to the understanding of humanbehavior. The four major psychological models of understanding human behaviorall diverge into their own separate theories and then converge on the besttreatment according to their own model. The models rarely collaborate tointegrate their theories and are competitive as they attempt to find the bestsolution to understanding human psychology. Depression is a mental disorderthat most clearly illustrates the separate nature of these four models as eachmodel has its own distinct approach to the treatment and understanding of thedisorder. The psychodynamic account of depression claims that the disorder is aresult of a mistrustful, neglectful childhood that then leads to a poor view ofthe self, including low self esteem and dependence on others. This model callsfor therapy to bring these repressed childhood memories to the conscious inorder to work through and combat the root cause of the depression. Thebiological model brings an entirely different approach as it cites chemicalimbalance as the main culprit of depression. Researchers have found that lowdopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels in the brain seem to triggerdepression. Physicians have turned to drugs and furthur research inbiochemistry to correct these imbalances. Additionally, the cognitive modelbrings a different perspective with its claim that depression is caused by“dysfunctional cognitions” and a negative view of ones self, experiences, andthe future. Cognitive psychologists turn to their own form of therapy thatattempts to make these thoughts more positive (Rescorla). Behavioral modelspoint to a lack of positive reinforcement as the cause of depression andpostulate that is a learned behavior. (Nemade). As these models have shown,they all show a very different and separate approach to mental disorders andthe study of psychology.

Ultimately, thefour models of psychology have provided indispensable insights into humanbehavior. Each model presents its own argument for the cause of human behavioreffectively and rationally and is in each an effective ways to approach humanbehavior. However, these models have evolved very separately from one anotherand thus have competed and challenged each other as they attempt to rationalizehuman behavior only using their own tenets and beliefs. As the models getfurther advanced in their own theories and concepts, they seem to become moreand more distant. This distance and competition between the psychologicalmodels is a weakness when it come to psychology because each have a valuableinput into understanding human behavior and their integration could provevaluable. Research has shown that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapyand drug therapy is a very effective technique to combat disorders like ADHD (Jensen996). If the combination of the cognitive model and medical model brings suchpromising results what can the combination of other models bring to the studyof psychology? Although these models have developed separately and remainisolated from one another, their integration could prove beneficial to thestudy of human behavior.

Works Cited

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James, William. The Principles of Psychology. Vol. 1. New York: Henry Holt &Co., 1890.


Jeglic, Elizabeth L."Models of Abnormal Behavior." Models of Psychology. CityUniversity of New York. 09 May 2009<>.

Jensen, Peter."3-Year Follow-up of the NIMH MTA Study." Journal of AmericanAcademy of Child/Adolescent PSYCHIATRY 46 (2007): 989-1002.


Levine, Alan."Operant Conditioning Basics." Maricopa Center for Learning andInstruction | Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction. 24 Nov. 1999.12 May 2009 <>.

Rescorla, Leslie."Cognitive Model." Abnormal Psychology. Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr.

Rescorla, Leslie A. "History of Psychopathology from theMiddle Ages to the 19th

Century." Abnormal Psychology. Bryn Mawr College, BrynMawr. 26 Jan. 2009.


Rescorla, Leslie. "Biological Model."Abnormal Psychology. Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr.


Shoja, MohammadaliM., and Shane Tubbs. "The Disorder of Love in the Canon of Avicenna (A.D.980–1037)." The American Journal of Psychiatry (2007): 228-29.

Schueler, Gerald J.,and Betty J. Schueler. "Psychology Terms." Schuelers Online.12 May 2009 <>.

The BiologicalModel." Making the Modern World. 2004. The Science Museum. 12 May2009 <>.





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