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Psychological Theories


Psychological theories express the beliefs, values, opinions andperspectives of their proponents in as far as certain aspects ofpsychology are concerned. As such, different theories have differentstances hence different impacts in different people. Like theories inother fields, these theories have proponents and critiques who findreasonable fault in them. All in all, the theories provide a mirrorthrough which scholars can make psychological assessments ofdifferent situations. This research paper provides a comprehensivediscussion on the social learning theory, Erikson’s theory ofpsychological development, psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund Freud andthe GAS theory of stress by Hans Seyle under the psychological topicof learning, human development, personality and stress respectively.


SocialLearning Theory

The theory was proposed by Albert Bandura, and it provides thatlearning is a cognitive process that does not require directreinforcement. Even in the absence of motor reproduction, learningcan still occur via mere observation or direct instruction. As such,for an individual to learn, the theory proposes that they do not haveto be punished or rewarded. They simply need to be positioned in sucha manner that they can observe as their colleagues are rewarded orpunished (Koffmann &amp Walters, 2014). This process is known asvicarious reinforcement because person “C” learns when person “A”punishes or rewards person “B.” While Albert Bandura merelyexplained it from the cognitive process approach, other scholarsperceive it as an expansion of the traditional learning behavioraltheories where behavior is solely governed by reward and punishment(reinforcement).

This theory was not only applicable in my life during my childhooddays but also today. When I was young, this is the theory that mostmembers of the society used to bring us up. At home, we were punishedfor doing the wrong thing and rewarded through gifts and praise whenwe did the right thing. As such, we yearned to do the right thing sothat we could receive more awards and praises. Through the process,we learned. Besides, when another person was rewarded or punished(whether at home or school), we learned from them by noticing thebehavior for which they were punished or rewarded. If they wererewarded, we strived to ensure that we did the same so that we couldas well be rewarded. On the other hand, if they were punished, weavoided it.

In my opinion, the effectiveness of this theory and itspracticability cannot be underestimated. Every day people learn notonly from their rewards and punishments but also from those of otherpeople. They application of this theory in our society for learningis too evident to be overlooked. Prisons exist so that both theculprits and other members of the society can learn from punishments.Awards exist so that both the directly awarded and other members ofthe society can learn that such behaviors are good and they shouldembrace them.

Erikson’sTheory of Psychosocial Development

According to this theory proposed by Erik Erikson, an individual haseight distinct stages of development. The cultural and ecologicalupbringing of a child determines his development according to thistheory. At the point of birth, any child could be anything it alldepends on how the psychosocial stages unfold. A new stage ofdevelopment builds upon the completion of another. Failure tosuccessfully complete one psychosocial stage before moving on toanother may lead to the individual’s psychological problems infuture (King, 2010). On the other hand, if an individual successfullycompletes a stage, they acquire a basic virtue. According to Erikson,every stage has its challenges and psychosocial crisis. The tablebelow provides a summary of the psychosocial crisis and basic virtueon each stage according to Erik Erikson.

Figure 1: Stagesof Psychosocial Development

Source: Author

It is not possible to tell how the first three stages applied to mylife during the childhood days (infancy to 5 years) since I was tooyoung to comprehend what was happening. However, I can clearlyremember that in stage four (5-12 years), I worked so hard at beingresponsible, being good and doing it right the first time. In stagefive (13-19 years) I surely experienced considerable societal roleconfusion. Some members perceived me as a kid while others viewed meas an adult.

This theory is partially effective because some psychologicalproblems in some people cannot be traced to failure to complete apsychosocial stage. Besides, some people do not undergo these stages,yet they do not experience psychosocial problems in future. Besides,the inaccuracy of this theory can be traced to the fact that itspropositions cannot be accurately measured. It is hypothetical toobserve the behaviors of a particular individual in the whole of his/her life and identify what he/ she missed at one point so that futureproblems can be associated with it. All in all, the theory providespractical, psychosocial crisis that are well observable inindividuals in the respective stages.

PsychoanalyticPersonality Theory

This theory was proposed by Sigmund Freud. The proposition is thatone is not born with a certain personality instead, it developsthrough a series of stages that are characterized with internalpsychological conflict. According to this theory, an individual’spersonality is the result of significant interactions among specificmind components: the superego, ego, and id. Freud identified the idas the most crucial part of an individual’s personality that seeksto satisfy their desires by meeting the basic needs via any meanspossible. The ego, on the other hand, deals with the reality (King,2010). As much as an individual intends to meet the needs and desiresof id, his/ her compels them to consider reality. Finally, superegoadds morals to this reality. When these three interact, anindividual’s personality is developed. The unconscious conflictsamong these three parts of an individual’s mind shape theirbehavior. Freud also proposes that personality develops in the earlystages of life and then it is shaped in a series of five psychosexualstages.

There are so many instances that my behavior has been driven by innerforces as per the propositions of Sigmund Freud. For instance, justrecently, in a date with my new fiancé, my tongue slipped andmention the name of my ex-lover (we broke up three months ago). Whilethis may be considered as just a simple accident, deeper reasoningusing this theory implies that I may still be having feeling of myprevious lover hence called my new fiancé by my previous one’sname. This could have resulted from internal conflicts that drive mybehavior.

The effectiveness of this theory in developing an individual’spersonality cannot be underestimated. The theory’s practicabilityis, however, only evident in as far as the interaction between thethree mind components is concerned. Freud’s singular focus onsexuality as the main driver of human development is, however, thetheories weakest point. It is less likely that the overallpersonality of all individuals is solely determined by theirsexuality. In my opinion, the theory’s effectiveness is solelybased on the proposition that personality is developed as a result ofinteractions between the id, ego, and superego.

The GAS Theoryof Stress

The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) theory was proposed by HansSelye and provides that stress occurs in three main stage: alarm,resistance, and exhaustion. Stress could be real or imagined. Thealarm stage is comprised of the shock and the antishock phase. Duringthe shock phase, the theory provides that the body endures thestressor effects such as hypochloremia and hypoglycemia. At thisstage, the individual’s ability to resist to stress decreasessignificantly and some level of shock is experienced. The antishockphase sets in when the stressor is identified or realized, and thebody begins to respond (Koffman &amp Walters, 2014). Biologicalchanges such as increased blood pressure and glucose in the bloodoccur in the body. The second stage, resistance, is characterizedwith considerable decline to be stressed. If the stressor persists,individual seek some means to cope with the stress. When resistancedrops, the third stage of recovery or exhaustion sets in. The stageis also known as collapse, and this is where the disease occurs.

This theory mainly applies in my life temporarily. This is because I,more frequently, have acute stress than chronic stress. For instance,when I have an assignment that I am yet to complete and the deadlineis approaching, I experience real stress. This is especially so if Ihad forgotten. Upon remembering, I experience a lot of shock and seekwhich is followed by the realization of the stressing factor. Thispushes me to the second stage where I resist being stressed up byincomplete assignment. Instead, I define ways to complete the tasks.Rarely do my stress levels reach the collapsing stage. In most cases,my third stage of stress is characterized with recovery.

The effectiveness of this theory has been proven biologically beyondreasonable doubt. A series of biological reactions and interactionslead to body alarming (first stage), resistance and recovery/collapse. The practicability of this theory is affirmed by the factthat after the stress period (whether short or long), individualseither recover from the stress or collapse. Besides, before recoveryor collapsing, individuals resist the stress and seek to identify thespecific stressors and how they can be overcome.


To sum up, psychological theories provide an effective platform onwhich various psychological concepts can be understood. Besides, thetheories act as a mirror to scholars when conducting their researchstudies. In spite of the considerable criticism and opinion-basednature, most of these theories carry a lot of facts with them. Thestudy of psychology could not have grown without individualpropositions, opinions and perspectives in form of theories. Thesocial learning theory provides significant insights on learning,Erikson’s theory provides a wide range of information in humandevelopment, the psychoanalytic theory provides the basis on whichpersonality is developed while the GAS theory expounds on stress.


King, L. (2010). The science of psychology: An appreciative view.McGraw-Hill Professional.

Koffmann, A., &amp Walters, M. G. (2014). Introduction topsychological theories and psychotherapy. Oxford UniversityPress.