One of the most familiar and influential approaches to human behaviour is psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud. Freud based his theories upon intensive case studies of a considerable range of patients.
Psychoanalysis focuses on unconscious mental activities. According to Freud, much of the individual’s observable behaviour is influenced by wishes, desires or fears which the individual has learned to suppress because they are not socially acceptable. As a child develops, it learns that some feelings and desires are unacceptable hence, these wishes, desires and fears are buried deep in the mind, leading to the development of the unconscious. According to Freud, these unconscious impulses still find expression through dreams, fantasies, slips of the tongue, symptoms of mental illness, as well as in artistic expression, with an individual’s psychological history playing an immense role in particular behaviour patterns.
All of the approaches discussed adhere firmly to the scientific principles of objectivity – the human individual is perceived as a passive object of analysis rather than an active agent of his/her own destiny.
On the one hand, behaviourists claim that human behaviour is largely shaped by environmental stimuli; and on the other hand psychoanalysts claim that behaviour is shaped by unconscious impulses beyond the individual’s control.