Which perspective emphasizes the role that thoughts play in determining behavior?

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Chapter 1 Vocabulary

TermDefinition
Psychology the scientific study of behavior and mental process
Behavior any action that other people can observe or measure
Cognitive Activities private, unobservable mental process such as sensation, perception, thought and problem
Psychological Construct theoretical entities, or concepts, that enable one to discuss something that cannot be seen, touched or measured correctly
Theory a set of assumptions about why something is the way it is and happens the way it does
Principle a rule or law
Basic Research research that is conducted for its own sake, that is, without seeking a solution to a specific problem
Introspection an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings
Associationism a learned connection between two ideas of events
Structuralism the school of psychology, founded by Wilhelm Wundt, that maintains that conscious experience breaks down into objective sensations and subjective feelings
Functionalism the schools of psychology, founded by William James, that emphasizes the purposes of behavior and mental processes
Behaviorism the school of psychology, founded by John Watson, that defines psychology as the scientific study of observable behavior
Gestalt Psychology the school of psychology that emphasizes the tendency to organize perceptions into meaningful wholes
Psychoanalysis the school of psychology, founded by Sigmund Freud, that emphasizes the importance of unconscious motives and conflicts as determinants of human behavior
Psychodynamic Thinking the theory that most of what fills an individual’s mind is unconscious and consists of conflicting impulses, urges and wishes
Biological Perspective the psychological perspective that emphasizes the influence of biology behavior
Evolutionary Perspective the theory focusing on the evolution of behavior and mental processes
Cognitive Perspective the viewpoint that emphasizes the role of thought processes in determining behavior
Humanistic Perspective the psychological view that assumes the existence of the self and emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and the freedom to make choices
Psychoanalytic Perspective the perspective that stresses the influences of unconscious forces on human behavior
Learning Perspective the psychological point of view that emphasizes the effects of experience on behavior
Social-Learning Theory the theory that suggests that people have the ability to change their environments or to create new ones
Sociocultural Perspective in psychology, the perspective that focuses on the roles of ethnicity, gender, culture, and socioeconomic status in personality formation, behavior, and mental processes
Ethnic Group a group united by cultural heritage, race, language, or common history


The study of personality is one of the major topics of interest in psychology. Numerous personality theories exist and most of the major ones fall into one of four major perspectives. Each of these perspectives on personality attempts to describe different patterns in personality, including how these patterns form and how people differ on an individual level.

Learn more about the four major perspectives of personality, the theorist associated with each theory, and the core ideas that are central to each perspective.

Which perspective emphasizes the role that thoughts play in determining behavior?

 Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell

Psychoanalytic Perspective

The psychoanalytic perspective of personality emphasizes the importance of early childhood experiences and the unconscious mind. This perspective on personality was created by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud who believed that things hidden in the unconscious could be revealed in a number of different ways, including through dreams, free association, and slips of the tongue.

Neo-Freudian theorists, including Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and Karen Horney, believed in the importance of the unconscious but disagreed with other aspects of Freud's theories.

Major Theorists

Below are the most prominent psychoanalytic perspective theorists:

  • Sigmund Freud: Stressed the importance of early childhood events, the influence of the unconscious, and sexual instincts in the development and formation of personality.
  • Erik Erikson: Emphasized the social elements of personality development, the identity crisis, and how personality is shaped over the course of the entire lifespan.
  • Carl Jung: Focused on concepts such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, and psychological types.
  • Alfred Adler: Believed the core motive behind personality involves striving for superiority, or the desire to overcome challenges and move closer toward self-realization. This desire to achieve superiority stems from underlying feelings of inferiority that Adler believed were universal.
  • Karen Horney: Focused on the need to overcome basic anxiety, the sense of being isolated and alone in the world. She emphasized the societal and cultural factors that also play a role in personality, including the importance of the parent-child relationship.

Humanistic Perspective

The humanistic perspective of personality focuses on psychological growth, free will, and personal awareness. It takes a more positive outlook on human nature and is centered on how each person can achieve their individual potential.

Major Theorists

The following are the most influential humanistic perspective theorists:

  • Carl Rogers: Believed in the inherent goodness of people and emphasized the importance of free will and psychological growth. He suggested that the actualizing tendency is the driving force behind human behavior.
  • Abraham Maslow: Suggested that people are motivated by a hierarchy of needs. The most basic needs are centered on things necessary for life such as food and water, but as people move up the hierarchy these needs become centered on things such as esteem and self-actualization.

Trait Perspective

The trait perspective of personality is centered on identifying, describing, and measuring the specific traits that make up human personality. By understanding these traits, researchers believe they can better comprehend the differences between individuals.

Major Theorists

Below are the most important trait perspective theorists:

  • Hans Eysenck: Suggested that there are three dimensions of personality: 1) extraversion-introversion, 2) emotional stability-neuroticism, and 3) psychoticism.
  • Raymond Cattell: Identified 16 personality traits that he believed could be utilized to understand and measure individual differences in personality.
  • Robert McCrae and Paul Costa: Introduced the big five theory, which identifies five key dimensions of personality: 1) extraversion, 2) neuroticism, 3) openness to experience, 4) conscientiousness, and 5) agreeableness.

Social Cognitive Perspective

The social cognitive perspective of personality emphasizes the importance of observational learning, self-efficacy, situational influences, and cognitive processes.

Major Theorists

The main proponent of the social cognitive perspective is:

  • Albert Bandura: Emphasized the importance of social learning, or learning through observation. His theory emphasized the role of conscious thoughts including self-efficacy, or our own beliefs in our abilities.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Mcwilliams N. Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process. Guilford; 2011.

  2. Barenbaum N, Winter D. Personality. In: Freedheim D, ed. Handbook of Psychology: History of Psychology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc; 2013:198-223.

  3. Osafo hounkpatin H, Wood AM, Boyce CJ, Dunn G. An existential-humanistic view of personality change: co-occurring changes with psychological well-being in a 10 Year cohort study. Soc Indic Res. 2015;121(2):455-470. doi:10.1007/s11205-014-0648-0

  4. Rogers CR. The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. TACD Journal. 1989;17(1):53-65. doi:10.1080/1046171x.1989.12034347

  5. Kaufman SB. Self-actualizing people in the 21st century: Integration with contemporary theory and research on personality and well-being. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. November 2018. doi:10.1177/0022167818809187

  6. Fleeson W, Jayawickreme E. Whole trait theory. Journal of Research in Personality. 2015;56(0092-6566):82-92. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2014.10.009

  7. Revelle W. Hans Eysenck: Personality theorist. Personality and Individual Differences. 2016;103:32-39. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.04.007

  8. Boyle GJ, Stankov L, Martin NG, Petrides KV, Eysenck MW, Ortet G. Hans J. Eysenck and Raymond B. Cattell on intelligence and personality. Personality and Individual Differences. 2016;103:40-47. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.04.029

  9. McCrae RR, Costa Jr. P. Introduction to the empirical and theoretical status of the five-factor model of personality traits. In: Personality Disorders and the Five-Factor Model of Personality. American Psychological Association; 2013:15-27. doi:10.1037/13939-002

  10. Robinson MD, Klein RJ, Persich MR. Personality traits in action: A cognitive behavioral version of the social cognitive paradigm. Personality and Individual Differences. 2019;147:214-222. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2019.04.041

  11. Bandura A. Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective. Asian Journal of Social Psychology. 1999;2(1):21-41. doi:10.1111/1467-839x.00024

Which perspective emphasizes the role that thoughts play in determining behavior?

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

Thanks for your feedback!

The cognitive perspective emphasizes the role that thoughts play in determining behavior. The humanistic perspective stresses the human capacity for self- fulfillment and the importance of consciousness, self-awareness, and the capacity to make choices.

Which perspective emphasizes the role of the brain and nervous system in explaining behavior thoughts and emotions?

Biological Psychology The biological perspective states that all thoughts, feeling & behavior ultimately have a biological cause. It is one of the major perspectives in psychology and involves such things as studying the brain, genetics, hormones, and the immune and nervous systems.

Which psychological perspective emphasizes the role of the external environment in determining human behavior?

Today, psychologists may adopt a behavioral perspective (an approach that focuses on external, environmental influences on behavior) that focuses on external causes of behavior. It looks at how stimuli in our environment and/or the rewards and punishments we receive influence our behavior and mental processes.

Which perspective emphasizes the role of the unconscious mind in human behavior?

The Psychodynamic Perspective The psychodynamic perspective originated with the work of Sigmund Freud. This view of psychology and human behavior emphasizes the role of the unconscious mind, early childhood experiences, and interpersonal relationships to explain human behavior, as well as to treat mental illnesses.