Important Questions in Psychology and the Challenges to the field of Study

  1. Nature and Nurture Relationship or Interdependence: This is one of the most crucial areas of the Psychologists ever since the studies on Psychology as a specialized subject have been undertaken. Extensive research studies are still going on to understand the relationship between genes and the environmental factors for analyzing the reasons for behavioural differences in individuals and how they adapt with the environment. Many scientists and thinkers agree on the fact that both genes and environment play a vital role in influencing human behaviour. Still, as per Harris (1998) & Pinker (2002), a lot needs to be learnt about how nature (our biological framework) and nurture (our lifetime experiences) work together. Researches reveal that the proportion of the observable variations in characteristics (in terms of intelligence, height, etc) among people is due to the genetic variations, which is also described as heritability of the characteristics. The question of association or the relationship between nature and nurture is quite complex and very difficult to answer.
  2. Determinism versus Free Will: This question is concerned about up to what extent people can exercise control over their own behaviour or actions. Psychologists have been concerned about understanding the influence of environmental factors on our behaviour which is guided by those forces which is beyond our control or whether we choose our behaviour in which we may want to indulge. Many of us might have a preference for free will, which means freedom to do whatever one might want to do, which is not practicable. But, recent researches reveal that we cannot completely control our behaviour, the way we may think or might want to change (Wegner, 2002). Behaviour is a product of various environmental factors and genetic factors.
  3. Accuracy and Inaccuracy Relationship: The question attempts to find out the answer for the relationship between inaccurate and accurate decision making capabilities of human being. Psychologists attempt to analyze up to what extent human brains can act as a processor of information and how efficiently can a human brain plan or implement efficient decisions (Fiske, 2003). But, the reality is different and the human brain is far from being perfect because our thinking style is governed by our perception of the world around us, our emotions and motivation. Hence, our decisions may be subjected to inaccuracies and ruled by the influence of our perceptual biases.
  4. Unconscious and Conscious Processing: The Conscious and unconscious aspects of human brain, behavioural differences and psychological patterns have been described in Freud’s Psychodynamic theory to a very great extent. Even contemporary research on cognitive psychology, equally highlight that our behaviour to a great extent is governed by various variables which may not be evident and about which we have least awareness.
  5. Similarities versus Differences: Psychologists since several years have been researching on analyzing the psychological and personality similarities and differences between men and women. The question of similarities and differences in ethnicities, region or culture and the behaviour of people across the world have also been analyzed. Cross-cultural psychologists, personality and social psychologists attempt to address the questions related to the impact of environment or background of people on their behaviour.

Challenges to the Field of Psychology

  • Psychology is a complex field of study. According to Wilson (1998), Psychologists are faced with the challenge of understanding and treating various psychological disorders like depression, hysteria and many others, because studying these psychological issues is extremely complex.
  • The study of psychology aims at predicting and understanding the causes of differences in human behaviour. Since, the study is based on predictions which may be accurate or inaccurate, understanding human behaviour is extremely difficult because of the personality differences of people, as a result of which they react differently to different situations. These individual differences are based on psychological or physical dimensions. For example, some individuals may suffer from depression for no evident reason, whereas there may be many who in spite of facing traumatic or extremely adverse events in their life might carry on smoothly without being depressed.

    These differences in the behaviour of individuals are due to the differences in the variables that influence human behaviour which cannot be predicted certainly but just the probabilities can be derived. For example, individuals who score high on IQ test are expected to perform better on an average than those who score low in the IQ test, but the prediction may not be accurate in real sense in explaining exactly how effectively a person will be able to perform.

  • Human behaviour is affected by multiple factors which are interdependent on each other and tend to overlap, as a result of which it is literally difficult to ascertain or analyze the cause of behaviour. For example, a lot of people may be depressed due to biological reasons resulting in an imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain. This depression may make them behave negatively with the outside world, which in turn may compel people to react negatively towards them and make them further depressed. Here, we can see how biological factors get intertwined with the social factors in influencing a person’s behaviour or psychological condition, as a result of which it may be difficult to assess the specific cause of behaviour.
  • Another complex challenge of psychology is that human behaviour to a very great extent is an outcome of factors which are not within our control or beyond the purview of our conscious mind, which makes it really difficult for the individuals to understand it. Studies performed by Austrian Neurologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), reveal that unconscious processes are the real cause of most of the psychological issues or disorders, which remain in our memory in repressed state and is not known to us under normal conditions. Current researches equally support Freud’s work and acknowledged the importance of unconscious factors in influencing human behaviour.

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