Contemporary Theories and the Use of Drugs


In the world of psychology, there are seven perspectives in which most of the psychological research are based. Biological, Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Cognitive, Evolutionary, and Sociocultural are seven perspectives. This paper focuses on two elements of perspective, Cognitive and Behavioral approach along with evidence of research by psychologists and the use of drugs. The cognitive approach focuses on the information processability of an individual after perceiving the information and process it to obtain meaning. A Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget has successfully conducted his research on cognitive development through his theory of child development. In his theory, the growth of thinking ability of a child had been categorized into 4 stages along with age. The use of drugs in the cognitive approach is considered for cognitive enhancement. The Behavioral approach is considered as the science of study of human response to the environment excluding any internal thoughts and feelings. A famous Behaviorist B.F. Skinner conducted his research on the behavioral response theory known as Operational Conditioning. It has also been observed that the use of the drug in the behavioral approach as the response of an individual to the surroundings.

Contemporary Theories and the use of Drugs

The Cognitive approach emphasizes the ability of a human to process information and can be defined as the scientific study of the mind as an information processor. Unlike other psychological approach, psychologists believe that the cognitive approach resembles the human brain as the house for all the other mental processes. The cognitive highlights us about our ability to make decisions, objectives, and plans to achieve those goals by being more creative towards our goal. The cognitive approach implied the use of our brain to determine, perceive, remember, think and solve problems using our perception. The cognitive approach does not reflect any interference of external environmental forces like the behavioral approach but focuses on the information process. The cognitive approach questions certain human ability occurred in daily life. It studies how we process the information to get the required result by using our memory, vision, and thinking ability. It also shows how we view the information and process it. Therefore, many psychologists have adopted the cognitive approach to studying the functionalism of the brain for solving problems, storing memories as well as the existence of memories for a certain time interval. In this perspective, the human is considered as an information processor which resembles the functioning of the computer. It highlights the internal forces like the ability of mind for processing information rather than external behavioral effects.

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A Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is known for his works on cognitive approach with his theory of cognitive development received his doctorate in Natural History and Philosophy from the University of Neuchâtel before diving into the world of psychology. When he was employed at the Binet Institute, he was baffled by the wrong answers of logical questions by the children. His reasoning behind the ability of those children was the differences between the thinking of adults and children. “According to Piaget, children are born with a very basic mental structure (genetically inherited and evolved) on which all subsequent learning and knowledge are based” (Mcleod,2018). He proposed his theory of children development which included 4 stages of Cognitive Development. The first stage sensorimotor stage included children from birth to 2 years emphasized the existence of an object formed by a children’s mental representation. The second stage Preoperational stage included children from 2 to 7 years highlighted the ability to think symbolically. The third stage Concreter Operational Stage included children from 7years -11 years was considered as the milestone for children development where the children began to think logically but can’t implement things in the real world.  The fourth stage Formal Operational Stage included the children of age (11 years and Over) and the age bar where the people start to develop their thinking ability and take it further by testing logically as well as implement in the real world. His study differed the assumptions of children as less competent thinkers than adults and underlined the basic mental structure of the children at their birth.

As the Cognitive approach simply means the ability of the human mind to perceive, analyze, and process the information. The use of the drug in Cognitive development is to enhance the power of the human mind. All humans do not possess and go through the same cognitive development due to genetical inheritance and drugs are recommended by their physicians to enhance their cognitive functions. Many cognitive enhancer drugs have been approved by the Food and Drugs Administration and are widely used throughout the whole world to treat Cognitive impairment. There is no assurance to be affected with cognitive impairment, some are born within it and some tend to develop it towards their later life. Whereas the drugs are also widely used to enhance their current cognitive functions. When people tend to feel declination in their cognitive functions affecting their job performance or simply to boost their normal level of functioning, they opt to use the drugs for their benefits. Cognitive dependent jobs like air-traffic controllers, professional athlete, or any other elite jobs required a person to perform at their maximum and they prefer to use cognitive-enhancing drugs. It can be said that in this perspective, a person opts to use by their personal choice rather than peer pressure or any behavioral effects.

The Behavioral approach is the study of the psychological perspective of an individual’s behavioral response to the surrounding by environmental elements. In this perspective, psychologists believe neither thoughts nor feelings of an individual played a crucial role to define their response to it but emphasized the visible interaction with the environment. This perspective defines that the behavioral adaption made by an individual for their betterment is solely a response to their surroundings. In the words of psychologists B.F. Skinner, behavioral perspective should be all about the action of an individual rather than being concerned with their internal factors like thoughts, feelings, and goals. His belief towards this approach is that an individual response towards rewards and punishment determines their this perspective, an individual chooses to perform based on their surroundings. An individual is more likely to perform better if they are rewarded the end of their action. Whereas if they are aware of the negative consequences of their action then they are more likely to avoid it. For example, if a student is rewarded whenever they get good grades, they will study enough to perform better. Whereas, if a student is punished whenever they miss a class then they are more likely to be in class regularly. Even though psychologists consider the existence of a cognitive approach but believed that the internal factors are not observable and cannot be studied thoroughly to reach the conclusions. Therefore, in this perspective, internal factors do not influence the behavior of an individual but stimulus-response from the environment do.

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American psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner was best known for his theory of behaviorism. He received his doctorate from Harvard and worked on human behavior. He had published a novel based on his theories The Behavior of Organisms (1938) and Walden Two (1948). “According to this principle, behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated” (Mcleod 2018). The Behavior of Organisms included the results of his experiments known as operant conditioning. Operant conditioning was based on response to an environment instead of on response to stimuli. Operant conditioning experiment was based on three types of responses which interpret the behavior of a rat placed in a Skinner Box. The first response Neutral operant, a rat inside the box responded to the surrounding which diminishes the same behavior to be repeated. The second response Reinforcers, it increases the probability of a behavior being repeated. Positive reinforcers involved the placement of a hungry rat in his box, where the rat accidentally knock the lever and food was dropped beside the lever. Afterward, the rat repeated the same action after knowing the food was being awarded to its action.  Whereas for negative reinforcers, he designed the box with an electric current. Soon after the rat felt electric discomfort and knew knocking the lever would turn off the current, the rat tends to knock the lever as soon as the light came on the box. The third response Punishers defines that the punishment weakens the behavior which prevents the repetition of a behavior. His experiment concluded that the major influencing factor in human life is the surrounding rather than thoughts and emotions.

The drug use in the behavioral perspective is the sole influence of the surrounding. Some individual tends to develop using drugs to conceal their frustration and consider as an exception to punishment. The drugs releases both positive and negative effects on an individual.  If an individual believes the response from the use of the drug is more fruitful to them, they are more likely to use the drugs. If an individual felt enhancement after using drugs, they tend to get addicted. But when they learned the outcome of the drug after significant use then they avoid using the drugs afterward. As the behavioral perspective believes in the environment it can be said that if an individual learned only the positive effects of drugs after exploring the surroundings, they will be more eager to use drugs. However, if an individual was only exposed to the negative effects of drugs in their surroundings, they will avoid themselves from using it. Whereas if an individual was put up in the surrounding with the mixed effects of the drug then that individual will use the drugs and respond by either to continue or to stop using the drug after learning the effect of the drugs. Therefore, the use of the drugs in this perspective is the sole decision of an individual to minimize the behavioral factors like punishment or to maximize positive behavioral elements of self-reward of pleasure.

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