What kind of (armchair) psychologist are you? cover image

What kind of (armchair) psychologist are you?

Dorian Minors • October 9, 2015

This is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology. The idea there was to take psychological scholarship and turn it into wisdom. The Armchair Collective tries to go a little further than just psychology. As such, these articles live here in archive form, until they're updated.

I think it was visionary thinker and inspirational philosopher, Tupac Amaru Shakur, who posed the question,

who do you believe in?
Tupac And I’m now most certainly listening to that while writing this (and encourage you to do the same).

Tupac was, as he often was, searching for solace while questioning the oppression of ethnic minorities, their exploitation at the hands of the authorities and the failings of ghetto culture to promote communitarianism (no, not communism, pay attention). Essentially, Tupac was searching for leadership. Someone to look up to as the world crumbled. At the risk of belittling Tupac’s message, I’m going to now segue into the less depressing world of psychology. Psychologists also look for leadership. We’ve talked before about some of the nutty professors who (despite being completely bonkers) drove the development of our discipline through their (insanely specific) leadership. But in this article I want to talk about the seven psychological perspectives in general. Which kind of psychologist are you (and which nutty professor birthed your perspective)?


These guys were the first, starting with Sigmund Freud. They focussed on our unconscious drives and the conflicts that raged underneath our perception. They believe that our behaviour is an overt expression of unconscious motives


One of the nuttiest, John Watson, drove this train, although it was birthed from René Descartes work in the 17th Century. The most radical behaviourists focus only on our specific overt responses. Essentially they believe that the environment drives our behaviours (or the consequences of our behaviours drive them) and that our cognitions (thoughts) are less important.

I'm biased because these guys did all sorts of weird stuff to animals. I’m biased because these guys did all sorts of weird stuff to animals.


This was a movement that focused more on the person that their behaviour. Exploring the human experience and our potential, this movement was birthed by people like Abraham Maslow and (one of my favourites) Carl Rogers. These guys focused on life patterns, values and goals.


Rebelling against those ‘radical’ behaviourists, these people paid attention to our mental processes and the role of language, like Albert Bandura (Bandura for president). They study thought by inferring mental processes through our behaviours. Arguably, however, the importance of our ‘mental structures’ were considered as early as the 17th Century.


From very early on, people have understood that our mental state is influenced by our body (although early theories were pretty wacky). But some scientists prefer to stay focused on our brain and nervous system processes to understand our minds. They try to explore the biochemical basis of behaviour and mental processes. Since the development of the fMRI, we’ve been able to progress this field of study by leaps and bounds too (even exploring questions of religion).


People like David Buss have really sought to push this perspective hard into the literature and drive his point deep into the foundations of other theories. They focus on our evolved psychological adaptations, how our mental processed formed as a result of their evolved adaptive functions.

 s Dave Buss was a sex theorist, is what I’m saying.


One of the more recent (and less researched) of the perspectives. As we move toward more cross-disciplinary methods of research, we’ve noticed that the human experience can really change based on what culture you’re in (like our experience of jealousy). So, these guys focus on cross-cultural patterns of attitudes and behaviours; what is universal and what’s culture-specific in terms of the human experience.

Last word

Now, although a lot of these started with nutters who believed (against all logic) that their way was the only way, most psychologists are very clear that by using all of the perspectives, we can really have a very fine-tuned understanding of the human mind (and without all of them, we’re chasing tails and producing theories that become obsolete in, like, two or three years). But, everyone sits in a camp. So I, like Tupac, ask again; who do you believe in.

. Six glorious times. I listened six glorious times by the time I was done writing. It might have been five, but I got considerably distracted when it switched to ‘Hit ‘em Up‘ (NSFW).

Maybe you’d now be interested in the seven kinds of relationship theories (that you can use to hack your own). Or perhaps you’d be more keen to know what it looks like when two types of theory get in a fight (everyone fights about sex, what’s with that)? Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and ‘the good life’ at The Dirt Psychology.

Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.

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Dorian Minors

I mostly do brain science. Sometimes I train honeybees. I promise they're related. I made this site because there's no reason why scholars should be the only ones to own knowledge. My special interests are interpersonal relationships, the science of community, spirituality and the brain, and the neural basis of complex behaviour. I hope this stuff is as interesting to you as it is to me. You can find out more about me here.