Psychological Perspectives for the AP® Psychology | (2023)

The one constant throughout the AP® psychology exam (and the field of psychology as a whole) is that there are many different views or perspectives on how human behavior is thought of and interpreted. Whether you're talking about Sigmund Freud or Abraham Maslow, there are a variety of different opinions about why people act the way they do.

At this point in modern psychology, the different ways of looking at human behavior have been divided into eight different perspectives: biological, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, psychodynamic, sociocultural, evolutionary, and biopsychosocial. Understanding each of these perspectives is a great way to increase your understanding of the different psychologists, theories, and disorders you need to know for the AP® Psychology exam. And the best way to do well on the AP® Psychology exam is to understand rather than just memorize. That is why we offer you a brief overview of individual psychological perspectives!

We have a more detailed explanation available for most of the listed prospects, but whether you're short on time or just need a quick overview, this list includesPsychological Perspectives for AP® Psychologywill give you what you need.

Psychological Perspectives for the AP® Psychology | (1)

biological perspective

To understand what the biological perspective (also called the neuroscientific perspective) is all about, just look at the name. Biopsychologists base their explanations of human behavior solely on an individual's biological processes. The three main causes of our thoughts and behavior from a biological perspective are our genetics, hormones, and neurotransmitters. This means that our behavior is not so much our choice as a result of our genetic background, nervous system, and immune system.

A psychologist looking at the biological perspective would explain a person's outgoing behavior as a result of their parents' genetic makeup and the subsequent effect of those genes on certain neurotransmitters in their brain.

(Video) Tips for Remembering the 7 Perspectives - AP Psychology

OurCrash Course Reviewfrom a biological point of view it offers a more detailed explanation.

behavioral perspective

Behaviorists, and the behaviorist perspective in general, rely heavily on observable behaviors and actions; Unlike other perspectives, the behavioral perspective does not pay attention to cognitive processes because they are not observable. The behaviorist perspective explains behavior through conditioning (for example,classical conditioning). Essentially, a behavioral psychologist will say that all behavior is learned.

A behavioral psychologist would explain a person's introverted behavior by what they have been rewarded or punished for in the past. Perhaps the person has been punished in the past for trying to expand her social circle, or rewarded in some way for withdrawing from social interaction. Learn more about the behavioral perspective with ourCrash Course Review.

cognitive perspective

Unlike the behavioral perspective, the cognitive perspective (as you might guess) is concerned with our cognitive processes. A cognitive psychologist views a person's behavior as the result of how the person interprets, perceives, and remembers the events and occurrences around them. Essentially, understanding a person's behavior and actions involves understanding how they process the world around them and why they process it the way it is. This theory is also heavily based on memory and perception.

For an individual with introverted behavior, a cognitive psychologist would look at how the individual interprets the social situations they find themselves in; Perhaps the individual interprets people who ask questions about her life as critical, causing them to withdraw from social interaction.

You can find a more detailed overview in thecognitive perspectivewith the crash course review on our blog.

humanist perspective

The humanist perspective was primarily inspired by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, who emphasized their psychological views on free will and individual choice. The general humanist perspective is also strongly basedMaslow's Hierarchy of Needs(Hint: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a very important theory in psychology, always expect a question about it for the AP® Psychology exam.) Essentially, this theory states that a person must meet each of the five steps or needs to reach their full potential. They are (in order) physiological needs, security needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. In general, the humanistic perspective considers human behavior as a whole and that we are in control and choose most of our behavior.

(Video) Psychological Perspectives Video

An example of how a humanistic psychologist would approach something is that they might say that an introvert chooses to limit their social circle because they discover that their needs are best met by a smaller group of friends. One criticism of this perspective is that it is difficult to verify experimentally and through the scientific method.

You can also find a more detailed view of the humanist perspective in ourCrash Course Review.

Psychodynamic Perspective

The psychodynamic (or psychoanalytic) perspective is largely based on how the past has affected an individual's psychological state. Psychologists who use this perspective believe that our subconscious (just like Freud's) controls most of our perception and behavior.

Another way to explain this perspective is that psychodynamic psychologists believe that the reason for everything an individual does has to do with something in their past. To overcome something in the present, the individual simply has to understand what happened to him in the past. This is one of the simplest perspectives, but one of the most controversial. Using the same example, a psychodynamic psychologist would explain that an introvert who limits his social interactions is due to childhood shame or fear of social interactions.

For a more detailed explanation of the psychodynamic perspective, see ourCrash Course Review.

Sociocultural perspective

For the sociocultural perspective, psychologists look at an individual's behavior based on the influence of the individual's culture. Essentially, this perspective examines how individuals interact with their social and cultural groups and how these groups affect a person's behavior. A sociocultural psychologist would view a person's introverted or extroverted behavior as a result of cultural rules of social interaction. A person may seem introverted, but in reality he follows the social norms that he has learned from her culture.

For a more detailed look at the sociocultural perspective, see ourCrash Course Review.

(Video) Psychology's Modern Perspectives

evolutionary perspective

The evolutionary perspective is based on Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. So an individual's thoughts and behaviors are based on what would give them the best chance of survival; The behaviors that offer the best chance of survival are then passed on to subsequent generations. An evolutionary psychologist would explain an extroverted behavior trait as an evolutionary advantage. If someone is outgoing and extroverted, he can find friends and allies who will protect him and increase his chances of survival.

You can find a deeper insight into the evolutionary perspective in ourCrash Course Review.

Biopsychosocial Perspective

The biopsychosocial perspective is exactly what it sounds like; It is an integrated approach that uses biological, psychological, and sociocultural perspectives to determine the causes of behavior and cognitive processes. This perspective is a much more holistic approach to understanding behavior and attributes behavior to multiple causes rather than a specific approach like the other perspectives.

A psychologist who follows this perspective would view introverted behavior as the result of genetic and biological processes, or unrealized previous experiences, or sociocultural norms, or a combination of all three.

Psychological Perspectives on the AP® Psychology Exam

Psychological Perspectives for the AP® Psychology | (2)

Understanding different psychological perspectives is very important to success on the AP® Psychology exam. The way a psychological concept, theory, or disorder is viewed comes through the lens of one of the psychological perspectives.

While a question about psychological perspectives hasn't come up in recent FRQs, it's still likely that you'll need to use one of the perspectives to refer to a particular scenario. Although the AP® Psychology History and Approaches section makes up only 2-4% of the exam, you will likely get a multiple-choice question about one of the perspectives. A multiple-choice question might look like one of these examples (found in Barron's AP® Psychology Review):

(Video) AP Psychology Unit 1 Review [Everything You NEED to Know]

1. Behaviorists explain human thought and behavior as results

  1. past conditioning
  2. unconscious behavioral impulses
  3. natural selection
  4. biological processes
  5. individual choice

2. How could a behaviorist disagree with a cognitive psychologist about the cause of aggression?

  1. A behaviorist might say that aggression is caused by memories or the way we think about aggressive behavior, while a cognitive psychologist might say that aggression is caused by repressed past experience.
  2. A behaviorist might say that aggression is behavior encouraged by our genetic code, while a cognitive psychologist might say that aggression is caused by memories or the way we think about aggressive behavior.
  3. A behaviorist might claim that aggression is caused by prior rewards for aggressive behavior, whereas a cognitive psychologist might believe that aggression is caused by an expressed desire to satisfy specific life needs.
  4. A behaviorist might say that aggression is caused by prior rewards for aggressive behavior, while a cognitive psychologist might believe that aggression is caused by memories or our way of thinking about aggressive behavior.
  5. A behaviorist would not disagree with a cognitive psychologist about aggression because they both believe that aggressive behavior is caused by the way we cognitively process certain behaviors.

The correct answer to question 1 is A, past conditioning. Behaviorists explain actions as learned behaviors based on past (operant or classical) conditioning.

The correct answer to question 2 is D. A behaviorist might say that aggression is caused by previous rewards for aggressive behavior, while a cognitive psychologist might believe that aggression is caused by memories or the way we think about aggressive behavior. . This is because a behavioral psychologist will look at why we have been rewarded or punished, whereas a cognitive psychologist will want to explain actions in terms of how we interpret our environment.


Psychological perspectives are a great way to tie together everything you've learned in psychology. For each perspective, you need to understand the basis of the point of view and how it applies to a psychological situation.

So that's it for this review of psychological perspectives for AP® Psychology! If you want to dive deeper into any of the perspectives, click on the links in each section of this article. Having difficulty with other AP® Psychology subjects? We have a series of crash course reviews designed to help you break down specific concepts before the exam.

Let's put everything into action. Try this AP® Psychology practice question:

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Take a look at our other itemsAP® Psychology.

(Video) Modern Psychological Perspectives (AP Psychology)

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