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Traditional Psychology

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Abstract

This chapter details the theoretical research evidence for coaching from traditional behavioural, cognitive, developmental, humanistic, personality, and social psychology perspectives, and addresses how the findings are applied to contemporary coaching practice. Psychology is the study of human behaviour and motivation. The word psychology is derived from the Greek word psyche, meaning ‘soul’ or ‘mind’. Traditional psychologists research factors that influence human thinking and behaviour such as perception, cognition, attention, mental processing, intelligence, personality, emotions, and motivation. They attempt to understand the mental processes by which individuals take in information from the external world, integrate that information with what they already know to make sense of it, and consequently react or respond. This is the process by which people learn, function, and adapt to various situations that occur in their lives.

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Appendix 1: Summary of Psychodynamic and Educational Underpinnings of Coaching

Appendix 1: Summary of Psychodynamic and Educational Underpinnings of Coaching

Theory and exponents

Description

Behavioural theories

Law of effect [28]

Thorndike found that when a stimulus results in a satisfying response, the stimulus is likely to be repeated.

Classical conditioning (stimulus-response) theory [2]

Pavlov’s research on conditioned reflexes influenced the rise of behaviourism in psychology. His experimental methods helped move psychology away from introspection and subjective assessments to objective measurement of behaviour.

Observation of human behaviours Watson [3]

Watson is often referred to as the father of behaviourism. His focus on observable behaviours and objectivity had a strong influence on psychology. The behavioural perspective dominated the field during the first half of the twentieth century.

Operant conditioning [4]

Skinner discovered that one reinforcement of an arbitrary response is enough to develop a conditioned response. Intermittent reinforcement continues to shape the behaviour. His behaviour modification and intervention techniques are used to change problem behaviours or reinforce new ones.

Cognitive theories

Cognitive based therapy [29, 30]

Cognitive based therapy (CBT) is short-term and focused on helping the client identify limiting beliefs which are holding them back from achieving their goals.

Rational emotive behavioural therapy [6, 31]

Rational emotive behavioural therapy (REBT) is an action-oriented approach to addressing thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that are unhelpful to the client and can create self-sabotaging routines.

Goal-setting theory [32,33,34]

Goals which are specific, measurable, time-bound, and relevant are more likely to be achieved than those which are not. Self-efficacy is a supportive precursor to achieving difficult goals.

Goal-oriented, solution-focused coaching [35, 36]

Goal-oriented coaching uses cognitive reframing to convert negative thoughts into positive goals to be achieved.

Solution-focused coaching aims to accurately identify the problem and quickly conceive of possible solutions to it. It is a collaborative, future-focused approach to return the client into taking control of their life.

Developmental theories

Education [37]

Dewey’s emphasis on progressive education has greatly contributed to the use of experimentation rather than an authoritarian approach to learning. His theory links the mind and body via primary and secondary experiential learning.

Cognitive development theory [13]

Piaget was one of the first researchers to suggest that children think differently from adults, a concept that was considered revolutionary at the time. He believed that development of the structures of the brain is key to the ability to accomplish tasks.

Psychosocial development [26]

Erik Erikson’s stage theory of psychosocial development helped generate interest and inspire research on human development through the lifespan including events of childhood, adulthood, and old age, reinforcing the influence of parents, family, social institutions, and a particular culture.

Experiential learning [38]

Adults learn by a four-stage, experiential process of doing, reflecting, theorising, and refining actions. Kolb described four distinct learning styles, based on the four-stage learning cycle.

Adult learning theory [39,40,41]

Core andragogical principles include the learner’s need to know, self-directed learning, prior experiences of the learner, readiness to learn, orientation to learning and problem-solving, and motivation to learn.

Transformative theory of adult learning [42,43,44]

Critical self-reflection stimulates shifts in thinking which prompt action.

Transformative learning changes perspectives to make them more open, inclusive, and discriminating.

Motivation [45], self-theory [46], implicit person theory [47], and mindset theory [48]

Variations in students’ engagement, persistence, and achievement can be attributed to whether they view their intelligence (ability) to be fixed or malleable.

A positive mental mindset influences what people believe they can do rather than what they cannot do.

Motivational theories

Need hierarchy theory [19, 20]

Maslow is best known as the founder of humanistic psychology. His Hierarchy of Needs and concepts of self-actualisation and peak experiences remain influential to this day, especially in the field of positive psychology.

Human motivation theory [49]

McClelland proposed that every person is primarily motivated by one of three drivers: n-ach (achievement), n-affil (affiliation), or n-pow (power). McClelland believed that most people possess and exhibit a combination of these characteristics.

Two-factor theory [50]

Hertzberg identified two major factors affecting job satisfaction and dissatisfaction which he called hygiene factors (e.g. status, job security, salary, and fringe benefits—which do not contribute to employee satisfaction at work); and motivator factors (e.g. challenging work, recognition, responsibility—which lead to positive satisfaction with work).

Theory X & Y [51]

McGregor proposed that managers relate and behave in different ways to their employees depending on whether they believe the employee dislikes work and won’t accept responsibility (Theory X) or is self-motivated, likes work, and assumes responsibility for their work (Theory Y).

ERG need theory [52]

Alderfer proposed a threefold conceptualisation of human needs—existence, relatedness, and growth (E.R.G.)—which, contrary to Maslow’s hierarchy, does not assume satisfaction of lower-order needs before achieving self-actualisation.

Expectancy theory [53]

There are three components of this theory: valence, the value a person places on achieving a specific outcome (positive or negative); expectancy, a person’s subjective, bipolar probability estimate that their action will, or will not, be followed by an outcome; and instrumentality, the person’s perception of the probability that their performance will lead to a specific outcome if they behave in a certain way.

Equity theory [54]

Adams proposed that people attempt to maintain fairness by comparing their inputs and outputs with that of others performing the same action. As long as the ratio between their inputs and outputs is equal to that of others, individuals will perceive the situation to be fair.

Personality theories

Personality theory [18]

Jung developed a typology of personality functions or attitudes which was later adapted to construct the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) [22].

Personality psychology [55]

Allport was one of the founding figures of personality psychology. He developed a trait theory of personality that described three broad categories of personality traits.

Personality factors [56]

Cattell is best known for his use of multivariate analysis and his 16-factor questionnaire which has been widely used in career coaching.

Humanistic theories

Analytical psychology [17]

Jung broke away from Freudian psychology to develop the concepts of individuation, archetypes, and the collective unconscious.

Self-psychology [57]

Karen Horney was a prominent psychoanalyst best-known for her theories on neurosis, feminism, and self-psychology which includes concepts of self-confidence and personal assets (autonomous convictions, self-reliance, realistic appraisal of and assuming responsibility for self, having strength and capacity for feelings, and establishing good human relationships).

Individual psychology [58]

Adler’s research investigated areas such as the creative self, lifestyle, family constellation, and social and community interest. His concepts included horizontal interpersonal communication, reasonable cooperation, unconditional respect for the individual as a member of a democratic society, and social equality.

Client-centred theory [15, 16]

Rogers was one of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century. He developed the non-directive, client-centred approach to counselling and therapy in non-medical settings, and founded the professional counselling movement.

Social theories

Sociocultural theory [59, 60]

Vygotsky is the founder of sociocultural theory. He researched the relationship between learning and development in general, and special education populations. He studied the interaction of the natural, individual, and social forces leading to mind consciousness and how humans make meaning from their environment. His concepts of the zone of proximal development and guided practice continue to be highly influential in educational settings.

Social psychology [61,62,63]

Kurt Lewin is often referred to as the father of modern social psychology. His pioneering theories argued that behaviour is caused by both personal characteristics and the environment. Lewin’s emphasis on scientific methodology and systematic in-depth study of concrete examples had an enormous impact on future research in social psychology.

Social pressure [64,65,66]

Asch’s conformity experiments demonstrated that people will claim that something is correct when it obviously is not due to social pressure from peers. Asch also had an important influence on psychologist Stanley Milgram, whose obedience experiments were inspired by Asch’s work.

Social comparison theory [67]

Cognitive dissonance theory [68, 69]

Festinger was an influential social psychologist who is well-known for his Social Comparison theory as well as his theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person simultaneously holds two or more elements of knowledge that are relevant to each other but inconsistent. Indecision results.

Psychological modelling [70], social learning theory [71], self-efficacy [72, 73]

Social Learning theory posits that all learning takes place in a social setting, e.g. school, work, or family environment. Learning takes place by inspection of the situation and observation of models. Bandura is a known for his famous ‘Bobo doll’ experiment in which children were exposed to violent role models whose behaviour they emulated, especially when it was modelled by a same-sex adult. He introduced the concept of self-efficacy to describe the inner belief in oneself that one could perform a task, especially a difficult task, to achieve a specific goal.

Social cognitive theory [74,75,76,77]

Bandura’s work is considered part of the cognitive revolution in psychology that began in the late 1960s. His theories have had tremendous impact on personality psychology, cognitive psychology, education, and therapy. Dweck’s theory applies to motivation and personality as precursors of goal achievement. Mizokawa and Koyasu investigated social relationships and emotional competence from a social cognitive perspective.

Social modelling [78]

Zimbardo conducted a famous experiment during the early 1970s known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. He is also widely recognised for his research on shyness, cult behaviour, and heroism.

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Knowles, S. (2021). Traditional Psychology. In: Positive Psychology Coaching. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-88995-1_2

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