35 Theory Examples - Most Famous Theories (2023) (2023)

35 Theory Examples - Most Famous Theories (2023) (1)

A theory is a set of coherent ideas and general principles that can be used to make meaning of the world around us.

There are theories in just about every academic discipline, including the physical sciences, social sciences, and philosophy.

Below are some theory examples that present some of the most famous theories from the following disciplines:

  • Science
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Economics
  • Philosophy
  • Political Theory

Note that this is by no means a comprehensive list. Furthermore, I’ve attempted to provide single-sentence explanations of each theory for brevity’s sake, but it’s of course impossible to fully explain a theory in one sentence. So, these explanations are highly simplified.

Theory Examples

Scientific Theories

1. Evolution – The theory that all living beings (plants, animals, humans, etc.) have evolved from a common ancestor.

2. Theory of General Relativity – The theory that explains that gravity is the curvature of spacetime caused by mass and energy.

3. The Big Bang – The theory that the universe emerged from a ‘singularity’ – one infinitely hot and dense event from which all mass and energy emerged.

4. Quantum Theory – The theory that particles’ states are only determined upon observation. It demonstrates that subatomic particles exhibit both wave-like and particle-like properties and can be in multiple states or locations at the same time.

5. Many Worlds Hypothesis – If we were to follow the logic of Quantum Theory, we end up with a hypothesis that there are many parallel worlds (universes) in which particles behave differently upon observation.

6. Heliocentrism – The theory that the solar system revolves around the sun. Before this theory, it was believed that everything revolved around the earth.

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Sociological Theories

1. Conflict TheoryConflict theory sees the social world in terms of power conflict between the haves and have nots. In classical conflict theory, it explores the conflict between the capitalist class and workers.

2. Modernism – In sociology, modernism was a theoretical approach that explored capitalist and late capitalist societies by proposing that the scientific method and empiricism can help society become more efficient, wealthier, and more enlightened.

3. PostmodernismPostmodernism challenges modernism by proposing that people in power can shape how truth is understood. Historically, truth was shaped by religion. In the era of Modernism, it was shaped by scientific discourse which is more fallible than we might have first presupposed.

4. Symbolic InteractionismSymbolic interactionism proposes that language and social interactions shape how people make meaning of the world. It sees our interpretations of the world as being inherently culturally and socially mediated.

5. FunctionalismFunctionalism sees society as a series of interrelated parts that, combined, maintain social order. Like the organs in the body, each part has its on role. Some important social institutions that maintain society, according to functionalism, include families, marriage, gender roles, government, schools, and the legal system.

6. FeminismFeminism is a theory that sees the world as being fundamentally patriarchal and advocates for a breakdown of the patriarchy to achieve equality between genders and sexes. There are four waves of feminism, each with unique perspectives and goals.

7. IntersectionalityIntersectionality is a theory that critiques critical theory and feminism by highlighting how they view social conflict through just one dimension. Instead, intersectionality proposes that the social world is structured through the overlap of social categories, including race, class, gender, age, (dis)ability, and sexuality.

Psychological Theories

1. Social Learning TheorySocial learning theory proposes that people’s cognitive development is dependant upon the influential people around them. It highlights the importance of social interaction in learning.

2. Self-Determination TheorySelf-determination theory is a theory of motivation that argues humans have three key psychological needs that affect our levels of intrinsic motivation. The three needs are: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

3. BehaviorismBehaviorism proposes that people’s and animals’ behaviors are shaped by a series of rewards and punishments.

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4. ConstructivismConstructivism proposes that people ‘construct’ knowledge in their minds into packets called schema. When we come across new experiences, we engage in cognitive processes, including assimilation and accommodation, in order to achieve cognitive equilibrium.

5. Cognitive Development TheoryCognitive development theory proposes that people’s brains develop in a series of stages that correspond with biological development. According to Piaget, the linear stages are: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational.

6. Social Exchange TheorySocial exchange theory looks at social relationships as a function of simple cost-benefit analysis.

7. Psychoanalysis – Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis holds that unconscious desires influence an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In this theory, people pass through stages of internal conflict that they need to overcome in order to become a psychologically balanced adult.

Economic Theories

1. Classical Economics – Classical economics proposes that economies are most efficient when left to market forces.

2. Neoliberalism An extension of capitalism, neoliberalism advocates for the withdrawal of market regulation and promotion of market competition through policies such as deregulation and privatization.

3. Keynesian Economics – Keysianism holds that government intervention in economies can stimulate growth, decrease unemployment, and control the excessive inequalities of capitalism.

4. Monetarism – A theory that holds that the control of supply of money into the economy enables central banks to control inflation and economic growth to smooth out economic highs and lows.

5. Behavioral economics – This theory explores how individual and social behaviors affect economic behaviors. It helps policy makers to implement policies that change consumer behaviors to achieve economic goals.

Philosophical Theories

1. Stoicism – Stoicism believes in accepting what you cannot control and focussing on what you can in order to live a happy life.

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2. ExistentialismExistentialism believes that there is no inherent purpose in life, so people are burdened with having to make choices and come to their own conclusions about how to live a personally meaningful life.

3. Empiricism – Empiricism holds that knowledge fundamentally comes from experience and observation. Humans rely on the five senses and reasoning to come to their conclusions.

4. UtilitarianismUtilitarianism holds that the right and moral action is always the action that achieves the greatest happiness for the most number of people.

5. Determinism – Determinism refers to the idea that future events have been determined by past actions and we cannot control our own fate.

6. Humanism – Humanism holds that human flourishing on this earth is the most important goal of life. It advocates for human rights and a focus on individual happiness above all else.

Political Theories

1. Republicanism – A theory that societies should be self-governing. It arose as a response to monarchism and generally advocates for representative democracy.

2. Monarchism – A theory that societies are best served when a benevolent dictator is in charge. They are given their title by birthright. While absolute monarchy is seemingly absurd in the 21st Century, it’s still believed by many countries with a constitutional monarchy that a monarch with limited powers ensures political stability.

3. Communism – The theory that holds that the means of production should be held by the government as the representative of the people and the ideal society is classless with equal distribution of resources.

4. Libertarianism – The theory that sovereign individuals should not be told what to do and government should not have the right to tell people how to live their lives or take money from individual through taxation.

5. Third Way – The third way political theory advocates for a centrist model that takes the best of both capitalism and socialism to create a society that balances individual rights and community needs.

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Theories are very useful in helping us to make sense of the world around us. They’re often changing and evolving, and that’s the amazing strength of science and academic knowledge. Nevertheless, many of the above theories such as heliocentrism have been more-or-less static for centuries. While we still call it a theory, it’s now unfalsifiable that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around!

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.


What are theories and models? ›

Theories are plausible explanatory propositions devised to link possible causes to their effects. Generally, models are schematic representations of reality or of one's view of a possible world, constructed to improve one's understanding about the world and/or to make predictions.

What is the difference between the usage of the word theory in daily life and in science? ›

In everyday use, the word "theory" often means an untested hunch, or a guess without supporting evidence. But for scientists, a theory has nearly the opposite meaning. A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts.

What are 7 theories? ›

The seven theories covered in Stevenson's book include: Plato, Christianity, Marx, Freud, Sartre, Skinner, and Lorenz. Other theories such as Aristole, Kant, and Hume are mentioned but not covered in any amount of detail.

What are the 4 major theories? ›

Four Major Sociological Theories. The four main theoretical perspectives are symbolic interactionism theory, social conflict theory, structural-functional theory, and feminist theory.

What are some examples of theory? ›

Examples include:
  • Physics: the big bang theory, atomic theory, theory of relativity, quantum field theory.
  • Biology: the theory of evolution, cell theory, dual inheritance theory.
  • Chemistry: the kinetic theory of gases, valence bond theory, Lewis theory, molecular orbital theory.
  • Geology: plate tectonics theory.
Aug 5, 2019

What are 3 examples of scientific theories? ›

the meaning of the statement, ''theories are the bedrock of our understanding of nature''.
  • The Theory of Evolution. The theory of evolution by natural selection is a scientific theory. ...
  • The Cell Theory. The cell theory is another important scientific theory of biology. ...
  • The Germ Theory.
Dec 15, 2021

What is an example of a theory? ›

An example of a theory is Albert Einstein's general relativity theory, which describes the law of gravitation and its relationship to other natural forces. A theory occurs after individuals discover results in an experiment.

What are the 8 scientific theories? ›

  • Big Bang Theory.
  • Hubble's Law of Cosmic Expansion.
  • Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion.
  • Universal Law of Gravitation.
  • Newton's Laws of Motion.
  • Laws of Thermodynamics.
  • Archimedes' Buoyancy Principle.
  • Evolution and Natural Selection.

What are the five theories? ›

At a glance. There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism.

What are the 8 theories? ›

All theories of globalization have been put hereunder in eight categories: liberalism, political realism, Marxism, constructivism, postmodernism, feminism , Trans-formationalism and eclecticism.

Who is most famous theory? ›

Top 18 Personality Theorists Including Freud and More
Top Personality TheoristsTheory
Erik EriksonPsychosocial
Carl RogersPsychosocial
John WatsonBehavioral
Ivan PavlovBehavioral
14 more rows

What is the most successful theory? ›

The Standard Model of particle physics is the most successful scientific theory of all time. In this explainer, Cambridge University physicist David Tong recreates the model, piece by piece, to provide some intuition for how the fundamental building blocks of our universe fit together.

What is the most important theory in the world? ›

The Big Bang remains the preferred theory of many scientists, supported by two key observations — the expansion of the universe and the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Immediately after the Big Bang, the universe was much smaller and hotter, filled with a glowing plasma like the sun.

What are simple theories? ›

Simple theories are defined to be complete theories without. the tree property (see below). They form a subclass of theories without the strict order. property and include stable theories. The prototypical example of a simple unstable.

What are the six major theories? ›

The six Grand Theories in Psychology are: Psychoanalysis, Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Ecological, Humanism, and Evolutionary. The theorists of the well-known theories are (Freud, Erickson), (Watson, Skinner), (Piaget, Vygotsky), (Bronfenbrenner), (Rogers, Maslow), (Lorenz).

What is an example of an everyday theory? ›

For example, we may have the lay theory that “old dogs can't learn new tricks” (i.e., you're stuck with the knowledge you have), or in contrast, “you can always turn over a new leaf” (i.e., people can develop and improve).

What is a famous scientific theory? ›

Heliocentrism: Copernicus, 1543. One of the greatest insights ever, conceived by some ancient Greeks but established only two millennia later: the Earth revolves around the sun (as do other planets). It's Number 1 because it was the first.

What are famous scientific theories? ›

Some theories are so well-established that they are unlikely ever to be fundamentally changed (for example, scientific theories such as evolution, heliocentric theory, cell theory, theory of plate tectonics, germ theory of disease, etc.).

What is a good scientific theory? ›

Characteristics of a good theory

Theories are concise, coherent, systematic, predictive, and broadly applicable, often integrating and generalizing many hypotheses." According to Columbia University emeritus professor of philosophy Philip Kitcher, a good scientific theory has three characteristics.

Is gravity a theory or a fact? ›

Universal Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding the natural law of attraction.

What types of theories are there? ›

There are five major theories, also called grand theories. These are Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Cognitive, and Biological. Psychodynamic theories, popularized by Sigmund Freud, focus on the unconscious mind and its drives as a motivator for human behavior.

What are two scientific theories? ›

The Modern Atomic Theory. The Cell Theory. The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. These are all classic scientific theories.

What are the 4 types of models? ›

9 types of modelling explained
  • Runway models. A runway model works most commonly on the catwalk, which is the runway at fashion shows where designers showcase their work, such as a new clothing line. ...
  • Fashion/editorial models. ...
  • Commercial models. ...
  • Photographers. ...
  • Textile designers.
Nov 30, 2021

Whats is a model? ›

: a person or thing that serves as a pattern for an artist. especially : one who poses for an artist. His wife served as the model for many of his paintings.

What is the example of model? ›

Modeling means learning by copying the behavior of someone else. Humans naturally model each other – for example, children use modeling to learn how to use utensils or tie their shoes. The definition of modeling in psychology means purposely changing a behavior in order to improve your mindset and achieve your goals.

What are the 3 types of theory? ›

According to Seidman, the three types of theorizing are scientific, philosophic, and moral. Scientific theorizing, also called the positivistic tradition as this refers to the use of the scientific method in order to study society, is used to describe social phenomena and behavior.

What are 3 scientific theories? ›

the meaning of the statement, ''theories are the bedrock of our understanding of nature''.
  • The Theory of Evolution. The theory of evolution by natural selection is a scientific theory. ...
  • The Cell Theory. The cell theory is another important scientific theory of biology. ...
  • The Germ Theory.
Dec 15, 2021

Can a 5 feet girl be a model? ›

The standard height requirement for a female fashion model is 5 feet and 9 inches to 6 feet. For men, the required height is 5 feet and 11 inches to 6 feet and 3 inches.

What is a 4D model? ›

A 4D model combines a three-dimensional (3D) model with a project schedule to create a simulation of construction activities.

What are the 13 types of models? ›

13 Types of Models
  • High fashion (Editorial) Models. Models who work in the fashion industry are often known as editorial models. ...
  • Fashion (Catalogue) Models. ...
  • Commercial Models. ...
  • Mature Models. ...
  • Promotional Models. ...
  • Parts Models. ...
  • Fit Models. ...
  • Fitness Models.

Can I be a bra model? ›

The qualifications that you need to work as a lingerie model include modeling or acting skills, a modeling portfolio, and experience doing photoshoots or walking a runway. You should build a portfolio featuring your past work to approach agencies. Most models start their careers without going to modeling school.

Can you model as a kid? ›

While there is no set age a child should start modeling, the more experience the better—and some agencies accept babies as young as three months old. No matter their age or experience level, your child's interest in modeling is the most significant factor.

How can a girl be a model? ›

9 Tips for Becoming a Model
  1. Recognize your strengths. Being a model involves hyperfocus around your appearance. ...
  2. Understand the duties of the job. ...
  3. Take care of your appearance. ...
  4. Get headshots. ...
  5. Create a portfolio. ...
  6. Find a modeling agency that fits your brand. ...
  7. Try a modeling school. ...
  8. Look for open casting calls.
Sep 7, 2022

What are the 5 types of models? ›

Here are the top 10
  • Fashion (Editorial) Model. These models are the faces you see in high fashion magazines such as Vogue and Elle. ...
  • Runway Model. ...
  • Swimsuit & Lingerie Model. ...
  • Commercial Model. ...
  • Fitness Model. ...
  • Parts Model. ...
  • Fit Model. ...
  • Promotional Model.
Oct 25, 2021

What are 2 basic types of models? ›

Modeling & Simulation
  • Physical: A physical model is a model whose physical characteristics resemble the physical characteristics of the system being modeled. ...
  • Mathematical: A mathematical model is a symbolic model whose properties are expressed in mathematical symbols and relationships.


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