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History of Psychology as a Scientific Discipline

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 3329 words Published: 6th Apr 2018

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The commencement of the history of psychology is difficult to determine, essentially for the reason that it is hard to found accurately what psychology is. Instead, we can simply point that psychology is the study of the mind and its functions particularly those disturbing comportment in a given context.[SD1]

One way to think about the olden times of psychology is to categorize the different theorists and theories into “sections” (or schools of thought). Each section is a manner of thinking about human mind and actions that actually dominated the field for a certain epoch until a new manner of considering psychology started to control the field.[SD2]

The Beginnings of Psychology

The most primitive origins of psychology are, predictably, found in the primeval cultures of Greece, Egypt, China and India. While modern psychology reveals the discipline’s rich and diverse history, the roots of psychology fluctuate considerably from present conceptions of the field. From its initial beginnings, psychology has been confronted with several questions. The initial interrogation of how to describe psychology help out to establish it as a science distinct from physiology and philosophy. Further questions that psychologists have faced all through history comprise:

  • Is psychology truly a science?
  • Should psychology emphasis on visible behaviors, or on inner cerebral processes?
  • What subjects and problems should psychology be dealing with?
  • What scientific methods should be used to study psychology?[SD3]

Psychology itself had a long history, as a topic within the fields of philosophy and physiology. The initial psychological fundamentals are deep-rooted in philosophy. While the great philosophical dissimilarity between mind and body in western believed can be originated to the Greeks, it is to the powerful work of René Descartes, French mathematics, philosopher and psychologist that we owe the concept of dualism that stated that the mind and the body were two dissimilar things that interrelate to create the human experience. Today psychology is still related with several of the fundamental philosophical enquiries that thinkers were considering many years ago such as the correlative contributions of nature vs. nurture.

Early philosophers have recourse to techniques such as observation and judgment while modern psychologists made use of scientific ways to investigate and derive conclusions about human notion and actions. Early physiology enquiry on the mind and actions had an outstanding influence on psychology, essentially giving rise to the application of scientific methods to the study of human mind and behavior. [SD4]

Psychology emerges as a separate discipline.

Psychology took so long to emanate as a research-based field because it required time to mingle. Interpreting behavior, thoughts and emotions is challenging, which may possibly demonstrate why it was basically disregarded between ancient Greek times and the 16th century.

Wundtian Psychology and Structuralism

Psychology as a research-based subject began to spring in the 1800’s. Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) is recognized with founding the first psychology laboratory in Leipzig, Germany in 1879.Generally reckoned as the father of psychology, we[SD5] might credit the founding to Wundt in 1874 when he composed his first textbook issued as “Principles of Physiological Psychology”.

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Wundt actually made use of scientific methodologies especially his primary method of research which was “introspection”. Wundt was concerned in studying the mind and conscious involvement. He maintained the point that the investigation of mindful thoughts would be the key to know the mind. His method to the enquiry of the mind was revolutionary in that it was founded on methodical and rigorous reflection, setting the groundwork for modern psychological research.”.Introspection was a practice used by investigators to term and examine their personal internal thoughts and emotions throughout a research experience

Introspection subsisted for a few times and is still used today in present neuroscience study; nevertheless many scientists slate the use of introspection for its lack of experimental approach and fairness.

Structuralism Becomes Psychology’s First School of Thought

Structuralism emerged from Wundt’s concepts. Edward B. Titchener, an English instructor who was an apprentice under Wundt’s management, elaborated upon Wundt’s ideas and used them to establish the theory of structuralism, which aim to comprehend the mind as the “sum of varying underlying parts”.

The ultimate objective was to understand the brainpower. He assumed that if the rudimentary constituents of the mind could be demarcated and classified, then the structure of mental processes and higher thinking could be resoluted.

Using Wundt’s primary method that is introspection, however with strict guidelines, Titchener’s volunteers would try to crack down their responses and reactions to the most root feelings and discernments. Structuralism was criticized because its subject of scrutiny—the conscious experience—was not simply studied with skillful experimentation. Its reliance on introspection, despite Titchener’s strict rules, was disapproved for its deficiency in authenticity. Judges claimed that self-reflection is not viable, and that introspection can provide diverse results depending on the subject. Even though the quest of structuralism mostly died with Titchener (1867-1927), he supplied a solid system of psychology which would well along be the matter and center of major alterations in psychology, resulting in a substitute approach to psychology: functionalism.

Functionalism is of great significance to the history of American psychology, for the reason that it is a system of psychology that is exclusively American. Wundtian psychology and structuralism one and the other have their origins in Germany, but functionalism is an American product.

The Functionalism of William James

American psychologist William James (1842-1910) emerges[SD6] in the mid- to late-1800s.Functionalism appeared as a response to the structuralism and was greatly influenced by the work of William James and the evolution theory of Charles Darwin. James’ approach to psychology was barely concentrated upon the structure of the mind, and more concerned with scrutinizing the manner in which the mind adjusts to altering situations and atmospheres. Functionalism also put emphasis on individual dissimilarities, which had a serious influence on educational sector. The changeover from structuralism to functionalism reveals the rapidly fluctuating times in psychology. In just a period of twenty years (1880-1900), the main principal point of psychology moved from Germany to America.

Gestalt’s Psychology

While Wundt and James were investigating with introspection, another group of psychologists were elucidating human inner thoughts and actions in a considerably altered way. Gestalt psychology is founded upon the concept that we encounter life situations as combined wholes

Gestalt psychologist like Max Wertheimer (1880–1943) attempted to survey a person’s whole experience for the reason that the way we experience the world is further than just an amassing of several perceptual involvements. Like the introspective principles, usually than the influence to particular forms of therapy and the investigation of perception, Gestalt psychology has rather slight influence on present psychology.


Behaviorism came to be a prevailing school of thought during the 1950s and had its initial start with the work of a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov. This approach set up against functionalists concepts attempted to make psychology as a more scientific field by centering only on observable behavior. It was also centered upon the work of thinkers such as: John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner.

John B. Watson strictly proclaimed war by founding a completely new method to psychology namely behaviorism. Watson is usually considered as the “father” of behaviorism:”Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select — doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”–John Watson,Behaviorism, 1930.

The term behaviorism is related to the school of psychology established by John B. Watson centered on the conviction that actions can be measured, trained, and altered. Behaviorism was recognized with the publication of Watson’s model paper “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It” (1913).Another behaviorist, B. F. Skinner (1904–1990), extended the rudimentary concepts of behaviorism to comprise the idea of reinforcement—environmental incitements that either boost or discourage some reactions. Skinner’s intellectual inspiration persisted for decades. Despite the fact that behaviorism in time eradicated its hold on psychology, the elementary ideologies of behavioral psychology are still far and wide in use today.


An Austrian physician so-called Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) reformed the face of psychology in a revolutionary way, suggesting a theory of personality that accentuated the significance of the unconscious mind. The psychoanalytic theory suggested by Sigmund Freud had an incredible influence on 20th-century beliefs, winning over the mental health sector as well as other fields comprising art, literature and popular culture. Freud assumed that the human awareness consisted of three features: the id, the ego, and the superego. A lot of Freud’s interpretations and theories were founded on clinical problems and case studies rather than empirical, scientific researches.

Freud maintained the fact that to understand human thoughts and actions correctly, we must enquire the unconscious mind over and done with dream analysis, word link, and other psychoanalytic treatment methods. This Austrian physician stated that the unconscious was that section of the human mind that consist of instincts, actions, and needs that we actually ignored of but on the other hand affect our conduct.

However, Freud’s theories altered in what way we reason about the human thoughts and actions and his contribution to psychology and culture is incontestable. Yet, in the beginnings of 1900s in the United States, Freud’s ideologies were dominated by another concept to understanding behavior called behaviorism.

Cognitive Psychology[SD9]

Cognitive psychology is the school of thought that investigates mental processes comprising how people think, perceive, remember and learn. This section of psychology is linked to other field comprising neuroscience, philosophy and linguistics.

This approach began to arise during the 1950s. One of the utmost influential theories from this school of thought was the phases of cognitive development theory suggested by Jean Piaget.Research developed to matters such as memory, problem solving, and decision making. Cognitive psychology is not up till now a system of psychology, but it is presumably the most prevalent approach in experimental psychology today

Humanistic psychology

Dissatisfaction with behaviorism and the social turmoil of the 1960s result[SD10] in humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychology was concentrated on each person’s capacity and underlined the significance of development and self-realization. The major conviction of humanistic psychology is that individuals’ are naturally good and that cerebral and communal difficulties are caused from deviances from this natural inclination.[SD11]

Referencing List

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“History of Psychology.” 123HelpMe.com.Available:http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=69704 Last accessed 27 January 2015.

Kendra cherry.The Influence of Philosophy and Physiology. Available:http://www.netplaces.com/psychology/psychology-yesterday-and-today/the-influence-of-philosophy-and-physiology.htm Last accessed 27 January 2015.

Saul McLeod. (2008). Psychology as a Science. Available: http://www.simplypsychology.org/science-psychology.html Last accessed 27 January 2015.

“Early Frameworks: Structuralism and Functionalism.” (20 Sep 2014). Boundless Psychology. Available:https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/introduction-to-psychology-1/history-of-psychology-23/early-frameworks-structuralism-and-functionalism-111-12648/ Last accessed 28 January 2015.

“History of Psychology.” 123HelpMe.com. Available: http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=69704. Last accessed 27 January 2015.

From R. Eric Landrum. Brief History of Psychology. Available: http://personal.psu.edu/faculty/a/c/acp103/PSYCH105/brief_history.htm. Department of Psychology. Boise State University. Last accessed 28 January 2015.

(Kendra cherry.Major Schools of Thought in Psychology 7 of the Major Schools of Thought inPsychology.Available:http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/schoolsthought.htm. Last accessed 28 January 2015.

Kendra cherry.The Rise of Behaviorism. Available: http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/psychistory_3.htmLast accessed 28 January 2015

Kendra cherry.What Is Behaviorism? Available:http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/f/behaviorism.htm.Last accessed 28 January 2015

Kendra cherry .Psychoanalysis.Available:http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/psychistory_2.htm Last accessed 28 January 2015

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Kendra cherry. What is Humanistic Psychoanalysis? Available:http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/psychistory_2.htm Last accessed 29 January 2015




[SD2]Good introduction.

[SD3]/do not list questions

[SD4]Could have started with this paragraph and not give so many details about greeks and Descartes.

[SD5]writing should be impersonal.

[SD6]Past tense

[SD7]Missing transition about why behaviorism came about

[SD8]Missing transition from behaviorism to psychoanlalysis. Behaviorism comes after psychodynamic approach.

[SD9]Missing transition about how the cognitive school of thought came about.

[SD10]Past tense.

[SD11]Satisfactory attempt. Intext references missing though and should have used materials from books and journal articles and not only from websites.


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