Understanding Psychology has come from three different backgrounds, philosophy, psychology, and biology. While one may think that psychology is a new science, it truly dates back to Greek Philosophers. Once can trace its roots to two different human behaviors. Philosophy is the exploring and understanding of several facets of ‘nature’ in the world. Introspection is what philosophy is all about. Basically reflecting on one’s ideas and inner experiences is how one can put into layman’s terms the real definition of philosophy. The other field that incorporates psychology, is physiology, this is a subcategory of biology. William Wundt who was the father of psychology really was a physiologist. Physiologists seek enlightenment from observation also known as empiricism.
Two very famous historical classmates of Hippocrates were Plato and Aristotle. Both believed that the mind was within the body. Oddly though, both placed them in two different regions in the body. Plato stated it was in the brain, and Aristotle said it was in the heart. The two of them impacted psychology by the relationship of the mind and the body; the use of observation by way of discovering the truth; and what is the original source of our ideas (Sternberg, 1998). While their views were slightly different with regard to the nature of reality, they played a pivotal role in psychology as it is known today.
Later in the Sixteenth through the nineteenth century, Rene’ Descartes, John Locke and Immanuel Kant continued to mold modern day psychology. Rene’ was a French mathematician and philosopher who embraced Plato’s views on introspection and reflection which he felt were superior to observation. John Locke was an Englishman that thought that the collaboration between mind and body. He also was what is defined as an empiricist, which is a human is born without knowledge. This is how his term blank slate first came about. Life experiences get written on the tablets and thus how we become who we are. Immanuel Kant the latest of the philosophers, tried to create a viewpoint between dualism versus monism and empiricism versus rationalism. Kant retrained the psychological field to rethink the mind-body question by inquiring how the mind and body are related over the mind being in control. Kant thought that most humans had some mental powers such as senses, understanding and reasoning. This is where the link between the mind and body comes in. During the nineteenth century, for the first time, science and philosophy worked hand in hand that set the stage for psychology to be its own separate discipline by the late 1800’s.
Some chronological events that led to modern day psychology are Socrates saying “Know Thyself” which is what Psychology aims to help do. In 387 BC, Plato commended the brain was a mechanism for the mental processes. In 335 BC, Aristotle suggested that the heart was a mechanism for mental processes. Franz Mesmer detailed his cure for mental illness in 1774 later to be known as hypnosis. 1793 there was a massive movement for more humane treatment of the mentally ill, suggested by Philippe Pinel. Darwin’s publication of “Origin of the Species” explicitly expanded on the survival of the fittest back in 1859. The first laboratory founded by Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig in Germany. The very famous Johns Hopkins University was established in 1883 this had the first psychology laboratory in it.
The first school of thought was structuralism. The basic goal here was to study one’s consciousness by focusing on the smallest parts like perception, sensation and affection. The basic method was to school the patients in an attempt to observe one’s own conscious experiences (Whiten, 2004). As psychology grew, a student of Wundt’s Edward Titchener started the first school of thought. His thought was that the human consciousness was sub-categorized even smaller than once originally thought. His processes would attempt to break down reactions and sensations of patients. This was very limited and unreliable thus when he died in August 1927 it went to the grave with him.
Some later developments that effected psychology were behaviorism, gestalt theory, psychoanalysis, humanism and the concave theory. John Watson was a psychologist who molded the focus of psychology. He thought that the study of the conscious was to objective. Internal mental processes should not be studied, but instead observed this became movement known as behaviorism. Behaviorism took a nice foothold in America and became the lead in school teachings for little less than a half a century. Gestalt Theory came from Max Wertheimer’s research into what he called illusion of movement (History of Psychology, 2010). A good example of this is a movie seen on TV. Continuous movement from flashing frames of light. Basically this theory consisted of that any psychological wonder should be studied holistically and not broken down but researched as a whole. The next movement that took place in Europe was from Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis as they say revolutionized the science of psychology. While Freud’s theory was detailed the main idea was that the unconscious is responsible for thought and behavior in humans. While he was a radical of his day, many of his ideas are believed by psychologists today. Humanism became a part of psychology in the 1950’s. Some felt that the psychoanalytic theory and behaviorism was brutalizing so they took on a name more humane. Humanists, alleged that humans were inherently good and that their mental processes played a role in their behavior. Things like free will and emotions are all key in humanism. The latest movement called cognitive theory surfaced in the 1970’s. It was more objective than humanism, but different than behaviorism. Its focus was all mental processes. Basically, we humans take information from our environment, and process it mentally. Processing it entails organizing it, manipulating it, and then storing it in memory. Cognitive theorist, take the ideas, language, memory and apply it to their ideas.
Psychology is a formal discipline well rich in over a hundred years learning, growing and molding. Psychologists use thoughts from Plato, Franz Mesmer, Phineas Gage, Darwin and Freud to study where we are going in this science. Learning from the past, adapting and growing to our future will lead us to be cornerstone makers in our time.
History of Psychology. (2010, August 25). Retrieved February 7, 2011, from Oracle Think Quest: http://library.thinkquest.org/C005870/history/index.php?id=historyp1
Goodwin, C. J. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. .
Sternberg, R. J. (1998). Search of the Human Mind. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace.
Whiten, W. (2004). Psychology Themes anv Variations. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.