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Brief Historical Background of psychology

Psychology has brief history as an scientific discipline though it has been studied
since ancient time under the faculty of philosophy. the word psychology was derived
from Greek word 'psyche' and 'logos' literal meaning of which was 'soul' and 'study'
respectively. The definition of psychology had ever been in the process of change
since then. the development of psychology can broadly be traced into four periods:
Ancient Greekperiod, per-modern period, modern period and current status
1. Greek period: Greek philosophers had contributed much for the development of
psychology. some of the key contributors were Socrates was interested in studying
the reincarnation of soul. soul or mind was considered as the representation of
individuals. plato, a bright student of Socrates expanded Socrates concepts in
philosophy about life and soul. it was Aristotle who wrote first book in psychology
called para psyche; About the mind or soul. in the book, he introduced the basic
ideas in psychology today, like law of association. However, the notion of
psychology was primarily related to study of soul or mind at that stage. Later on it
was found that physical existence of soul was doubtful. Also, there was controversy
in defining soul and nnd among the philosopher. The contributors of the period
never focused on the behavior of individual. that is why the attention was diverted
from the study of soul or mind
2. pre-modern period it was during 1800's that psychology was established as
an independent discipline. it was the work of Wilhelm Wundt and William James that
contributed much in the field of psychology. Wilhelm Wundt established first
psychology laboratory in Leipzig, Germany and studied different conscious
experiences in t the laboratory. wundt defined psychology as a science of
consciousness or conscious experience. he proposed the Theron called
structuralism; the school of psychology that tries to identify the basic elements of
experience and described the basic elements of experienced and describe the rules
and circumstances under which these elements combine to form mental structures.
3. Modern period: Structuralists and Functionalists were soon challenged by
behaviorists like J.B Watson Ivan Pavlov and B.F. skinner. Behaviorists proposed that
psychology should study the visible behavior which can be objectively felt and seen.
These psychologists defined psychology as the science of behavior. They considered
abstract concepts like mind and consciousness and unnecessary to study. The
definition of psychology proposed by behaviorists also had certain limitations. They
only focused on observable behaviors and ignored the role of mental processes.
Also, they undermined the role of unconscious mind and heredity in behavior. This is
why this definition was modified
4.Current Definition: As have been mentioned earlier, the definitions of
psychology proposed in different periods were not complete in highlighting the
subject matter of psychology. That is why in modern days psychology is defined as
the science of behavior and mental or cognitive processes. This definition comprises
three things: psychology is science, it studies behavior and it studies mental

Table 1.2 The Most Important Approaches (Schools) of Psychology

School of



Structuralism Uses the method of introspection to identify

the basic elements or structures of
psychological experience

Wilhelm Wundt,
Edward B. Titchener

Functionalism Attempts to understand why animals and

humans have developed the particular
psychological aspects that they currently

William James

Psychodynam Focuses on the role of our unconscious

thoughts, feelings, and memories and our
early childhood experiences in determining

Sigmund Freud,
Carl Jung, Alfred
Adler, Erik Erickson


Based on the premise that it is not possible to John B. Watson, B.

objectively study the mind, and therefore that F. Skinner
psychologists should limit their attention to
the study of behavior itself


The study of mental processes, including

perception, thinking, memory, and judgments


The study of how the social situations and the Fritz Heider, Leon
cultures in which people find themselves
Festinger, Stanley
influence thinking and behavior

Ebbinghaus, Sir
Frederic Bartlett,
Jean Piaget

Structuralism: Introspection and the Awareness of Subjective Experience

Wundts research in his laboratory in Liepzig focused on the nature of consciousness
itself. Wundt and his students believed that it was possible to analyze the basic
elements of the mind and to classify our conscious experiences scientifically. Wundt
began the field known as structuralism, a school of psychology whose goal was to
identify the basic elements or structures of psychological experience. Its goal was

to create a periodic table of the elements of sensations, similar to the periodic

table of elements that had recently been created in chemistry.
Structuralists used the method of introspection to attempt to create a map of the
elements of consciousness. Introspection involves asking research participants to
describe exactly what they experience as they work on mental tasks, such as
viewing colors, reading a page in a book, or performing a math problem. A
participant who is reading a book might report, for instance, that he saw some black
and colored straight and curved marks on a white background. In other studies the
structuralists used newly invented reaction time instruments to systematically
assess not only what the participants were thinking but how long it took them to do
so. Wundt discovered that it took people longer to report what sound they had just
heard than to simply respond that they had heard the sound. These studies marked
the first time researchers realized that there is a difference between
the sensation of a stimulus and the perception of that stimulus, and the idea of
using reaction times to study mental events has now become a mainstay of
cognitive psychology.
Perhaps the best known of the structuralists was Edward Bradford Titchener (1867
1927). Titchener was a student of Wundt who came to the United States in the late
1800s and founded a laboratory at Cornell University. In his research using
introspection, Titchener and his students claimed to have identified more than
40,000 sensations, including those relating to vision, hearing, and taste.
An important aspect of the structuralist approach was that it was rigorous and
scientific. The research marked the beginning of psychology as a science, because it
demonstrated that mental events could be quantified. But the structuralists also
discovered the limitations of introspection. Even highly trained research participants
were often unable to report on their subjective experiences. When the participants
were asked to do simple math problems, they could easily do them, but they could

not easily answer howthey did them. Thus the structuralists were the first to realize
the importance of unconscious processesthat many important aspects of human
psychology occur outside our conscious awareness, and that psychologists cannot
expect research participants to be able to accurately report on all of their

Functionalism and Evolutionary Psychology

In contrast to Wundt, who attempted to understand the nature of consciousness,
the goal of William James and the other members of the school
of functionalismwas to understand why animals and humans have developed the
particular psychological aspects that they currently possess (Hunt, 1993).



James, ones thinking was relevant only to ones behavior. As he put it in his
psychology textbook, My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my
doing (James, 1890).


James and the other members of the functionalist school were influenced by Charles
Darwins (18091882) theory of natural selection, which proposed that the physical
characteristics of animals and humans evolved because they were useful, or
functional. The functionalists believed that Darwins theory applied to psychological
characteristics too. Just as some animals have developed strong muscles to allow
them to run fast, the human brain, so functionalists thought, must have adapted to
serve a particular function in human experience.

Although functionalism no longer exists as a school of psychology, its basic

principles have been absorbed into psychology and continue to influence it in many
ways. The work of the functionalists has developed into the field of evolutionary

psychology, a branch of psychology that applies the Darwinian theory of natural

selection to human and animal behavior (Dennett, 1995; Tooby & Cosmides,


Evolutionary psychology accepts the functionalists basic assumption,

namely that many human psychological systems, including memory, emotion, and
personality, serve key adaptive functions. As we will see in the chapters to come,
evolutionary psychologists use evolutionary theory to understand many different
behaviors including romantic attraction, stereotypes and prejudice, and even the
causes of many psychological disorders.
A key component of the ideas of evolutionary psychology is fitness. Fitness refers
to the extent to which having a given characteristic helps the individual organism
survive and reproduce at a higher rate than do other members of the species who
do not have the characteristic. Fitter organisms pass on their genes more
successfully to later generations, making the characteristics that produce fitness
more likely to become part of the organisms nature than characteristics that do not
produce fitness. For example, it has been argued that the emotion of jealousy has
survived over time in men because men who experience jealousy are more fit than
men who do not. According to this idea, the experience of jealously leads men to be
more likely to protect their mates and guard against rivals, which increases their
reproductive success (Buss, 2000).


Despite its importance in psychological theorizing, evolutionary psychology also has

some limitations. One problem is that many of its predictions are extremely difficult
to test. Unlike the fossils that are used to learn about the physical evolution of
species, we cannot know which psychological characteristics our ancestors
possessed or did not possess; we can only make guesses about this. Because it is
difficult to directly test evolutionary theories, it is always possible that the
explanations we apply are made up after the fact to account for observed data
(Gould & Lewontin, 1979).


Nevertheless, the evolutionary approach is important

to psychology because it provides logical explanations for why we have many

psychological characteristics.

Psychoanalytic Psychology :
Psychoanalytic Psychology Sigmund Freud is credited with founding psychoanalytic
psychology While other early psychologists were studying the conscious mind, Freud
was studying the unconscious mind Freud believed that primitive biological urges
were in conflict with the requirements of society and morality. Freud further believed
that these unconscious motivations were responsible most human behavior. To
study unconsciousness, Freud developed the technique of free association In free
association, patients say everything that comes to mind without attempting to
make meaningful statements Patients arent supposed to edit their thoughts
Psychoanalysts :
Psychoanalysts Psychoanalyst: a psychologist who studies how unconscious motives
and conflicts determine human behavior A psychoanalyst is to be objective. They
would just sit and listen while the patient made their free associations. The analyst
would then interpret the associations Freud believed that dreams were where we
expressed our most primitive urges He used dream analysis to study dreams in the
same way he interpreted free associations Freud took extensive notes on his
patients sessions. Using these case studies he developed he theory of personality
Freud in Psychology Today :
Freud in Psychology Today Many of Freuds ideas on the unconscious remain
controversial in Psychology today Most psychologists have very strong opinions
about Freuds work Free Association is still used by psychoanalysts today as well as
intensive case studies. Case Studies: an analysis of the thoughts, feelings, beliefs,
experiences, behaviors, or problems of an individual
Behavioral Psychology :
Behavioral Psychology Russian, Ivan Pavlov created a new type of psychological
investigation known as Behavioral Psychology His most famous experiment, Pavlov
rang a tuning fork each time he gave a dog some meat powder. The dog would
normally salivate each time the powder his its mouth. As the experiment continued,
the dog would begin to salivate at the sound of the turning fork even if food didnt
appear. The dog had been conditioned to associate the sound with food.
Behavioral Psychology :
Behavioral Psychology Psychologists used this method as a way to explore human
behavior They used this method to account for behavior as the product of prior
experience This allowed them to explain how certain acts and certain differences
among individuals were the result of learning. Behavioralist are psychologists who
stressed investigating observable behavior This approach to psychology was
created by John B. Watson Watson believed psychology should only concern itself

with that which is observable facts of behavior Watson also believed that all
behavior (even instinctive) is the result of conditioning and occurs because the
appropriate stimulus is present
Behavioral Psychology :
Behavioral Psychology B.F. Skinner added to the Behavioralist perspective. Skinner
introduced the idea of reinforcement. Reinforcement is a response to a behavior
that increases the likelihood the behavior will be repeated Skinner tried to explain
how his techniques could be applied to society
Humanistic Psychology :
Humanistic Psychology Humanistic Psychology developed in reaction to behavioral
psychology Humanism came about in the 1960s from psychologists, Abraham
Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Rollo May. These humanists believed that human nature
was evolving and self-directed Unlike behavioralism and psychoanalysis, humanism
doesnt view humans as being controlled by events in the environment or by
unconscious forces. Instead the environment and other outside forces simply serve
as a background to our own internal growth Humanism emphasizes how each
person is unique and has a self-concept and potential to develop fully.
Cognitive Psychology :
Cognitive Psychology Beginning in the 1950s cognitive psychology developed with
the contributions of Jean Piaget, Noam Chomsky, and Leon Festinger Cognitivists: a
psychologist who studies how we process, store, retrieve, and use information and
how the cognitive processes influences our behavior Cognitive processes include:
thinking, language, problem solving, and creativity Cognitivists believe that
behavior is more than a response to stimulus Cognitivists believe behavior is
influenced by a variety of mental processes, including perceptions, memories and
Biological Psychology :
Biological Psychology Psychobiologists emphasize the impact of biology on our
behavior Psychobiologists study how the brain, nervous system, hormones and
genetics influence our behavior PET scans and CAT scans are the newest tools used
by psychobiologists Psychobiologists have found that genetic factors influence a
wide range of human behavior Our behavior is a result of our physiological makeup
Physiology: having to do with an organisms physical processes
Sociocultural Psychology :
Sociocultural Psychology The newest approach to psychology involves studying the
influence of cultural and ethnic similarities and differences on behavior and social
functioning Sociocultural psychology looks at how our knowledge and ways of
thinking, feeling and behaving are dependent on the culture to which we belong
Sociocultural psychologists study the attitudes, beliefs and societal norms of those
in different ethnic groups The sociocultural approach is also concerned with gender
and socioeconomic status (SES) It is believed that these factors impact human
behavior and mental processes