The History of Psychology In order to discuss Psychology's history, it is important to
understand that psychology still does not have one unifying approach
unlike the natural sciences; even the definition of Psychology and
what it truly means is still undecided. However I shall attempt to
review chronologically its philosophical origins, include how the
science of Physics and Biology were placed in history and how they
influenced research and determined the development of Psychology as
its recognised today.
Beginning with the philosophers Plato and Aristotle (between 428- 347)
in ancient Greece, they began to ask questions on learning,
motivation, memory, dreaming and perception. Reluctant to measure,
Plato and Aristotle believed the truth could be discovered through
Aristotle describes his theory as “enlightenment” an idea that the
mind influences the body but the body cannot influence the mind.
This self-analytical experience is named introspection and introduces
us firstly to Structuralism and the future of Psychology.
One of the first psychology laboratories was founded in the late
1870's, by Wilhelm Wundt. He suggested that all human experience could
be viewed as simple processes based on controlled experiments of
self-observation and behaviour and this method was termed
Structuralism and the Introspection technique attempted to analyse
conscious mental experience and reduce it into elements of sensations
and feelings, i.e. thoughts, ideas, and perception.
At this time during the 19th century, physics and chemistry (natural
sciences) were developed for studying complex compounds and the
success encouraged psychologists to explore the possibility that the
mental processes could be reduced in the same way. For example, the
taste of lemonade (perception) to be a molecule of conscious
experience could be analyzed in terms of elements (sensations) i.e.
sweet, sour, cold, warm, bitter, and how it was identified by
Wundt’s structuralism was quickly abandoned because it could not be
empirically or scientifically tested, it was also criticised for
favouring deterministic structural forces over the ability of
individual people to act refusing the suggestion of freewill.
But at the end of the 19th century and lasting only 25 years
Structuralism was still seen as a historically important school of
thought and it was the movements that it developed, rather than
structuralism itself that pushed forward the progress of psychology
Functionalism as a psychology developed from the philosophy of
Pragmatism (practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing
situations or of solving problems).
William James (1842-1910)...