The Development of Psychology

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The Development of Psychology

Psychology is defined as the scientific study of behavior and the mind. This definition implies three things. The first is that psychology is a science, a field that can be studied through objective methods of observation and experimentation. The second is that it is the study of behavior, animal activity that can be observed and measured. And the third is that it is the study of the mind, the conscious and unconscious mental states that cannot be seen but inferred through observation. This modern-day definition of psychology sheds light on the history of psychology, for it only became a science in the late 19th century though psychological thought has been present since Antiquity. Previously, psychology had been studied indirectly in the fields of philosophy and physiology.

The term psychology has been around for many centuries, coming from two Greek words: psyche, which means soul, and logos, which means the study of. Before the psychology developed into a science, philosophers from as early as Ancient Greece were asking all sorts of psychological questions such as where do emotions come from, does the world we see exist in color, what is perception and what is reality? But philosophers debating these questions relied on the method of rationalism to explain these phenomena. Rationalism uses logic and reasoning to find truth. This technique is far from objective and cannot accurately determine scientific truth. Psychology also had roots in physiology, a branch of biology that studies living organisms and their parts. Physiologists would conduct studies of the brain and the nervous system to explain mental illnesses, an important area of study in the field of psychology. Physiology however, is...

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... of the most recognizable are behaviorism, which arose out of criticism of introspection as a valid research method and set out to study only behavior which could be observed directly. Edward Thorndike, Ivan Pavlov, John Watson, and B.F. Skinner influenced this new take on psychology. Other movements include humanistic psychology in the 50s and 60s, and cognitive psychology of present day.

Sources Consulted

“The Development of Psychology” : article on the history of psychology as a field of scientific study

“The Field and History of Psychology”: university class lecture on the history of psychology

A Psychology Resource Guide with links to relevant sites regarding the emergence of psychology as a science
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