Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Origin of Psychology

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Origin of Psychology

By definition, psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). The discipline of psychology has its roots in the study of philosophy, which is an arguably less scientific, but more ancient study of human knowledge and how we live our lives. Let’s take a look at the history, origin and development of psychology to see how it has evolved and become the modern, scientific discipline that it is today. We will also examine several major approaches to psychology.

Origin of the word ‘psychology’

The English word ‘psychology’ comes from two Latin words, psyche, and logos. Psyche originally meant ‘breath’, but was later used as a word for the soul, which was then broadened to include ‘mind’. Logos, on the other hand, began as the word for ‘word’, which then expanded to mean ‘discourse’ and ‘science’. Together, these words roughly translate to ‘science/study of the mind’.

Origin of psychology in philosophy

Psychology originated in the ancient study of philosophy, the discipline of great historical minds such as Plato and Aristotle. Early philosophers spent their time theorizing about how the world works, why we are here, and why people behave in the ways that they do. This practice, however, would not be considered scientific by today’s standards, as there were no controlled experiments or observations to test the claims of philosophers. At this point in history, the basis of some psychological schools of thought was present, but these were far from the scientific methods that we are familiar with these days.

Dualism and the origin of psychology

Renowned French philosopher René Descartes stated that contrary to popular belief at the time, the mind and body were two separate entities that make up how we experience human life. This belief in the separation of mind and body is known as dualism. It laid the foundation for the study of the mind, separate from natural sciences like biology and medicine. Descartes’ work on dualism later suggested that the mind was non-physical, a state of consciousness and self-awareness that is not purely biological. This became and remained the model within the fields of biology and medicine for around three centuries. Separating the concepts of mind and body made it clear that a study of the mind on its own was needed.

Wilhelm Wundt and introspection

The first psychological laboratory was opened by German philosopher Wilhelm Wundt, who in the mid-1800s used introspection to understand his participants’ thought processes. He was the first to introduce a scientific method for studying thought. This method was called ‘introspection’. Participants observed their own thoughts and feelings and reported back on them. Although in modern psychology we would consider this method unscientific because of subjective bias, it was very innovative for the time. Wundt’s work showed that psychology had the potential to become a valid scientific discipline.

Why was introspection considered scientific?

Although it appears to be an unscientific method by today’s standards, introspection introduced the foundations for modern methods of psychological inquiry. Wundt’s ‘introspections’ were conducted in highly controlled environments. In addition, the process participants were asked to follow was the same each time, helping to produce more accurate results.

Structuralism and the origin of psychology

The very first psychological approach (much like some modern ones: eg, Cognitive or Behavioral approaches) was called structuralism. Structuralism formed a foundation on which early psychologists based their work. Edward Titchener (a student of Wilhelm Wundt) was a structuralist psychologist who assumed that human consciousness could be broken down into smaller parts, and used Wundt’s process of introspection to understand these parts. We can see remnants of this approach in theories such as the multi-store model of memory by Atkinson and Shiffrin [cross-link to relevant article], which also suggests the existence of smaller parts of consciousness.

Other early approaches to psychology

Let us now examine the two other early approaches to psychology that followed structuralism: functionalism and psychoanalysis.

Functionalism

Functionalist psychologists, in contrast to the structuralist school of thought that was popular at the time, focused on the purpose of human thoughts and behavior, rather than the elements of consciousness themselves. This approach was popular in America and stemmed from the work of Charles Darwin, the famous evolutionist, and renowned psychologist William James, who is sometimes referred to as the father of psychology in America. This approach laid the groundwork for more modern approaches such as behavior and impacted the way we approach education and applied psychology today. Functionalism is sometimes described as the opposite of Structuralism, due not only to its focus on the purpose of our thoughts but also because it presents the mind as an entity to be studied holistically, rather than split into smaller parts.

Psychoanalysis

Early psychologist Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis to understand and treat mental disorders. He was a therapist who often studied women suffering from ‘hysteria’, which would likely be diagnosed as anxiety, depression or conversion disorder in a modern clinic. Freud claimed that, through dream analysis and allowing his clients to speak freely about their lives and feelings, he could uncover unconscious ‘repressed’ memories from early childhood trauma that were causing the symptoms of hysteria. The discipline assumed that we all have an unconscious ‘layer’ to our minds that controls most of our thoughts and behaviours. Psychoanalytic theories tend to be controversial and Their scientific validity is often questioned Because it is hard to prove or disprove the existence of an unconscious part of the brain.

Origin of Psychology - Key takeaways

  • Psychology is the study of the mind and its functions.

  • The field originated in philosophy, with roots going back to the 17th century!
  • The concept that the mind and body should be studied separately can be traced back to René Descartes’ Dualism.
  • The first psychology lab considered scientific was created by German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt.
  • In psychology, structuralism is the idea that the mind is made of small sections that come together to form our full consciousness. This was the first psychological approach.

Frequently Asked Questions about Origin of Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind, its functions, and how it affects human behaviour.

The first psychologist was Wilhelm Wundt, who studied his participant's thoughts in a controlled manner in his lab in Germany. He is often regarded as the father of psychology.

The first psychologist, Wilhelm Wundt, was born in Germany in 1832.

Psychology originated in philosophy and was first formally studied in Germany in 1879.

The English word 'psychology' comes from two Latin words, psyche, and logos. Psyche originally meant 'breath', but was later used as a word for the soul, which was then broadened to include 'mind'. Logos, on the other hand, began as the word for 'word', which then expanded to mean 'discourse' and 'science'. Together, these words roughly translate to 'science/study of the mind'.

Final Origin of Psychology Quiz

Question

Who was Wilhelm Wundt?

Show answer

Answer

The first person to be considered a psychologist, who established psychology as a separate, scientific discipline for the first time.


Show question

Question

What is introspection?


Show answer

Answer

Observing and examining your own thoughts and feelings.

Show question

Question

What is one practise associated with mental health that uses introspection?


Show answer

Answer

Mindfulness

Show question

Question

What type of therapy can benefit from the use of introspection?


Show answer

Answer

Psychodynamic

Show question

Question

Why was introspection considered scientific at the time?


Show answer

Answer

it uses standardized instructions and controlled conditions


Show question

Question

Why is introspection subject to a lot of bias?


Show answer

Answer

It is a very subjective method, and relies on the introspectionist’s own perceptions of their thoughts

Show question

Question

Why is introspection considered to have low internal validity?


Show answer

Answer

Introspection itself may influence our natural thought processes, meaning that the method may not measure what it sets out to, which would be considered low internal validity

Show question

Question

 Why is introspection considered to have low external validity?


Show answer

Answer

 The approach can only be applied to certain groups of people, meaning that results found from introspection cannot be generalized.

Show question

Question

How can introspection be applied?


Show answer

Answer

In psychotherapy or mindfulness practice.

Show question

Question

When was the first psychological laboratory founded?


Show answer

Answer

 1879


Show question

Question

Where was the first psychological laboratory founded?


Show answer

Answer

Germany

Show question

Question

 Which philosopher first proposed the idea of introspection?


Show answer

Answer

Plato

Show question

Question

When was Wilhelm Wundt born?


Show answer

Answer

1832

Show question

Question

What university did Wundt found psychology at?


Show answer

Answer

University of Leipzig


Show question

Question

What did Wundt study before psychology?


Show answer

Answer

Medicine


Show question

Question

What field did psychology emerge from?

Show answer

Answer

Philosophy

Show question

Question

When did Wilhelm Wundt establish the first psychological laboratory?


Show answer

Answer

1879

Show question

Question

Who discovered classical conditioning?


Show answer

Answer

 Ivan Pavlov


Show question

Question

What is classical conditioning?


Show answer

Answer

Classical conditioning is when an individual becomes conditioned to perform a certain behaviour when presented with stimuli that have been associated with behaviour.

Show question

Question

 What is operant conditioning?


Show answer

Answer

Operant conditioning is the process in which an individual is conditioned to maintain or cease performing a behaviour by positive and negative reinforcement.

Show question

Question

How did behaviorism advance the field of psychology as a science?


Show answer

Answer

Behaviour is explicit and can be recorded and studied more objectively than thoughts.

Show question

Question

Who created the ‘human circulation balance’ technique of brain imaging?


Show answer

Answer

Angelo Mosso

Show question

Question

How have brain scans advanced the field of psychology?


Show answer

Answer

Because now psychologists can observe and study the brain more accurately.

Show question

Question

In which model of memory can we still see the influences of philosophy on psychological theory?


Show answer

Answer

The multi store model of memory, as it is mostly based on hypothesis and theory rather than explicit data.


Show question

Question

What did structuralist psychologists believe?


Show answer

Answer

Structuralist psychologists believed that the brain was made up of many parts, similar to the way that chemists break down chemicals into their smaller components.

Show question

Question

Who developed structuralism?


Show answer

Answer

Ivan Pavlov

Show question

Question

Who developed cerebral angriography?


Show answer

Answer

 Angelo Mosso

Show question

Question

What are the modern brain scans that we use today?


Show answer

Answer

MRI, fMRI and CT scans.

Show question

Question

Who was the first psychologist?

Show answer

Answer

Wilhelm Wundt

Show question

Question

When was the first psychological lab opened?


Show answer

Answer

 1879

Show question

Question

What was the first approach in psychology called?


Show answer

Answer

Structuralism

Show question

Question

What is introspection?


Show answer

Answer

Introspection is the process of someone noting down and analyzing their own thoughts and feelings.



Show question

Question

Why was introspection considered to be scientific (for its time)?


Show answer

Answer

Introspection in Wundt's lab was carried out under controlled conditions using standardized instructions, which made it scientific.

Show question

Question

What is structuralism?


Show answer

Answer

Structuralism is a psychological approach that assumes that the mind is made up of many smaller parts that all have different purposes

Show question

Question

What is functionalism?


Show answer

Answer

Functionalism is a psychological approach that studies the functions of thoughts and behavior, rather than the parts of the mind / consciousness themselves.

Show question

Question

Who founded functionalism?


Show answer

Answer

 Willam James

Show question

Question

Who founded Structuralism?


Show answer

Answer

Wilhelm Wundt

Show question

Question

What is dualism?


Show answer

Answer

Dualism is the idea that the mind and body are separate entities.

Show question

Question

What is psychology?


Show answer

Answer

It is the study of the mind and its functions, and how these affect behavior

Show question

Question

What Greek words does the word psychology come from?


Show answer

Answer

Psyche & Logos

Show question

Question

What field of study did psychology come from?


Show answer

Answer

Philosophy

Show question

Question

What is an example in the memory topic that could be considered Structuralist?


Show answer

Answer

The Multi-Store Model of Memory

Show question

Question

Who founded Dualism?


Show answer

Answer

René Descartes

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Origin of Psychology quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.