History of psychology

From ArticleWorld

The history of psychology as a science is a recent one as it is only in the late 19th century that psychology was considered worthy of being classed as such. Before that date, the study of the human mind and behaviour was considered a philosophical responsibility and is known as prescientific psychology.

Prescientific psychology

In about 1550 BC, a papyrus was written which outlined the various incantations and ointments one should apply in order to drive out demons causing, what we now know as, clinical depression. The first known use of the term ‘psychology’ was in 1590 by the German philosopher Rudolph Goclenius. Psyche means soul in Greek and so the first applications of the term probably involved religion; as a medical term it was first used by Thomas Willis in 1672 when he referred to psychology in relation to the functions of the brain.

Scientific psychology

The scientific study of psychology began with Wilhelm Wundt in 1879 when he established a laboratory in Germany to study behaviour and mental states. In 1890, the book’ Principles of Psychology’ was published by William James, who later became the first professor of psychology at Harvard University. Basic to the work of both Wundt and James was the fact that they did not study thought and behaviour from a metaphysical or religious viewpoint and so philosophy and theology were not involved and in this way, psychology became a science.

The twentieth century was a time of change for psychology. Freud’s work in the late 1800’s focused on the role of the unconscious and sexuality; to which some scientists, in the early part of the 20th century, reacted by establishing the theory of behaviourism, where the introspective work of Freud had no place. After many years, this theory, too, was found to be too limited and eventually, a middle ground was found with cognitive behaviourism.

Many other theories have been proposed including Individual psychology and Humanistic psychology.