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History of Psychology Essay

Despite being an old field of study, psychology is said to have a brief history (Klemm, 2008). Scanning through the history of psychology presents a complexity due to the changing philosophical views characteristic of early psychologists. The evolution of psychology to formal discipline is relatively a new move dating back to the 19th century. In the Western tradition in particular, the late 19th century psychologist greatly influence to psychology as a discipline and laid down the basis for development of the science of psychology.

Development of modern psychology The field of medicine and physiology seemed to have paved way for the later development of psychology as a discipline. The works of physicians such as Acmaeon of Croton who had a Pythagorean philosophy related the brain as the center where thought and perception are processed. Acmaeon postulated that every sense organ is has connections to the brain. During 460 BC, Hippocrates came into the scene and disapproved that epilepsy was a demonic possession and instead related this to be a brain pathology inherited along the family line.

Such research reflected on the brain as a cause of certain behaviors but there were no empirical studies to prove this (Boeree, 2010). Psychology at this time was therefore not clearly defined as a discipline until mid to late 1800s. In the late 17th century, psychology was gaining popularity in the West and this was to become the beginning of modern psychology which has a scientific perspective. The first psychology laboratory was established in 1875 by Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig, Germany.

This was the establishment that founded psychology as a modern scientific discipline paving way for the development of psychology as a scientific discipline. Wundt upheld that the physical and mental aspects of human beings were interrelated in that each had its opposite counterpart. As Wundt was setting up his laboratory in Leipzig in 1875, William James was also instituting a similar laboratory at Harvard thus making Wundt and James be regarded as the fathers of modern psychology. Wundt carried out various studies on sensation as well as perception and in 1879 he supervised a graduate student in psychology.

Later on in 1881, Wundnt established the Philosophische Studien journal. His establishment of the “Institute for Experimental Psychology” was a notable step forwards towards enhancing psychology as a discipline (Boeree, 2010, para 34). William James is traced as the first American psychologist having born in New York in 1842. Through interacting with other psychologists such as Wundt while in Germany, James would later return to the U. S. and while teaching physiological psychology at Harvard in 1875, he established a psychology lab.

Among the philosophers whom James interacted with at Harvard thus influencing his views on psychology included Charles Peirce and Chauncey Wright. Pierce was of the Kant’s philosophy of truth can never be known whereas Wright upheld the idea that behavior was shaped by beliefs as well as survival for the fittest. James’ publications on psychology in the late 1800s and his rise to a professor of psychology established him more to influence modern psychology. For instance, his 1889 text book on The Principles of Psychology was a good foundation on psychology (Boeree, 2010).

Two schools of thought propagated by both Wundt and James were to emerge as the pillars of psychology’s school of thought: structuralism and functionalism. While James propagated functionalism, Wundt mainly influence the structuralism school of thought. The functionalism idea was that consciousness is a dynamically changing aspect of human life. Functionalism was looking into how adaptation to the environment depends on human behavior. As a method of direct observation, functionalism was more appraised in this school of thought. Structuralism which was Wundnt’s school of thought was an introspection method of experimental psychology.

Although disregarded for long, structuralism lately came to be respected as an important aspect of modern psychology. Structuralism appraises the breakdown of consciousness into detailed aspects such as perception and sensation. The study of both structuralism and functionalism were then explored further psychologists such as E. B. Titchener who upheld structuralism and John Dewey on the functionalism side. Although experimental psychology in the U. S. became more established in the 20th century through establishment of more labs, the 1883 lab at John Hopkins University by G. Stanley was also advancement in modern psychology (Boeree, 2010).

Conclusion Modern psychology is rooted in many disciplines including physiology and philosophy. In fact fathers of modern psychology had a rich philosophical background out of studying and interacting with philosophy scholars. The influence of Kant’s and Darwin’s ideas no doubt shaped Wilhelm Wundt and William James to develop experimental psychology and later the structuralism and functionalism schools of thought which have affected modern psychology greatly.


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