Brief History of Psychology

Before science, psychology was untested. People assumed all psychological problems were caused by evil spirits. The roots of psychology go back to the ancient Greeks, the term itself comes from two Greek words, “psyche” and “logos” which means the soul and the study of a subject. Philosophy and physiology both contributed to psychology’s emergence as a scientific discipline.

The formal beginning of psychology started in the mid 18th century when a German physiologist named Wilhelm Wundt treated psychology as an independent science discipline.

His book “Principles of Physiological Psychology” was published in 1874, it focused on consciousness, including feelings, emotions and ideas. His perspective came to be known as “structuralism” – psychology is to analyze consciousness into its basic elements and investigate how they are related. Wundt and others also used a procedure called “introspection”- a self- examination of one’s conscious thoughts and feelings. However, by 1895 structuralism was replaced by “functionalism”- it focused on the acts and functions of the mind and behavior rather than its structure.

In 1924, John B Watson published “Psychology as Behavior” launched “behaviorism” which proposed that psychology should study only observable behavior. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian physician, whose work and theories helped shape the views of childhood, personality, memory, sexuality and therapy which attempted to explain motivation and mental disorders.

Another change of psychology happened when “humanism” rose; its theoretical perspective emphasized conscious experiences. One of the founders of this theory, Carl Rogers strongly believed in the power of free will and human’s potential to grow.

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Psychology continued to grow, more new ideas and perspectives were introduced. Psychology evolved out from philosophy and physiology to a separate and independent field of study with further development and theories to explain human thought and behavior throughout centuries. Today, psychologists focus on a particular specialty or perspective but their ideas and theories will continue to shape psychology for years to come.

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Brief History of Psychology. (2016, Oct 07). Retrieved from

Brief History of Psychology
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