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 limited to biology and does not delve into matters of the mind such as the function of consciousness and unconsciousness.
The birth of psychology as a science can be traced to the University of Leipzig, in Germany in 1879. In the University of Leipzig, physiologist Wilhelm Wundt founded the first laboratory dedicated to the scientific study of the mind. Wundt’s laboratory attracted European and American scientist who conducted the first psychological experiments known. Early scientific study of psychology in Wundt’s laboratory was conducted mainly through the method of introspection. Introspection entailed the systematic observation of people who were trained to describe their conscious experience as they encountered visual displays and other stimuli. Wundt, as prefaced in one of his books, set out to “mark out a new domain of science”. He did so, establishing psychology as a field of science.
In the United States, William James from Harvard University explored the emerging study of psychology in 1875 as he created and taught an introduction-to-psychology course. In 1890, he published the first American college textbook on psychology which was quickly adopted as the leading psychology textbook. In The Principles...