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History of Psychology

Essay Structure 08/10/18

Ali Clarke - 18721031 Introduction & History of Psychology BA Psychology

Year 1

Essay Structure-History of Psychology. Introduction.

• Psychology is a relatively recent science that gets its roots from ancient Greece and philosophy. It has taken elements from biology, medicine and philosophy and has grown to include many perspectives such as behaviourism, psychoanalysis, cognitive, gestalt, biological and subjectivism.

• This will look at the original ideas that are still discussed today (such as the nature versus nurture debate), through classical psychologist ideas of psychodynamics and gestalt up to the newest cutting-edge psychological areas of study including neuropsychology and brain scanning technology.

• Vast changes and developments since the 19th century up to current 21st. 1. Roots (Ancient Greek philosophy)

• Began with philosophical questions being looked at more critically and developing new ways to examine the problems (eg. Biology and medicine)

• Empiricism vs rationalism: opposing views, in reality, maybe elements of both, we don't have technology or method to find out which yet. (Aristotle, Locke vs Plato, Descartes)

• Hippocrates-began the founding of the biological perspective from his interest in philosophy -looked to the physiology of the body and its biology rather than mythical/supernatural solutions.

• Dualism vs monism: whether mind/soul and body are one or should be dealt with separately. It is still unknown what the essence of mind/soul is/if it exists, therefore it needs to be looked at from both perspectives.

• Nature vs Nurture: evidence of both-split twins studies vs twins growing up together being different; epigenetics more recently show elements of both.

Descartes favoured nature, thought of the body as a machine leading to current processing perspectives. As technology advances, our way of how the brain processes change.

2. Scientific psychology beginning

Science plays important role in knowledge and health of the wider public. Need clear falsifiable evidence to prove findings.

• Late 19th century, first psychological lab set up in Leipzig, Germany (1879).

• Found a place as science, use of scientific method.

• Titchener (trained by Wundt) who introduced structuralism: “whole = sum of


• Functionalism (William James) “sum=>parts”

• Developed from the theory of evolution (Darwin)

• Displaced around 1920 by American psychologists with three new


3. The early 1900s (new approaches/schools)

• Psychodynamics: deals with unconscious; defence mechanisms; phobias Levels of thinking: conscious, preconscious, unconscious; within these, ego, superego and id.

Classical therapy, subjective, long-term, expensive, does not suit every problem.

• Gestalt: deals with perception -how we experience the world;

Disagrees with structuralism & behaviourism, shows subjectiveness of experiences. Used to show untrustworthy senses, abused for marketing and advertising campaigns.

• Behaviourism: observable, Watson, conditioning (Pavlov classical dogs, Skinner operant rats) -little Albert-shows it works but was unethical, some parenting techniques today still stem from behaviourist approach.

• World War II led to improved, readily available instruments, therefore it was easier to study a broader range of issues which led to new approaches.

4. The late 1900s (5 modern perspectives)

• •

Biological approach: reductionism; based on the physical brain.

Behavioural-observable; does not acknowledge unconsciousness and free

will; looks only at action and reactions.

Cognitive- internal mental processes; subjective-cannot observe and compare thoughts, however, current technology working on showing mental processes through brain activity. Recently used with behaviour in therapy - CBT-based on learning experiences and environmental factors affecting thoughts and behaviour patterns.

Psychoanalytical/psychodynamic- deals with unconscious; subjective-not easily comparable; used in many therapies, introspection, still similar to how it was carried out in the early 1900s with less focus on Freud complexes.

Subjectivist-realities constructed; personal experience; individual/humanistic approach. Rogers is a strong activist for this.

5. 21st-century advances

• Neuropsychology: brain scans, biology, physical brain

Tries to study and observe the cognition through brain activity.

With improved ethics regulations and improved experimental methods along with new technology and better standards of education worldwide, psychology is gaining more funding and interest leading to more development and a better understanding of people and how the brain works.


Relatively young science. Changed a lot, different views over the years, still many opposing views.

There is a need for all approaches, like in scientific method, need to eliminate bias and consider all possibilities in order to find the best option.

All areas are developing and expanding, now crossovers between each, still young and much more time to grow and expand, hopefully improving the lives of others in the process.

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