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Essay: Origins and future of psychology (reflective)

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  • Published: 24 September 2021*
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“The purpose of psychology is to give us a completely different idea of the things we know best” (Valery, n.d.).

From 600 to 300 BC, Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle recorded such topics as pleasure, pain, knowledge, motivation and rationality. Becoming the front runners of early philosophy. With psychology beginning in the late 19th century, the first experimental study was by a German scientist named Wilhelm Wundt, in the late 1800’s. Many would consider Wundt to be the founder of psychology. To define the word psychology, it’s the scientific study of human mental processes and behavior. In short, psychology is a study of the mind. While it attempts to give us an understanding of behavior, mental functions, and emotional reactions of humans. In the reading found in the textbook, I have been shown many different aspects of psychology such as, perception, cognition, attention, emotion, phenomenology, motivation, brain functioning, personality, behavior, resilience, the unconscious mind, and interpersonal relationships. Many scientists and philosophers have put forth thoughts and theories pertaining to psychology, but due to modern advances and experiments, many of those previous thoughts and theories have been altered or changed over the years. Sigmund Freud for instance, a father of psychiatry, developed a theory that personality is formed through conflicts among three fundamental structures of the human mind: the id, ego, and superego. While some of his theories and thoughts seemed to be far-fetched to us now. At the time, no one had even attempted to study psychiatry. There had to be a beginning, he put these out there so that others would question and try to prove his theories wrong. All of psychology has been trial and error. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” (Edison, n.d.). Scientists have been able to use many different ways to pinpoint behaviors found in humans with experiments on animals. With the controversies still lingering about the abuse of animals used for testing of medications and experiments. These types of test and experiments have proven to shed light on many issues regarding all types of behaviors and actions humans can have. Some of the continuing debates in Psychology are what is healthy for some, may not be healthy for others. In this paper, I will focus on four main questions regarding psychology as in the: origins, approaches in contemporary psychology, key issues and controversies, and what the future holds for Psychology in itself.

On reflecting to the origins of psychology, we see many key terms used. “Psychology as a science would provide 4 goals: Description- tells us ‘what’ occurred, Explanation- tells us ‘why’ a behavior or a mental process occurred, Prediction- identifies conditions under which a future behavior or mental process is likely to occur, [and finally], Change- applies psychological knowledge to prevent unwanted behavior and to bring about desired change” (Hinchliffe, 2015). Some other key terms in psychology are dualism, which is the belief that the mind and body are separate entities. Monism is the belief that the mind and body are intricately connected rather than separate entities.
A student of Wilhelm Wundt, Edward B. Titchener took Wundt’s theories a bit further and founded the theory of structuralism. His findings were focused on three parts: each single element of consciousness, how each element is organized into a deeper study of experiences, and how mental events can be related to physical events. Structuralism was looked down upon because it seemed to need use more experiments rather than study. Most found this method to be unreliable compared to other methods that could show more results. With structuralism struggling to stay afloat, a new approach came on the scene that would study the mind, this is called functionalism, founded by William James in the late 19th century. As functionalism was built on the basis of structuralism, it led to much deeper obdurate concerns. James was less concerned about how the mind works, and more concerned with studying the ways the mind adapts to changes around us. With functionalism, the brain is changed and adapted to better handle life actions and information that we obtain. Much like a computer would collect data and store it in the hard drive.

Now looking at the major approaches in our modern-day psychology. With some key terms now used today that cover a wide area of psychological. We can look at how contemporary uses have changed a lot compared to the beginning of the study of psychology. The early years were used for many different areas of thought but since the growth of psychology, so has the use of different topics psychologists use now. Since the 1960’s, psychology as a whole has grown at a very high level, and each part has been studied in depth more thoroughly. Here are several different perspectives used today. First, we will look at the psychodynamic perspective that went along with Freud’s theories to show how psychology and human behavior could stress the roles of an unconscious mind, early childhood experiences, and interpersonal. This is where Freud uses the id, ego, and the superego effects.

The Behavioral Perspective focuses on learning behaviors. Another approach in contemporary psychology is cognitive perspective. As our readings would state that this would focus on mental processes like memory, thinking, problem solving, language, and decision making. This type has done very well and has grown increasingly in the last few decades. With a different type of study and research on psychology, these would look at genetics and how they can influence behavior and personality. This would type of research would be called, biological perspective. One other perspective that has come on strong in the last twenty years or so is cross-cultural perspective. This one looks at human behavior versus different cultures. Showing that people in the United States would prefer to work by themselves rather than be in a group. However, people in China would rather work harder in a group setting. The next one to look at is evolutionary perspective. This is a study of how evolution explains a physiological process. Here researchers use the basis of evolution and apply it to phenomena. Lastly, a final perspective for the approach in new age of psychology is the human perspective. With a new emergence in the field of psychology during the 1950’s was humanistic psychology. This type looks at the role of motivation in thought and behavior. This would show how humans grow, change, and develop into their own potential but as we can see from the beginning of psychology with Wundt, and other founders, many other things have come into play.

Most of us know, there are many key issues and controversies in psychology. Different types of groups in the world stress their concerns with, out cry’s regarding the certain types of method of study and research. One thing I was to reflect on is the strides that have been taken through the years of psychology. If you searched old insane asylums, it would show you horrific images and methods in treating people. Now a days, most of those places have thankfully closed down. Those methods are not used anymore. With modern day issues now shifting to a different type of tragedies is people who commit mass murders. When the investigation was finished from the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, investigators found frightening videos and writings from the two young men who carried out these acts. Many blamed video games, their parents, movies, and music. What was it that really clicked in the two young men to want to carry out such a horrible act? If someone had known or saw changes in behaviors and actions, maybe it was psychological. Had they gotten the mental help they needed, could this tragedy had been avoided? This particular story was near and dear to me because at the time of this tragedy, I was High School Junior. This event began to change our nation to become more violent. In the last decade, many students and teacher have lost their lives due to acts of hate and rage. What can the world of psychology do to aid in stopping this? How can we see the early warning signs of a troubled child? We as parents, I feel have a great responsibility to help in this. No one can simply blame the psychology world because a doctor misdiagnosed or was unaware of the issues in these peoples live. I grew up in the early video game era and I see how it has progressed over the years with violent games and graphic images. However, I was never drawn or felt that I wanted to carry out what I was playing on the games into real life. I think with the people who carry out these acts have much deeper issues some of those could be: problems at home, bullies, outside influence, loneliness, opposite sex relationships and many other things. Psychologist have a big task in dealing with these issues. In order for proper treatment, we as society have to speak up and help these people before tragedy strikes again. I feel as though we need more workers in the trenches, such as, more counselors in our schools, at the work place, and anywhere else it is needed. Workers who may begin to see changes in behavior or actions and can get them the help they need. Most schools may have one or two councilors for every 1,500-2,000 students. It is not possible to catch everything with every student. Alison Gopnik once said, “I’m afraid the parenting advice to come out of developmental psychology is very boring: pay attention to your kids and love them” (Gopnik, n.d.). For me it starts at home, and psychology can only do so much.

Lastly, looking at what the future will hold for psychology. Every day and all over the world we as humans are making great strides in advancing with medicines and treatments. In the future of psychology, I believe we will see more aspects of research and study such as online for emotional expressions and interaction with the digital world. Everything is electronic and the pace for technology is moving ever so quickly. I would not be surprised if more sessions between a psychologist and patience are held through face time via the internet. I also see a future in building bridges in certain fields like neuroscience, genetics, public society. We as humans rely so much on technology that we have “out-sourced” or memory with demands to calendars, reminders, phone numbers and so on through computers and phones. This is important for younger students and older adults. I think future research will likely examine how people choose what to remember, and also how they decide to remember it whether personality of digitally.

In conclusion, as someone who suffers from anxiety, I find it amazing how a small pill with medicine can balance all of that out in my body. I could not have imagined how people could live their lives dealing with anxiety before anyone knew what it was. I am truly thankful for the advances in psychology with medicines and treatments. “Psychology, unlike chemistry, unlike algebra, unlike literature, is an owner’s manual for your own mind. It’s a guide to life. What could be more important that grounding young people in the scientific information that they need to live happy, healthy, productive lives? To have good relationships” (Goldstein n.d.)? This is true in a sense for all of psychology as a whole. What it will boil down to for me is, we have the power to change our own situations in most cases. Relieve the stress in our lives, go on vacations, be financially sound, make wise life choices.


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