History and Systems of Psychology

Psychology did not become accepted as a formal discipline until the late nineteenth century. Prior to that time, even back to antiquity, questions were directed to philosophers. Though they were versed in reasoning, logic, and scholarship, only a few of these thinkers could deal with the complexities of the human mind. Their answers were profound and lengthy, but these scholars frequently left their audiences bewildered and without the solutions they sought. Some of these logicians used the Socratic method of reasoning; they often frustrated those who questioned them and expected realistic replies. Inquires were redirected to the questioner, whose burden it was to arrive at his or her own solutions.

Gustav Fechner, a nineteenth century philosopher and physicist, postulated that the scientific method should be applied to the study of mental processes. It was his contention that experimentation and mathematical procedures should be used to study the human mind. From the middle of the nineteenth century onward, many disciplines contributed to what was to become the science of psychology. Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Titchener were the leaders of the structuralist school, which identified the elements and principles of consciousness.

Other early giants of the field included William James and John Dewey. They inaugurated the study of functionalism, which taught that psychological knowledge should be applied to practical knowledge in fields such as education, business law, and daily living. A champion of behaviorism, John B. Watson, advocated that the study of psychology should concentrate on observable behavior; he urged that objective methods be adopted. The Gestalt movement was originated by Max Wertheimer. In concert with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler, he embraced the premise that the whole may be different from its parts studied in isolation.

Psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud. He studied the unconscious using techniques of free association, hypnosis, and body language. The neobehaviorist model, in contrast, defended the behaviorist position that complicated phenomena such as mental and emotional activities cannot be observed. Love, stress, empathy, trust, and personality cannot be observed in and of themselves. Their effects, however, are readily apparent.

Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow pioneered the area known as humanism in the 1950's and 1960's. Areas of interest to humanistic psychologists are self-actualization, creativity and transcendence, the search for meaning, and social change. The humanists' goals are to expand and to enrich human lives through service to others and an increased understanding of the complexity of people, as individuals, in groups, organizations, and communities.

In the mid-twentieth century, with the development of cognitive psychology, mental processes such as attention, memory, and reasoning became the focus of direct study. This approach to understanding human thought analyzes cognitive processes into a sequence of ordered stages; each stage reflects an important step in the processing of information. In the 1980's and 1990's, the fields of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience emerged. Psychologists began working with computer scientists, linguists, neurobiolo-gists, and others to develop detailed models of brain and mind relationships.

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