The term "psyche," while personified by the ancient Greeks as a goddess, essentially means "breath," which was equated with soul or mind. The suffix "ology" means "science" or "study of." Psychology, as originally defined, then, means the scientific study of soul or mind. The term "scientific," as used here, means systematic; scientific fields of study did not emerge until the seventeenth century.
Apparently, the concept of psychology was not formulated until the early to middle sixteenth century, appearing first in 1530 as part of the title of a series of academic lectures given by Philipp Melanchthon, a German scholar. The first book with the Latin word psychologia (psychological) as part of the title was published in 1594. When used by philosophers and theologians during the following three centuries, the term had a gradually changing meaning, with the focus being much more on the study of mind and consciousness than on the soul.
Psychology, as a separate field of study, came into being in Germany in 1879 and, during the 1880's, in many other European countries and the United States. The field was defined as the scientific or systematic study of mind and consciousness and was largely modeled after physics and chemistry. Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), the acknowledged founder of the new discipline, believed that psychologists should be concerned primarily with investigating the structure of mind and consciousness using rigorous introspective techniques. Psychology was, according to Wundt, to focus on identifying the properties of simple mental elements and the laws by which these elements combined to form the more complex structures of mind and con sciousness, for example, percepts and ideas. This approach, and a derivative of it developed in the United States by Edward Titchener, became known as structuralism. Animal research, the study of infants and children, the study of people with psychological problems, and concern with individual differences were not seen as central to psychology.
Some of Wundt's European contemporaries, however, such as Franz Brentano and Oswald Kulpe, argued that psychology should focus on processes associated with mind and consciousness, such as perceiving, thinking, and intending, rather than attempting to divide the mental domain into simple elements. Brentano's approach became known as act psychology, in contrast to Wundt's mental-content psychology, and the two perspectives generated some interesting controversies. They did agree, though, that psychology should be concerned primarily with the study of mind and consciousness in normal adult human beings; animals, children, and people with mental and emotional problems were not of particular interest to them as subjects of research.
Also emphasizing conceptions of mind and consciousness as process rather than content were prominent early American psychologists such as William James, John Dewey, James Rowland Angell, and Harvey Carr. In contrast to Brentano and Kulpe, however, these psychologists were primarily interested in the functions served by the processes. It was generally assumed that each of these capabilities evolved to help humans survive and that it was the job of psychologists to determine how seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking, willing, planning, and so forth contributed to individuals' survival. Because not everyone adapts equally well to the challenges of life, this approach to psychology, which became known as functionalism, as emphasized the study of individuals differences in intelligence, personality, social skills, and so forth, as well as applied psychology and animal research. Psychology, however, was still defined as the systematic study of mind and consciousness. Functionalism has its foundations in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and in late nineteenth century British psychology and applied statistics.
With the introduction of animal research into psychology and continuing controversies over the meanings of the concepts of mind, consciousness, and terms referring to the varying aspects of private experience, some psychologists increasingly believed that a scientific psychology could only be created if research centered on behavior (responses) and environmental features (stimuli), both of which are observable. Therefore, when American psychologist John B. Watson proclaimed, in 1913, that psychology should abandon attempts to study mind and consciousness introspectively and redefine itself as the scientific study of behavior, many of his peers were ready to follow his call; behaviorism had its formal beginning.
The behavioral orientation had its greatest influence on American psychology from about the 1920's until the early 1970's, undergoing a number oftransformations. During that time, most textbooks defined psychology as the scientific study of behavior, or of behavior and mental and affective pro cesses. Even as the limits of behavioral psychology, in its various forms, became apparent by the late 1960's, definitions of psychology changed very little. According to most modern psychologists in the United States and in many other countries, psychology is primarily the study of behavior, and only secondarily—and sometimes grudgingly—the study of such difficult-to-define mental and affective states and processes as thoughts, percepts, images, and feelings. Nevertheless, even the concepts of mind and consciousness, the original concerns of psychology, have somewhat reluctantly been readmitted to the field as necessary research concerns.
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