The Birth of Modern Psychology

TheBirth of Modern Psychology


Modernpsychology was born when scholars started to integrate experimentaltechniques and methods in the study of human mind and nature. WundtWilhelm became the father of modern psychology by designing andestablishing the very first laboratory for the purpose ofpsychological experiments .Theroots of psychology are anchored on two fundamental approaches ofhuman behavior, physiology and philosophy. It is only after the useof scientific principles and methods in the experimental processes ofstudy of the human mind did psychology start to emerge as a distinctdiscipline, totally disconnected from its roots in philosophy.

Wundtestablished the objectives, the subject matter, techniques andresearch methods to be applied in the investigation process. Hisstudy was greatly influenced by the ancient thoughts of scholars inphysiology and philosophy. Someof the most prolific psychologist included, Hippocrates, Plato,Aristotle and Ibn Sina. The ideas, theories and proposition of thesescholars is what set the background on which other scholars couldadvance psychology to become what it is today. Their findings andintense study paved the way for the development structuralism,functionalism, behaviorists, neobehaviorismand cognitive psychology.

Birthof Modern psychology

Thebirth of modern psychology began with James William and WundtWilhelm, often regarded as the founders and fathers of modernpsychology. Both scholars allege to have established the very firstpsychology lab. Wundt devised the first control lab and his techniquewas shortly afterwards came to be known as the structuralism (Garcia,2013). He also devised techniques of introspection, studiedperception, sensation and how the brain functions. His propositioncame under immense criticism from other scholars for being myopic andunreliable. On the other hand James endeavored to explicate thefunction of consciousness in lieu of structure (Schultz &ampSchultz, 2012). His theory pegged on the explanation on function ofthe human mind came to be known as functionalism. William borrowedprofoundly the Darwin suggestions that mental processes play asignificant role in determining the survival of humans in differentenvironments (Landrum, 2013).

Theword psychology is derived from the greek word psyche and logymeaning the soul or mind and study. Therefore psychology means thestudy of the soul and mind (Wade &ampRutherford, 2010). Manyscientists have delved on the issue of mind and have opted to leavethe study of soul to the theologists. Even though psychology ismainly concerned about the function of the human mind, the behaviorof animals is also studied. Indeed ancient psychology theoriesoriginated from the study of behavior of animals such as monkeys,gods and rats. These theories have been applied to exemplify humanbehavior and have significantly influenced educational practice(Landrum, 2013).

TheRoots of Psychology

Asaforementioned, psychology is focused on the how the brain of humanbeings function and the nature of humans. Nonetheless, psychology isnot the lone discipline that tries to find answers to the conundrumof human nature (Schultz &amp Schultz,2012). The root of psychology isassociated with the work of ancient philosophers. The roots ofpsychology are anchored on two fundamental approaches of humanbehavior, physiology and philosophy. Physiology is the scientificstudy of human body, while philosophy is seeks to study human bodyintrospection. There are fundamental elements that distinguishbetween ancient psychology and modern psychology mind(Wade &ampRutherford, 2010).

Thedifference relate to the questions about human mind and nature eachseek to answer and the method applied in the process of gatheringknowledge and understanding of different aspects that relate to themind and human nature. Modern psychology has emerged as a separatefield that is largely scientific. Ancient psychological study wasbased on generalizations, intuition and speculation primarily peggedon their own experiences (Landrum,2013). But profound changes happenedwhen philosophers and other scholars in the field of psychology beganto apply scientific methods, techniques and tools that had beensuccessfully used in physical and biological sciences to investigatehuman nature. It is only after the use of scientific principles andmethods in the experimental processes of study of the human mind didpsychology start to emerge as a distinct discipline, totallydisconnected from its roots in philosophy (Garcia,2013). At this juncture it was importantthat objective methods of dealing with the discipline were devised toactuate the use of scientific knowledge. Early philosophers such asAristotle, Plato and Hippocratestroubled themselves with the search of answers to questions that wererelated to the nature of human mind (Wade &ampRutherford, 2010).

Inthe ancient days most psychologist and philosophers were primarilyconcerned about the epistemology. As such, they sought to findanswers to questions such as what is knowledge, meaning of knowledgeand origin of knowledge. Some of the most prolific philosophersincluded, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Ibn Sina. The ideas,theories and proposition of these scholars set the background onwhich other scholars could advance psychology to become what it istoday (Landrum, 2013). Their findings and intense study paved the wayfor the development of psychology as a field to encompass variousaspects of the human life. Hippocrates as referred to as the fatherof modern medicine asserted that there was a close link between thebody and the mind. He argued that the cause of mental illness was notdemons as was popularly believed in ancient days but physicalmalfunction. Through in-depth study and dissection of the body ofliving things such as animals and humans, Hippocrates suggested thatthe human mind was responsible for controlling the body. He furtherproposed that the human mind rests in the brain (Schultz &ampSchultz, 2012).

Toa large extent Plato subscribed to the proposition of Hippocrates,especially the suggestion that the mind was located in the brain. Hewas a believer in the realism, a concept used to denote that realitydid not rest in the concrete objects that were visible to the humanthrough sensory organs such as eyes but is represented in abstractform in the human mind (Landrum, 2013). Plato was also a rationalistwho held that knowledge can only be attained through analyzing andthinking in a bid to have a deeper understanding of people’srelationship and our world. Plato asserted that though the body andthe mind have fundamental differences, the two interact with oneanother, and that the mind was far superior to the body. This is oneof the proposition that set the background for functionalists andstructuralists psychologist who use introspection to study the humanmind and behavior. He formed the basis for theorizing psychologicalprocesses anhd activities that subsequently resulted to empiricalinvestigation by modern psychologists (Schultz &amp Schultz, 2012).

Anotherphilosopher Aristotle, who happened to be one of Plato’s studentnegated most of the proposition put forward by his tutor and earlyphilosophers such as Hippocrates. Aristotle argued that the mind andbody of human beings were not separate by a single entity. He alsobelieved that human can only understand the mind by studying thebody. To him the process of discovering the truth did not entailintrospection but observation of actions and objects. He proposedthat reality lies in the material world of objects that we capturethrough our senses. As such he is described as an empiricist whoalleged that knowledge is acquired by observation, experimentationand experience. His theories formed the basis for the methods ofempirical psychological research.

Thefinal pioneer in the field of psychology is Ibn Sina a philosopherwho observed that human being as consisting of open and hiddenelements. The unseen part is made up of the mind while the openpart is made up of the human body. Sina proposed that the power ofthe human mind can be categorized into three distinct groups, thevegetative faculties which is made of powers shared between human andplants such as reproduction and growth and feeding, faculties sharedbetween animals and human beings that comprise aspects such assmelling, touching and hearing and finally the faculties thatseparate human beings from plants and animals, which comprise ofaspects such as intellectual property and cognitive abilities (Mandler,2010).The findings of these philosophers about the relationship between thehuman body and mind, and how the two shape behavior provided modernpsychologist with groundwork to pursue empirical study (Mandler,2010).

TheBeginnings of Modern Psychology

Asaforementioned, the birth of modern psychology is mainly linked tothe work of Wilhelm Wundt. In the modern world, the emblematic viewabout psychology is that it consists of Clinicians, therapists,practitioners, trained professionals and counselors. Even so it isworth noting that counseling and clinical locales of psychology didnot surface until after the end of world war one (Garcia,2013).The mass atrocities, terror and agony of the colossal loss of humanlife and properties left many men, women and children with mentalscars that later caused psychological disorders never witnessedbefore. This offered the platform for psychologist to expand theirknowledge to solve the many mental illness cases that emerged afterthe close of the Great War.

Wilhem Wundt was the founder of the first psychology laboratory intwo decades before the end of the 19thcentury. Wundthas particular interest in the study of the human mind and consciousexperience (Garcia,2013).He asserted that a thorough process of introspection could be appliedto describe the processes at play in the inner consciousness.Introspection is scientific technique used by scholars andresearchers to systematically analyze and describe their own innerfeelings and thoughts in the course of a research process (Hewstoneetal,2010).Major changes in the filed of psychology happened during the last twodecades of the 19thcentury. The discipline underwent through remarkable evolution andthe direction that psychology took was significantly influenced bythe work of Wundt (Mandler,2010).As said above Wundt had distinct ideas about the form that psychologyas a new science should take.

Heestablished the objectives, the subject matter, techniques andresearch methods to be applied in the investigation process. Hisstudy was greatly influenced by the ancient thoughts of scholars inphysiology and philosophy. Nonetheless, it was his ideas and theoriesin his position as the Zeitgeist who linked the threads of physiology(scientific) and philosophical ideas (Mandler,2010).Wundt was such a persuasive supporter of the inevitable, psychologyfor a substantial duration was outlined by his vision and ideas. Itwas not before that his theory was refuted by a budding group ofpsychologists who were applying new scientific knowledge and socialideas to understand the human mind and behavior better. Modernthoughts were slowly replacing the ancient view of psychology as justthe study of the human mind and its function. By the beginning of the19thcentury, numerous schools of thought and systematic positions werestarting to redefine psychology (Mandler,2010).

Thephrase school of thought denotes a group of scholars who becomeassociated by principle (ideology) and in some cases geographically.Scholars who subscribed to a given philosophical thinking by a givenleader or psychologist shared a theoretical orientation and exploredidentical psychological problems (Tracy, 2003). The surfacing ofnumerous schools of thought and their successive demise andreplacement by others has continued over the history of psychology.The birth of modern psychology was characterized by the emergence ofthe use of scientific principles and methods and tools to understandthe human mind, how its functions and how its influences humanbehavior and character. All the same at the earlier stage of thebirth of modern psychology was sill preparadigmatic (Mandler,2010).

Itwas not until 1970 that the science of paradigm was advanced by theKuhn Thomas in his masterpiece work the ‘’structureof scientific revolution’’. Atthe stage the number of schools of thoughts was decreasing , andmajority of psychologists had consensus on most of the methodical andtheoretical aspects (Tracy, 2003).

Schoolsof Thought after the Birth of Modern Psychology

Structuralismis one of the variant theories of Wundtian psychology that waspropagated by Edward Titchener. Structuralism refers to the study ofthe structure of the human mind, and some of the precepts withinwhich this theory is constructed emanates from Wundt’s thoughts.The main pint of separation between structuralism and Wundtian theoryis the use of introspection as the main method of gathering knowledgeand understanding of the human mind (Tracy, 2003). Edward Titchenerasserted that different methods of inquiry should be used in theexperimental process to arrive at a concise and reliable answer. Hisintrospection method was therefore more inclusive and rigorous inidentifying and discovering the structures of the consciousness thanwhat Wundt used in his experimental process (James,2005).At the point where the structures of consciousness were fully andcomprehensively studied and understood, then principles ofassociation could be authenticated, and subsequently it would bepossible to study psychological state under which models and ideasbecome linked (Mandler,2010).The final objective was to understand how the mind functions. Despitethe fact that structuralism vanished with the death of Titchener, histheory offered a discrete system of psychology which in years thatfollowed came to be the subject of major transformation inpsychology, leading to another theory of psychology referred to asfunctionalism (Landrum,2013).

JamesWilliam, Catell James and Stanley Hall were the chief proponents offunctionalism theory. While both wundtian and structuralism theorieshave their origin in Germany, functionalism is a product of Americanpsychologist who improved the structuralism approach proposed byearlier psychologists (James,2005).As aforementioned structuralism were mainly geared towardsindentifying and discovering the structure of consciousness and howthe various contents of the mind are systematize and stored, butfunctionalism was primarily concerned about how the human mind work,the mental faculties and processes that accomplished different tasksand the extent to which consciousness shape human behavior. Jamesalso supported the application of numerous comparative studies andexperimental processes in addition to the introspective process(Landrum,2013).This was an alternative approach for understanding and studying thehuman mind and behavior.

&nbspInthe second decade of the 20thcentury John Watson proposed a new approach of psychology referred toas the behaviorism. The main objective of this approach was to studyprocesses and behavior that could be observed or tested objectively(Landrum,2013).In this approach, there would be no analysis of mental processes, nointrospection and no study of the human mind or consciousness. Watsonwas primarily concerned about the study of behavior without makingassumption like his counterparts about aspects that were notavailable to the senses. By the end of the second decades into the20thcentury behaviorism had become the dominant approach to psychology(Tracy, 2003).

Unlikethose before him who primarily sought to examine the consciousthought, Freud delved into both the conscious and unconscious. Heproposed that most of the elements that shaped human thought andbehavior was found in the unconscious part. He coined the namepsychoanalysis to refer to his stud to both the conscious and theunconscious drives (Gleitman,2007).

UnlikeFreud Watson behavioral approach did not depend on then sexualovertones but purely only on what could be observed (Gleitman,2007).His proposition gave Americans hope in that it he suggested thatbehavior was not unequivocally shaped by past experiences but wassignificantly influenced by the surrounding environment. In the 1920shis ideas were offered the foundation for the American dream peggedon hope, freedom and liberty (Landrum,2013).Nonetheless, Watson psychological approach would come under intensecriticism because of its myopic field of interest. Most notably, thedeclaration that mentallic concepts had no meaning did not augur wellwith budding psychologist, who felt that aspects such as cognitiveproblem solving, thinking and reasoning should form the basis for anypsychological study (Landrum,2013).These mentallic concepts were not directly observable and as suchWatson approach totally ignored them.

Scholarswould find it difficult to subscribe to the narrow behavioralapproach coined a new approach that would encompass mentallicconcepts. A hybrid of behavioral approach that came to be known asneobehavioralism was thus developed. This approach was based on thesame precepts as Watson behavioral approach the main point ofdeparture being the incorporation of mentallic concepts in theexperimental process (Landrum,2013).Neobehaviorists wanted to delve into mentallic concepts such asmemory that were could not be easily observed. The answer to thebottlenecks of the behavioral approach was the adoption of logicalpositivism (Mandler,2010).This approach made it possible to study theoretical models eventhough they are not observable by means of the directly observablebehavior. Consequently neobehaviorism expanded the focus of behaviorsthat were considered as acceptable by behaviorist in the study ofpsychology. That is the main reason why neobehaviorsim was theprevailing psychology for about half a century (1920-60).

Atthe present the dominant psychology approach is the cognitivepsychology. Cognitive psychology seeks to exemplify how mindprocesses work, and how knowledge is created and applied (Walters,2002).It encompasses aspects such as language, reasoning, intelligence,logic and problem solving. Cognitive psychology developed as a resultof the move by neobehaviorsist who strived to limit the scope ofacceptable mentallic concepts for study. It has become one of themost popular psychological approaches (Landrum,2013).


Thereare fundamental elements that distinguish between ancient psychologyand modern psychology. The difference relate to the questions abouthuman mind and nature each seek to answer and the method applied inthe process of gathering knowledge and understanding of differentaspects that relate to the mind and human nature. Modern psychologyhas emerged as a separate field that is largely scientific. Ancientpsychological study was based on generalizations, intuition andspeculation primarily pegged on their own experiences.

Inthe ancient days most psychologist and philosophers were primarilyconcerned about the epistemology. As such they sought to findanswers to questions such as what is knowledge, meaning of knowledgeand origin of knowledge. Some of the most prolific psychologistincluded, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle and Ibn Sina. The ideas,theories and proposition of these scholars is what set the backgroundon which other scholars could advance psychology to become what it istoday.

Thebirth of modern psychology is mainly linked to the work of WilhelmWundt. He established the very first laboratory for the purpose ofpsychological experiments. He applied a thorough process ofintrospection to describe the processes at play in the innerconsciousness (Tracy, 2003). This was followed by Structuralism, oneof the variant theories of Wundtian psychology that was propagated byEdward Titchener. Structuralism referred to the study of thestructure of the human mind. James William, Catell James and StanleyHall were the chief proponents of functionalism theory.

Functionalismwas primarily concerned about how the human mind work, the mentalfaculties and processes that accomplished different tasks and theextent to which consciousness shape human behavior. In the seconddecade of the 20th century John Watson proposed a new approach ofpsychology referred to as the behaviorism. The main objective of thisapproach was to study processes and behavior that could be observedor tested objectively. The narrow approach of Watson process promptedthe emergence of a neobehaviorism that included mentallic conceptsthat Watson had rejected. At the present the dominant psychologyapproach is the cognitive psychology which seeks to exemplify howmind processes work, and how knowledge is created and applied.


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