User:LGreg/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge (LG seminar 2020/21)/Seminar 18/History/History of Psychology

How and when did it emerge? What were the markers of the disciplines founding? edit

Psychologists study the behaviour of humans. At first, psychology was not a discipline on its own but was often combined with philosophy and physiology. Physiology had a large impact on psychology and ultimately contributed to applying scientific methods to study humans and their behaviour. Although its early history can be traced back to the time of the early Greeks, psychology only emerged as a separate discipline in the late 1800s. In the 1800s, Wilhelm Wundt started investigating reaction times by using scientific methods and later published a book outlining the connection between physiology and the study of human behaviour (psychology). In 1879, he opened the world's first psychology lab at the University of Leipzig. About 17,000 students attended his lectures on psychology, studied in his psychology lab, and later pursued degrees in psychology.[1] Psychology is now considered the science of human behaviour.

Another very influential psychologist is Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist who was fascinated by hysteria and theorized that the root of it was in the unconscious mind. His goal was to gain access to the patients unconscious, which he believed could be done through dream analysis. This was the start of psychoanalytic theory, which played a large role in clinical psychology for several decades after and focuses on a person's unconscious and early childhood experiences. [2]

How is it studied? edit

Research in psychology can be divided into three main categories and is conducted through scientific experiments: experimental research, descriptive research, and relational/correlational research. Experimental research focuses on the effect of one or multiple variables on one or more outcomes and looks at how certain variables lead to the change of another. Descriptive research looks at behaviour that is already existent in a group of people. They do not measure the effect of a variable but rather describe it. Correlational research looks at the connection between two or more variables.[3]

How has it changed as a discipline? What were the key moments of change? edit

In the early 20th century, psychology changed as a discipline as “behaviourism” emerged. Behaviourism started focusing less on the conscious and unconscious mind but rather focused on the more scientific aspects of psychology (for example, by looking at observable behaviour in humans). Recent research in this discipline looks at how biological influences affect social and cultural factors. [4]

Notes edit

  1. Cherry K. The Origins of Psychology: History Through the Years [Internet]. Verywell Mind. 2020 [cited 17 October 2020]. Available from:
  2. History of Psychology | Introduction to Psychology [Internet]. 2020 [cited 20 October 2020]. Available from:
  3. Introduction to the Field of Psychology | Boundless Psychology [Internet]. 2020 [cited 18 October 2020]. Available from:
  4. History of Psychology as a Scientific Discipline [Internet]. Frontiers. 2020 [cited 20 October 2020]. Available from: