The History of Psychology
The study of the mind and behaviour as a subject of interest reaches back to both ancient Greece and Egypt, with psychology essentially regarded as a part of philosophy until very recently.
Ancient History of PsychologyFamous ancient philosophers such as Socrates and Confucius are often quoted and the influence of old ideas, theories and schools of thought remains relevant today. Much as many ideas, such as Socrates’ moral concepts, are still influential, others, such as the study of phrenology, whereby the bumps on the scull are thought to represent certain personality traits and problematic issues, are no longer considered accurate.
As with any scientific study, new ideas and theories can only be discovered in response to the questioning of the thoughts of others, so the history of psychology has largely developed as modern studies are conducted to prove, disprove or reactivate commonly held beliefs.
Who Coined the Term ‘Psychology’?The term ‘psychology’ as a subject in its own right was coined by German thinker Wilhelm Wundt in 1879, in his well-known Study of Self. Up until this point, psychology, as a branch within philosophy, was considered a largely clinical, scientific subject. Wundt’s study showed how the mind is certain to be very different to other parts of the body in that one’s experience plays a large part in the development of the mind.
19th and 20th Century PsychologyBy the late 19th Century, psychology was gaining increasing importance in intellectual circles, with the general school of thought focusing on the perhaps more psychiatric aspects. This view was challenged when influential psychologist Sigmund Freud published his famous study on psychoanalysis, bringing forward a new way of looking at the sense of self and how it is created.
The behaviourist school of psychology became popular in the early 20th Century, with the view that any physical action is a behaviour, so actions, thoughts and feelings are all behaviour, rather than ‘of the mind’. Although this approach was widely respected for many years, it is now no longer generally accepted, although elements are still seen in the popular cognitive behavioural therapy that is practiced today.