Psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior. It is a scientific and academic study that also involves the application of knowledge to various aspects of activities of human beings including daily life, family relations and work behavior. It also involves the study of mental illnesses and problems (Lahav, O., n.d.).
The earliest theories on psychology were on a philosophical level. The origins of psychology were found in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Egypt, China and India. Early psychology involved philosophies on the mind, body and soul and how these all operate together (Lahav, n.d.).
Meanwhile, it was in the 17th century that idea of dualism was introduced. It was Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, who presented the theory. In his theory, Descartes asserted that the mind and the body were two separate entities that interact to shape the experiences of humans (Cherry, K., n.d.).
Descartes, together with other thinkers like Thomas Willis and John Locke recognized the nature of mind and soul, and they also supported the development of clinical psychology as a field and discipline of medicine (Lahav, O., n.d.).
Eventually in the 1800s, psychology emerged as a separate discipline and experimental psychology was born. It was during this time that philosophical concepts in psychology were fused with mathematical and scientific thoughts (Lahav, O., n.d.).
Once the pursuit of science in the study of psychology was established, many areas of study began to flourish. Phrenology and psychophysics were two disciplines that had an impact in the beginnings of psychology. Franz Joseph Gail (1758-1828) introduced the concept of phrenology, which is an approach to the mind-body problem. The basic principle of phrenology is that understanding one’s personality can be done by feeling and interpreting the bumps on the head (Landrum, E., n.d.).
Meanwhile, psychophysics introduced the transition of psychology from philosophical thoughts, to the study of behavior. It is the study of the interaction between the capabilities and limitations of human behavior and the environment. Hermann von Helmholtz, Emst Weber and Gustav Theodor Fechner were the three researchers were key personalities in the concept of psychophysics (Landrum, E., n.d.).
On the other hand, Wilhelm Wundt, the father of psychology, published his book “Principles of Physiological Psychology” in 1874, where he discussed major connections between the science of physiology and the study of human behavior and thought (Cherry, K., n.d.).
In 1879, Wundt founded the first exclusive psychology laboratory. It was a laboratory that was exclusively dedicated to psychological research in Leipzig, Germany (Lahav, O., n.d.). This was considered as the official beginning of psychology as a distinct and a scientific discipline (Cherry, K., n.d.).
Wundt viewed psychology as the study of human consciousness and he applied experimental methods in studying internal mental processes. While his idea on introspection had not been very useful in the development of psychology through the years, Wundt’s early work in psychology paved the way for future experimental methods (Cherry, K., n.d.).
In the late 1800s, experimental psychology also became very important in Germany, Russia, United States and other countries in Western Europe. Discoveries in the areas of memory and learning processes were pioneered by Pavlov and Ebbinghaus (Lahav, O., n.d.).
Meanwhile, psychoanalysis was developed in the 1890s, with Sigmund Freud as the pioneer in the field. Freud developed psychoanalysis as a method of study of psychological functioning and behavior through observation and interpretative methods. He also tackled subjects such as sexuality, repression and the unconscious mind, which led him to become very famous in the field of psychology (Lahav, O., n.d.).
Eventually, new concepts and thoughts emerged in the study of psychology, which brought froth to the study of modern psychology, which we know today.
Cherry, Kendra. (n.d.). The Origins of Psychology: A Brief History of Psychology Through the
Years. Psychology.about.com. Retrieved November 30, 2014, from http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/psychistory.htm
Lahav, Oren. (n.d.). Brief History of Psychology. Psychology.learnhub.com. Retrieved
November 30, 2014, from http://psychology.learnhub.com/lesson/3833-origins-of-psychology
Landrum, Eric. (n.d.). Brief History of Psychology. Personal.psu.edu. Retrieved November 30,
2014, from http://personal.psu.edu/faculty/a/c/acp103/PSYCH105/brief_history.htm