History of Western Psychology
The roots of western
psychology can be traced to Greek philosophy. The word psychology
itself is derived from the Greek words psyche which
means soul and logos which means study. Psychology
thus started as a part of philosophy and became an independent
discipline much later.
Plato and Aristotle where among the first
philosophers who thought about the mind. Plato believed that body and mind are
two separate entities and mind could exist even after death. But
he was positive in that education can bring change to the basic
nature of the mind. Aristotle, who was the disciple of Plato, followed the feet of his
teacher and believed in the body-mind duality. But he thought that of each of
these is the manifestation of the other. He, but, was pessimistic
about the role of education in changing the fundamental nature of
French philosopher and mathematician, who originated the
Cartesian system of coordinates or the coordinate
believed in the body-mind duality. But he was open enough to consider that
there is an uninterrupted transaction between the body and the
In the eighteenth
century AD, John Locke, a British national, proposed that
knowledge depends upon the experience based on the sense organ
and that thinking is not innate. He also considered that the mind
of a newly-born child is like a clean-slate on which anything can be
written. Locke believed that knowledge occurs only when
the sense organs interact with the outer world.
These two ideas
duality and the clean-slate
- have been
the strong roots of the western psychology for many decades. Only
in the twentieth century western psychologists, especially Jung, Maslow and others, were able to break
free from this limiting concepts.
In the twentieth century
AD, German scientist E.H.Weber attempted a scientific approach in the
study of the mind by his finding of the quantitative relation
between stimulus intensity and the resultant sensory experience.
This was later known as the Webers law.
Almost in the same
period, G.T.Fechner, who is called the father of quantitative
coined psycho-physics which is the quantitative study of
external structures and sensory experience.
Then came Darwin with his revolutionary origin of
which influenced psychology and human thought.
In 1879, Wilhelm Wundt, a German scientist, established
the worlds first psychological lab at Leipzig, Germany. His
aim was to prove that there is a physical activity for every
mental activity. He opined that psychologists should study
sensation, perception, and emotions.
In the first decade of
the 20th Century AD, the Russian
psychologist Ivan P. Pavlov made a path breaking finding when he was
studying the digestion process in dogs. Before the experimental
dog was given food, a bell was sounded. When this was repeated
several times, the dog started salivating the very moment it
heard the bell sound. Pavlov called this the conditioned reflex. This was one of the greatest
findings that made radical changes in the field of psychology.
Major Schools of Psychology
Titchner and his followers said that
conciseness can be analyzed into threesensation, perception
and feeling. Titchner and his followers are called
structuralists and their main method for study of mind was introspection.
father of American Psychology, J.R.Angels and John Dewey argued that psychologists should
study the function of the mind and not its structure. These group
of psychologists are called functionalists.
Freud and Psycho
Freud of Vienna,
who is considered as the father of modern psychology, originated
a new method called the Free Association Technique. Freud considered that mind has three
parts the conscious, the pre-conscious and the
unconscious. He considered that 90% of the mind is the
unconscious mind. He argued that Id (unconscious mind) is the
seat of repression, and instincts. Freud further considered that behind
any behavior is the libido energy.
He divided the
personality into three id, ego, superego. Of these, Id
goes after pleasure and thus is said to be governed by the
pleasure principle. Ego which is the organized part of Id is
driven by the Reality Principle. Superego connects the id to the external
world and is considered the conscience.
Later, Erich Frome, Karan Horney, Erik Erikson,
upon the ideas of Frued and so they are called Neo Fruedians.
Alfred Adler and
Alfred Adler gave the
focus to society because he thought that since we are social
animals we should give emphasis on social factors. He argued
that, the will to power and superiority are thus more important
than sex or will to pleasure. So, the individual will try to
overcome the deficits he has or he thinks he has. He will try to
show superiority or ambition. Inferiority complex is the most
important concept Adler added to psychology. His psychology is
called Individual Psychology.
Jung and Analytical Psychology
Carl Gustav Jung, like
Adler, was in the psychoanalytical camp in the beginning, but
later parted with Freud to create his own (school of) psychology
called the Analytical Psychology. He dismissed the Freudian theory that the only motive that drive
the unconscious is sex. Jung extended the concept of the
unconscious beyond the individual. Thus he said that there is a
collective unconscious besides the individual unconscious. He
postulated that the racial memory of centuries is precipitated in
the unconscious of each individual. According to him, the main
ingredient of the collective unconscious is the archetype.
Watson, also of
America, proposed that psychologists as scientists should study
observable human nature and not the concepts like mind,
He and his followers
tried to explain behavior based on stimulus and response. They
are called behaviorists and their school of psychology is called
behaviorism. Tolman, Hull and B.F.Skinner are the later behaviorists. Skinner originated operant conditioning
which is one of the most used techniques for psychological
Gestalt Psychology was a
reaction to the over emphasis of reductionistic methods in
psychology. The gestalt psychologists were against this blind
reliance on analysis and reductionism. They believed that
behavior should be understood in a holistic way. Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, Kurt Kafka were the first proponents of
this school psychology.
believed that neither Frued et al nor the behaviorists could include
the complexity and uniqueness of man their studies of psychology.
So a group of psychologists gave human experience more importance
and they are called humanists. They argued that man is a
subjective animal. The humanists counted that the motives for
development and to become perfect are more important than sex,
power etc. They brought back the dignity of man that Frued and others undignified.
They denied Freudian unconscious or behaviorstic
environment as the ultimate basis of behavior and said that man
is not a slave of either the unconscious or the situation.
Gestalt psychology, Indian Psychology, Psychology of Consciousness, Environmental
Psychology, Para Psychology are the schools of psychology
that are included in Humanistic psychology. Gordon W Allport,
Carl Rogers, and
Maslow are some
of the early proponents of humanistic psychology.
The Three Major Forces
in Modern Psychology
There are three major
forces in psychology. Freudian Psychoanalysis and the offshoots from it are
considered the First Force in Psychology. This has been very
dominant in the earlier part of the 20th
century but has given way to the second force in psychology
called behaviorism. Currently, behaviorism is also slowly reaching its end.
Slowly, holistic and more natural ways are coming to the main
stream. This is the third force in psychology the Humanistic
experts foresee that by the first or second decade of the 21st
century, humanistic psychology will become the dominant major
force. This is because that man will slowly come to realize that
the origin of bliss is in himself and so man will turn to himself
for truth, beauty, happiness, success, and achievement. Neither Freudian
psychology nor Behaviorism can be of definite help in this
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