History of Psychology Essay Sample

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The study of psychology contains a history. Unlike a general history course taught by a history teacher, the history of psychology is taught by a psychology teacher (Goodwin, 2008). Several philosophers are associated with the beginnings of psychology as a formal discipline. Multiple philosophers in the western tradition were primary contributors to the formation of psychology as a formal discipline. During the nineteenth century, in particular, many great developments in the science of psychology were founded. Several philosophers, including those of western tradition and the specific advancements of the nineteenth century are significant portions in the history of psychology.

Historical Philosophers

Several philosophers are associated with the beginnings of psychology as a formal discipline. Philosophers such as Wilhelm Wundt and William James are key players in the history of psychology. Wilhelm Wundt, was the creator of functionalism and founder of the first psychological laboratory (Hatfield, 1997). In doing so, Wundt became known as the father of experimental psychology (Hatfield, 1997). Wundt also made the separation between philosophy and psychology (McLeod, 2008). According to McLeod (2008), Wundt’s theories attempted “to record thoughts and sensations, and to analyze them into their constituent elements” (para. 5).

The use of laboratories by Wundt encouraged later psychologist to follow suit and experiment in controlled environments (McLeod, 2008). William James also laid important foundations related to the early stages of psychology. James’ functionalism was created as a response to Wundt’s structuralism. According to James, functions of the brain should benefit a person (Ivie, 2006). Later psychologists such as Skinner, Gardner, and Thorndike have all built on the legacy of James. Although James’s theories have laid the groundwork for the beginnings of psychology as a formal disciple, psychologist no longer accepts his view that the brain is simple today (Ivie, 2006). Both Wundt and James have provided early foundations for psychology to become respected as a formal discipline.

Western Philosophers

Men like Edward Titchener and John Locke are early western philosophers who contributed to the beginnings of psychology. Edward Titchener, like Wundt, researched the “analytical study of the human experience” (Edward Bradford Titchener, 2006). Titchener emphasized psychology as a science (Edward Bradford Titchener, 2006). Titchener is partially credited with bringing a new experimental psychology to America, which caused the transition from mental philosophy to psychology (Edward Bradford Titchener, 2002). Titchener brought great changes to the study of psychology in America. John Locke was a contributor in the early foundations of the western world.

He was fascinated in psychology. John Locke wrote An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, it was a “ground breaking work of intellectual might that spanned four books and took on the task of examining the nature of human knowledge” (John Locke Biography, 2013, pg.2). Locke’s main contribution to psychology is the mind does not contain anything innate, except for few innate mental processes (John Locke Biography, 2013). Although these views did provide great contributions, they were later disproved. Edward Titchener and John Locke provided views to build upon that contributed to beginnings of psychology as a formal discipline.

The Science of Psychology

During the nineteenth century, many developments contributed to psychology as a science. Those like Wilhelm Wundt, Sigmund Freud, and William James contributed breakthroughs for the science of psychology. For example, Wilhelm Wundt brought psychology to a lab and used the scientific method for his research (Goodwin, 2008). Another example is Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious mind, until Freud the focus was on the conscious mind (Buzzle, 2013). Finally, William James brought forward functualism (Buzzle, 2013). Research methods like direct observation were mainly used (Buzzle, 2013). These methods, theories and new school of thought brought opportunity for many more advances in the science of psychology.


Psychology has come a long way in earning respect as a science. Early philosophers in the nineteenth century like Wilhelm Wundt and William James made great strides for psychology. Western psychologist Edward Titchener and early philosopher Jon Locke have also contributed to the sciences of psychology. During the nineteenth century developments like new schools of thought, functualism, and bringing psychology to a lab aided in the science of psychology. The history of psychology holds many aspects. Numerous philosophers have contributed to the development of psychology as a formal discipline and science.

Buzzle. (2013). Brief History of Psychology. Retrieved from http://buzzle.com/articles/brief-history-of-psychology.html Edward Bradford Titchener. (2006). In Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/ps/i.do?action=interpret&id=GALE|CX3404706409&v=2.1&u=uphoenix&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w&authCount=1 Goodwin, C. J. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology (3rd ed.). Nj, NJ: Wiley. Hatfield, G. (1997). Wundt and Psychology as Science: Disciplinary Transformations. Perspectives on Science, 5(3), 349. Ivie, S. D. (2006). The Legacy of William James. Journal of Thought, 41(4), 117-136. Mcleod, S. (2008). Wilhelm Wundt Father of Psychology. Retrieved from http://simplypsychology.org/wundt.html Titchener, Edward Bradford. (2002). In Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/entry/routbiopsy/titchener_edward_bradford

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