Psychology evolving into a science is a result of individuals and their theories more than successive steps. As our reading states, people have been informally observing human behavior and philosophizing about it for thousands of years (University of Phoenix, 2013). In contrast, psychology’s history as a science dates back only about 130 years. Wilhelm Wundt, the “father of psychology,” set up a laboratory in 1879 to study conscious experience. By insisting on systematic observation and measurement, he got psychology off to a good start. Wundt’s ideas were carried to the United States by Edward Titchener who called Wundt’s ideas structuralism and tried to analyze the structure of mental life into basic “elements” or “building blocks” (University of Phoenix, 2013).
After Titchener, one of the first philosophies developed was Functionalism by American scholar William James. James helped establish the field as a separate discipline. The functionalists admired Charles Darwin, who deduced that creatures evolve in ways that favor survival. Functionalism spurred the rise of industrial/organizational psychology, the study of people at work (University of Phoenix, 2013).
Functionalism and structuralism were soon challenged by behaviorism, the study of observable behavior. Behaviorist John B. Watson believed that introspection is unscientific precisely because there is no way to settle disagreements between observers. These observations were objective because they did not involve introspecting on subjective experience (University of Phoenix, 2013).
The best-known behaviorist, B. F. Skinner, believed that our actions are controlled by rewards and punishments. As a “radical behaviorist,” Skinner also believed that mental events, such as thinking, are not needed to explain behavior. Radical behaviorists have been criticized for ignoring the role that thinking plays in our lives. However, many criticisms have been answered by cognitive behaviorism, a view that combines cognition (thinking) and conditioning to explain behavior (University of Phoenix, 2013).
Psychoanalytic Psychology grew as American Psychology grew more scientific. An Austrian doctor named Sigmund Freud was developing radically different ideas that opened new horizons in art, literature, and history, as well as psychology. Freud believed that mental life is like an iceberg: Only a small part is exposed to view. He called the area of the mind that lays outside of personal awareness the unconscious. According to Freud, our behavior is deeply influenced by unconscious thoughts, impulses, and desires—especially those concerning sex and aggression (University of Phoenix, 2013).
Humanism or humanistic psychology is a view that focuses on subjective human experience. Humanistic psychologists are interested in human potentials, ideals, and problems. Humanists stressed free will, our ability to make voluntary choices. Humanists believe that people can freely choose to live more creative, meaningful, and satisfying lives (University of Phoenix, 2013). Explaining Human Behavior
Scientific observation is the most powerful way to critically answer questions about behavior. Answering psychological questions often begins with a careful description of behavior. Description, or naming and classifying, is typically based on making a detailed record of scientific observations (University of Phoenix, 2013). Useful knowledge begins with accurate description, but descriptions fail to answer the important “why” questions. We have met psychology’s second goal when we can explain an event. That is, understanding usually means we can state the causes of a behavior.
Psychology’s third goal, prediction, is the ability to forecast behavior accurately (University of Phoenix, 2013). Description, explanation, and prediction in psychology seem reasonable, and are a form of control. To a psychologist, control simply refers to the ability to alter the conditions that affect behavior. Clearly, psychological control must be used wisely and humanely. In summary, psychology’s goals are a natural outgrowth of our desire to understand behavior. To understand behavior, we must learn the nature of the behavior, why does it occur, determine if we can forecast it and learn what conditions affect it (University of Phoenix, 2013). Nature vs. Nurture
According to Charles Darwin, the principles of natural selection (Physical features that help plants and animals adapt to their environments) are retained in evolution. This had led to popular discussion about nature vs. nurture as it relates to the relative importance of an individual’s innate qualities as compared to an individual’s personal experiences (University of Phoenix, 2013).
With so much experience and research available the argument itself has become somewhat antiquated. Individuals can be influenced by either. Just how much influence is determined by the input of parents, friends or the environment. DNA can of course be contributed to the size and strength given of a particular individual. What the individual then does with their physicality is steered by parents, peers and personal commitment.
University of Phoenix. (2013). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, BEH225 website.