Historical Foundation of Psychology Essay Sample

Although the philosophic underpinnings of modern psychological science are of import. and certainly are necessary for a complete apprehension of the development of the academic discourse in psychological science. I will non set about to clarify the distant ascendants of our field. I must warrant this place. I surely believe that the Greek and subsequently philosophers set forms such as Socratic methodological analysis. and the belief that the universe is an entity that can be studied by its manifestations. Furthermore. since there are many civilizations in the universe that do non subscribe to this European conceptualisation of being. it is obvious that without that footing modern. scientific psychological science could ne’er develop. None-the-less. the as sheer sum of possible and likely intervening influences preclude the sensible and logical sequencing of that development. For illustration. it could be argued that the feudal economic system was ( at least partly ) maintained by the primacy of the Catholic Church throughout Europe.

An every bit valid statement can be made that that oppressive ambiance was the major fertile land for the extremist reaction against non-rational or doctrines that were non physically or biologically based. And the enlightenment. which followed the Renaissance. was peculiarly anti-religious as a continued reaction to the oppressive bigotry of the spiritual constitution. This might been seen in Voltaire’s sarcasm of Leibniz’s doctrine that “all is for the best in this best of possible universes. ” So we could state that the social-political-economic of the Middle Ages was polar in organizing a scientific footing for psychological science. Therefore. how can we moderately assert that Wundt’s dedication to measurement of distinct mental and discernible facts is a tradition traveling back to Greek doctrine or a manifestation of more modern-day sociopolitical factors. And whereas both statements likely contain rather a spot of truth. the point boundary lines on the moot. This sentiment is reflected by Harrison ( 1963 ) .

Modern psychological science does hold as its immediate parenthood two ( or three ) major subscribers. which should be examined. These are the structural linguistics school of Wilhelm Wundt. and the functionalist school of William James. Behaviorism might be considered a separate development since Watson consciously attempted to set the two aforesaid scientists in the same class. but most historiographers consider the behavioural school as a development of functionalism.

Prior to the coming of psychological science as an academic and separate research scientific discipline. this field was examined by physiologists. Johannes Muller was a major figure in the early 1800’s and wrote the basic text for the preeminent centres of physiological surveies in Germany of that clip. In his work and text edition he outlined many experimental plants and processs. but it is important to observe that he retained a basic dogma that life’s basic construction was the psyche. He even included computations refering the velocity at which the psyche enters that organic structure in his text edition. It was his pupils Ernst Weber. Emil Du Bios-Reymond. Hermann von Helmoltz who vowed to ne’er let anything that can non be reduced to physical or biological procedures in their research or Hagiographas.

Wilhelm Wundt is frequently considered the male parent of modern scientific psychological science since he was the first to set up a research lab that had a defined scientific procedure for look intoing mental events. Equally of import was his diary. that he published for the intent of publicising for the scientific community. the consequences of the experiments conducted at his research lab. I think it of import to analyze the scene that Wundt found himself. Germany was the centre of the academic universe at that clip. He was on the head of what was going a new country of scientific discipline. There were other research labs being opened but they were non for “psychology” instead for physiology. Muller. Weber. and Helmhotz were his wise mans. and were physiologists. It was their reductionist mentality. and the thought that all of life’s procedures can be reduced to physical and biological concepts that set the footing for Wundt’s experimental and empirical work. Many of the methods used by Wundt can be seen as about natural branchs of the methods of these immediate German predecessors.

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However. these noted research workers studied human features that can be seen even today as more neurological than psychological. Such facets of experience as the velocity of nervous transmittal. the ability to distinguish between two points on the tegument. are merely two illustrations. ( I think it interesting to observe that the reintegration of physiology and psychological science in the signifier of physiological psychology is highly structural. Dr. Adams. in his talks this hebdomad at the C-4 in Alexandria explains that in modern-day physiological psychology there is an attempt to place specific encephalon constructions for specific emotional reactions. Though non Wundtian. is surely seems structural. ) However. proving reaction clip is more than simply the velocity of the nervous transmittal.

When Wundt discovers that it takes longer to respond when there is a favoritism procedure involved the experiment go resolutely psychological and non physiological. Then Wundt method of self-contemplation can merely be termed psychological. even though utilizing trained introspectionists ( as Titchener called them ) would look to convey the scientific cogency of the decisions into inquiry. It is of import to observe that Wundt had some really un-Wundtian inclinations when viewed from our American position. He attempted in his ulterior old ages to specify a psychological science of human interaction. which as we will soon see. is seen from this side of the Atlantic. is non in his ain tradition.

If one is to look at the Hagiographas of early American psychologist. the philosophical conflict for the definition of the scientific discipline becomes highly evident. In Titchener’s ( 1898 ) seminal article he begins by sketching three “mutually mutualist scientific disciplines of morphology. physiology. and ontogeny” in the scientific discipline of life things. That is the map. construction. and procedure of alteration in the kingdom of biological science. However. while leting for a value in descriptive ( functional ) psychological science he posits that it. “ can non. in the nature of the instance. lead to scientific conclusiveness. ” After giving some clip to demoing how it is non efficient to look at the higher maps of judgement ( ala Brentano. ) will ( ala James. ) or thought ( ala Stout ) he attempts to sketch the really rudimentss of cognitive life. These are the esthesiss which must hold “two indispensable determiners of…quality and strength. ” He builds these elements into a cell of elements and qualities that I think deserving citing. “I conclude. so. that the affectional component of constituted of quality. strength. and continuance ; the sense component ( esthesis or thought ) of quality. strength. continuance. clarity. and ( in some instances ) extent.

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Quality is intrinsic and single ; strength and clarity are ‘relative’ features ; continuance and extent are. really likely. extrinsic interlingual renditions into a construction of the lowest footings of a functional series. And the corollary is that the ‘elements’ of the experimentalist. as they have been the first to press. are artefacts. abstractions. usefully isolated for scientific terminals. but non found in experience save as connected with their like. ” This makes it clear that the topic of structural psychological science was non and ne’er intended to be natural. day-to-day cognitive or emotional procedures. Tichener ( 1899 ) makes this even more clear a twelvemonth subsequently in a answer to Caldwell. “The whole tendency of our thoughts-habits. and the whole of lingual tradition. prefer a functional. and do against a structural consideration of head. In our day-to-day life and conversation. we have no enticement to believe or talk of our mental provinces and procedures in any other than a functional manner. ” His line of survey. nevertheless. is entirely to depict the “is” and non the “is-for. ” since in his position the “is-for” is non scientific.

It has been argued that this Tichenerian predication of the decrease of psychological science to basic mensurable procedures is really anti-Wundt ( Danziger. 1972 ) . Danziger expounds the Wundtian belief that psychological science consists of two complimentary halves. single and societal. And although Tichener clearly lumped Wundt into the same cast as Kuple. Mach. and Avenarius. the ulterior three went manner beyond Wundt in their structural. reductionist conceptualisation of psychological science. as did Tichener himself. It is likely merely due to the sheer influence of the name of Wundt. that Tichener misrepresented his mentor’s instructions.

American functional psychological science had its formal beginnings with William James who established his research lab at Harvard the same twelvemonth that Wundt established his in Germany. Harrison ( 1963 ) considers James as precursor of American functionalism. However. it’s roots can be traced back to Darwin through an essay written by Chauncey Wright on “The Evolution of self-consciousness” published in 1873 at the petition of Darwin himself ( Madden. 1974 ) . Wright was a frequent visitant in the James’ place and although there were frequent dissensions between William and the older philosopher. the impression of pure experience. the really point that Tichener found unscientific. was attributable to Chauncy Wright. It was Wright’s thought. that James espoused. that the chief causes of unconscious illation and concluding are association by adjacency and similarity. It was the Darwinian construct that purposeful map was the agencies by which natural choice progressed in the carnal land that allowed for James to use the map of carnal behaviour as a unit of scientific enquiry.

Charles Sanders Peirce is acknowledged. even by James. as another of the cardinal conceivers of American functionalism. Like James. he viewed mental procedures in footings of the result and map. i. e. the matter-of-fact. Peirce was highly good versed in Wundt’s Hagiographas. but even every bit early as 1867 expressed a disfavor for the Wundtian introverted psychological science. and preferred what he called an empirical psychological science ( Cadwallader. 1974 ) . He advocated for a psychological science that researched and defined complex mental procedures. Where the structuralists might hold believed that a computing machine can hold true unreal intelligence. Peirce wrote in 1887. “how much of the concern of believing a machine can be made to execute. and what portion of it must be left for the life head. is a inquiry non without imaginable practical importance. “

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At the University of Chicago from 1896 there was a group of psychologists and philosophers who are universally recognized as the original karyon of the functional motion. John Dewey was the Chairman of the section of Philosophy there ( until he moved to Columbia University in New York ) . and significantly contributed to psychology with his celebrated paper “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology ( 1896 ) . Dewey stipulated that behaviour was more complex than stimulus-response. He saw that. for case. when a kid pulls her manus off from a firing taper. even the simplest analysis would set the sensori-motor behaviour before the light stimulation. And on deeper analysis 1 must besides include old experiences with the taper to specify the behaviour. As such he really preferred the term “organic circuit” to the term automatic discharge.

This speedy overview leaves a antic sum of comparing and reciprocally critical articles and constructs untouched. It does non make justness to the phenomenal sum of rational attempt that was invested in specifying psychological science in those early old ages. I would wish to stop with two remarks.

First I would wish to give a sum-up. Tichener. in his personal fortress of Wundtian psychological science fought the holistic. phenomenological. and practical. functional school of psychological science as detrimental to the unity of psychological science as a scientific discipline. The functionalists fought the Tichenerian trade name of structural linguistics as insignifcant. and dead-end in that it could ne’er take to practical application.

Second. I need to do a remark that I can merely decently allude to instead than decently citation. When I was researching this poster in the Library of Congress I saw an article in one of the diaries that postulated that psychological science at the bend of the last century was a Kuhnian paradigmatic scientific discipline. As such. these academic statements were non functioning the intent of specifying the field. but polishing the methodological analysis of a mature scientific discipline. When I saw the article I did non compose down the mention because it seemed really far out of line with the remainder of the readings that I was making. At this point it seems like a valid point. and one to chew over.


Cadwallader. T. C. ( 1974 ) . Charles S. Peirce ( 1939-1914 ) . Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. 10 ( 3 ) . 291-298.

Dewey. J. ( 1896 ) . The automatic discharge in psychological science. Psychological Review. 3. 357-370.

Harrison. R. ( 1963 ) . Functionalism and its historical significance. Genetic Psychology Monographs. 68. 387-423.

Madden. E. H. ( 1974 ) Chauncey Wright’s Functionalism. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. 10 ( 3 ) . 281-290.

Peirce. C. S. . ( 1887 ) . Logical machines. American Journal of Psychology. 1. 165-170.

Extra resources:

Brennan. J. F. ( 1998 ) History and Systems of Psychology ( 5th Edition ) . Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River. New Jersey

Hunt. M. ( 1993 ) . The Story of Psychology. Doubleday. New York. New York

Robinson. D. N. ( 1997 ) . The Great Idea of Psychology ( Part 1 ) . ( audio tape ) . The Teaching Company.