Do You Agree That Different Historical Periods Have Been Marked by Different Psychological Understandings? Discuss with Reference to Some of the Main Schools in Psychology

Topics: Psychology, Behaviorism, Mind Pages: 7 (2300 words) Published: April 22, 2013
Question: Do you agree that different historical periods have been marked by different psychological understandings? Discuss with reference to some of the main schools in Psychology

Psychology can be defined as the science that studies the human behaviour, the causes of this behaviour and mental processes. Different psychological understandings have marked different historical periods as psychology has been part of philosophy and has been around for centuries, this is why famous philosophers as far back as the early Greeks have theories that now can be marked as psychological views. However, it wasn´t until the late 1800’s that psychology started emerging as a separate science although the mind was given different names in those times and not viewed as a unitary identity. Around the 1920 to 1970, psychology was starting to be described as the study of behaviour. Throughout the different historical times many schools of psychology emerged representing all the different theories within psychology. The first schools of thought were structuralism and functionalism. Structuralism was proposed by Wilhelm Wundt, founder of the first psychology lab, and focused on reducing mental processes down into their most basic elements. Functionalism was influenced by William James, refers to the role that mental processes play instead of focusing on the mental processes themselves. These two schools were later followed by other schools of thought such as psychoanalysis, founded by Freud, relates to the unconscious mind as a determinant of behavior; behaviorism, known as an extreme form of functionalism, focused on observable behavior; humanism, which explains the concept of self-actualization and on the individual itself; while cognitivism focused on the study of mental processes such as how people think, remember, learn and perceive. Since the early development of psychology the mind was believed to be an independent spirit, however, later on it was known to be a characteristic of the brain which controls behaviour as its ultimate role. The Greek systematic philosophy originated in 600BC. One of the first Greek philosophers was Plato (c.427-347 BC.); an idealist (ideas were the ultimate reality) and nativist (human attributes are inherited). Plato’s Theory of Forms or Theory of Ideas is based on ideas and their reality. According to Plato ideas are transcendent and immutable essences which are existing by themselves, not only in the human mind. As stated by Plato “Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge” (GoodReads, n.d.). This was the result of his interest in the study of the mind and soul which helped him to create a rough framework of human behaviour. Plato’s brightest student, Aristotle (c.384-322 B.C), challenged Plato’s emphasis on rationalism and at the same time endorsed rationalism (emphasis in logical thought processes) and empiricism (focus in perception, sensations and experience which shape the individual) by saying that the mind must be used to gain knowledge (rationalism) but that knowledge was gain from sensory experience (empiricism). Aristotle described many categories of behavior such as sight, smell, perceptions, sense and memory coming to the conclusion that human behaviour is based on habits and a desire for happiness. Even though Aristotle was Plato’s student their different views created epistemological arguments throughout history.

By the creation of the Roman Empire in the 12th C AD the Aristotelian philosophy emerged again as the Romans wanted to understand the human nature in a greater detail which brought them to major advances in physical and biological sciences.

The interest for human nature moved on to the 15th and 17th C during the Renaissance period. There was more emphasis on deductive reasoning and observation in compare with the Greek philosophy. The Renaissance period offered an assessment not only of the human personality, but also their...
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