“Explain the Reasons for the Development of Psychology as an Academic Discipline in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Making Explicit the Important Turning Points and Breakthroughs”

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Psychology is the science of mind and behaviour and has a number of approaches and theories that help to explain how our mind works. Each approach has a lot to offer in terms of explanation, and together they help us understand why we think, feel, and behave the way we do. In this essay I will discuss some of these approaches individually and come to a conclusion, however before I do this, I will give a brief definition of the term ‘psychology’.

The word ‘psychology’ is derived from the Greek word psyche meaning mind, soul or spirit. Psychology is the scientific study of our thoughts, feelings emotions and behaviours.
Psychology has its roots in philosophy, biology and physics and can be traced back to the early teachings of the Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who had first discussed many of the problems that psychology seeks to investigate. Plato suggested that the mind lives in the brain. Aristotle on the other hand believed that the heart was the basis for mental activity. (Psychology, handout 2008). Although history shows that the early Greek thinkers were the human mind as a means to understanding our behaviour, it is the work of the French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) who is credited as the “...first person formally to distinguish between mind and matter.” (Gross et al, 2004, p.356).

Psychology became independent field through the work of the German psychologist and psychologist Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) the founder of experimental psychology and structuralism, who in 1879 opened the first experimental psychology laboratory in Germany.

Wundt advocated the use of a scientific method in psychology to investigate the mind through the use of a method known as ‘introspection’. “...the process by which a person looks inward at their own mental processes to gain insight into how they work...” (Cardwell et al, 2004, p.863). The aim of Wundt’s experiment “...was to analyse conscious thought into its basic elements and...
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