Historical Perspectives of Abnormal Psychology

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Historical Perspectives of Abnormal Psychology
Susan Hardin
University of Phoenix
Abnormal Psychology
PSY/410
Krisit Lane, Ph.D.
October 25, 2011

Historical Perspectives of Abnormal Psychology
Historical perspectives of abnormal psychology sounds complicated, mainly due to the differing definitions, or interpretations, of what is considered abnormal. Identifying someone at work or in a social situation who appears to be behaving abnormally is easier to spot than it is to define the term abnormal behavior. No matter what the definition of abnormal the different perspectives each present a theory concerning its cause. This paper will provide a brief overview of the different perspectives and the theories presented by each. Origins of Psychology

Psychology originated as a result of philosophy, going back to the Greeks in the 17th century. Descartes, a French philosopher, established dualism, referring to perspective that the mind and body are two separate units that interact to create what is known as the human experience. Philosophers used such things as observation and logic to study human behavior, both of which can be influenced by the individual philosopher’s perspective. Dualism brought to the forefront the physiology of the human brain, another contributing factor to the development of psychology as a science. Physiologists research conducted on the human brain brought scientific methodologies to the science of human behavior. Wundt, a German physiologist, used scientific methods to gauge reaction times; in this study Wundt highlighted the connections between physiology and human behavior. Wundt formed the first psychology lab, thereby moving psychology forward as a scientific discipline. Evolution of Abnormal Psychology

Examples of abnormal behavior can be traced back to biblical times, and was most often blamed on evil spirits; known as animism. As far back in history as 3000 B.C. skulls that were found with small holes in them were theorized as attempts to release evil spirits causing an individual’s abnormal behavior (History of Abnormal Psychology, n.d.). Moving on to the Greek and Roman civilizations, a more scientific view of mental illness is developing; however mystical explanations are still popular. One philosopher, Hippocrates, described mental illnesses such as mania, phobias, paranoia, and psychosis and he theorized that bodily fluids were to blame. With the dark ages (1500 B.C.) the belief that abnormal behavior could be blamed on spirits or the devil. Poor houses were built for those who could not pay bills and allowed mentally ill individuals a place to live; these poor houses later became the first asylums. In 1774 A.D. Mesmer developed hypnosis as a treatment of some mental illness, this process was known as mesmerism ("History of Psychology (387 BC to Present)", 2003). In 1808 Gall proposed the theory that an individual’s personality could be revealed by the bumps on his or her head. Leaping forward to 1848 is Gage; the story of Phineas Gage highlighted the connection between brain structure and personality. Wundt sparked the development of the formal study of human emotions, behaviors, and cognitions ("History of Psychology (387 BC to Present)", 2003). Perhaps the most influential theorist to study personality and human behavior was Sigmund Freud. Freud had many theories that human behavior could be traced back to unconscious drives such as the ego, the id and the super ego. Early childhood trauma was a favored subject of Freud; he theorized that all unconscious drives stemmed from early childhood experiences. As important as Freud’s theories were James Cattell was the one who specialized in psychological assessment. Along the way the American Psychological Association (APA) was formed in 1892 and in 1896 the birth of clinical psychology was developed at the University of Pennsylvania ("History of Psychology (387 BC to Present)", 2003). Deinstitutionalization, a...
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