Psychology: Its origins from the 19th century to the present. (Talks about the schools of Psychology)

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Before we can begin, we must first answer the question, 'What is Psychology?' and also describe the subject. Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Most of the experts have agreed that it was Aristotle who was a great contributor to this divine subject because he "touched" on almost all aspects of psychology.

While another man, Wilhelm Wundt was the "father of psychology". He branded such a name because it is said that he established psychology as a field of scientific studies independent from philosophy.

Late 19th Century Psychology

Psychology had its origins through a number of "schools" of psychology. These schools gave way to psychology today, that is, all our theories are bound to them. These schools are as follows:-






These are the old schools of psychology that half of the founders in their respective field did not agreed with one another.


Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) was a German psychologist who did poorly in primary (elementary) school and eventually he attended medical school because as anyone else, he wanted a good living. He did psychology and philosophy because he disliked dealing with patients. It is only when became seriously ill, that his main focus was on analyzing the experience of dying rather than being frightened by death. He broke down his experience into thoughts, sensations and feelings.

Not only did he analyze the experience of death but also of living. Like the famous philosopher Aristotle, he believed that he could scientifically study the mind which he thought of as a natural event like heat, light and blood flow.

What is Structuralism? We can answer this question by stating that it attempted to break conscience down, that is, to sensations like taste and feelings like mental images. The school of psychology was founded by Wundt and his students. This school said that there three (3) basic elements- sensations, feelings and images that made up experience.

Introspection was used to determine the basic elements of his experience.

Unfortunately, Structuralism did not withstand the test of time. It died out in the early twentieth century. The major problem of Wundt's approach was the difficulty encountered by his observers in reporting raw data of sensation, that is, data unmodified by experience and also because psychological investigating shifted from the human mind to human behavior.


Brother of the novelist Henry James, William James (1842-1910), founder of the school has been described as the true first American psychologist. James' wealthy family was visited by celebrities of that time like Henry David Thoreau. James was given a MD degree from Harvard University but he did not practice medicine because it was not challenging intellectually, instead he decided to teach first physiology, then philosophy and finally psychology all at Harvard. James became a giant in psychology especially after his book "Principles of Psychology".

A major figure was James in the development of psychology in the United States and his main attention was on the connection between conscious experience and behavior. His argument was that the flow of consciousness is fluid and continuous. He used introspection to convince him that structuralist theory was not so true. We will touch on the battle of the schools later on.

What is functionalism? Its main focus was on behavior and in addition to the conscious or mind. Functionalist looked at how our experience help function more adaptively in our environments. They also used Darwin's theory: organisms with the adaptive features (fittest) survive and reproduce; and from that they said that adaptive behaviors are learned and maintained.

James wrote, "Habit is the enormous flywheel of society." Habit keeps the heart of civilization running.


This school was prominent in...
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