June 3, 2013
History of Psychology
Over the course of history humans have been witness to several new ideas and theories take place and develop into new fields of study. Some take only a matter of years, and then there are some that take hundreds’. The study of the mind has always been an integral part of human nature and curiosity but the actual scientific history of this field is rather brief. A mere 130 years ago the formal discipline of psychology was created, though its initial origins spawned many years before that. This new wave of thought began with progressive thinking from several philosophers in the end of the renaissance era. Hermann Ebbinghaus may have said it best when he stated “Psychololgy has a long past, yet its real history is short”. (Goodwin) The central meaning behind this statement was that the questions of the mind have been around for centuries, but the true application of psychology through scientific method is just beginning.
Psychology as a scientific discipline stemmed from early philosophers taking new approaches to their own craft. Several of these philosophers stumbled into areas of psychology even accidentally. With the exponential advancements in medicine and technology throughout the renaissance philosophers too advanced their ways of thought. One of these men was Rene Descartes, a French philosopher that aspired to attain all the knowledge the world had to offer. Descartes was talented in many areas of science including physics, mathematics, physiology and several others. After graduating from university he set out to unlock the mysteries of the world, which in years to come he explained many. Descartes relation to psychology though, comes from his theory of dualism which he attempted to discover the connection between Mind (soul) and Body (mechanism). Dualism explains that the body and the mind are separate from each other. This theory along with his reflex theory and his views on innate (nature) ideas versus derived (nurture) ideas is what set him apart as one of the earliest philosophers with psychological points of view.(Goodwin, C. J.)
Another philosopher that would bring about new ideas to philosophy was the Englishman John Locke. Locke was an oxford graduate that would eventually bring the theory of associationism to England. This theory which was later an important part of British Empiricism declared that humans learn via the environment that surrounds and shapes them. Locke believed that one could understand ideas because of its components. He suggested that complex ideas were merely made up of simple ideas and that once these simple ideas were understood then so the complex would be as well. This theory and his views on learning through perception and environment were considered early stages of Behaviorism and Structuralism. Years Later another intelligent scientist by the name of George Berkeley, took Locke’s thoughts on perception an extra step further and fully developed the doctrine of association. (Goodwin, C. J.)
Berkeley was an Anglican bishop from Ireland that would explain the connection of association to vision. Berkeley established that humans can use association of objects to judge other things such as distance therefore using perception and association to learn something that is not immediately known. This later became known as subjective Idealism. Berkeley would never go on to inspire a large movement or school of thought in psychology but rather he inspired different kinds of questions to be asked about philosophical ideas. Instead of approaching ideas and theories from a reasoning standpoint he geared towards a more scientific questioning.(Goodwin, C. J.)
Right as Berkeley was coming up with theories of perceptional learning, David Hume was creating laws of association. David Hume was Scottish born and incredibly bright at a young age. He fell to philosophy amongst other things (business, law,…