How Has Psychology Changed Over the Years

How has psychology changed over the years? This is a good question considering the fact that psychology has been around for thousands of years. What we call "psychology" goes back to ancient times. However, when most people think of psychology, they are focused on the more recent history of the practice, starting with the 19th century.

Psychology's 19th Century Foundations
Biological psychology was pioneered by French physiologist Pierre Cabanis in the early 1800s. In his work, he studied the mental functioning of his study subjects through the lens of his previous work in biology.

However, it wasn't until 1879 that psychology became an independent field of study. At this time, Wilhelm Wundt, a German physician, set up the first lab that was dedicated to psychological research. Wundt is widely considered to be the "Father of psychology," and his institute at the University of Leipzig was integral to the development of the field. The other major strides in the field during this century happened with the publication of William James' Principles of Psychology in 1890 and Sigmund Freud's work Interpretation of Dreams in 1900.

This early field of psychology focused on three major schools of thought: functionalism, psychoanalysis and structuralism. Functionalism, of which William James was a pioneer, focused on the acts and functions of people's behavior, rather than the inner workings of the mind. Psychoanalysis, popularized by Sigmund Freud, theorized that all major behaviors were the result of powerful unconscious drives. Structuralism, put forth by Edward B. Titchener, posited that all mental experience is a simple combination of elements within the mind.

Behaviorism, Child Psychology And Gestalt
As psychology entered the 20th century, there were further strides. The popularity of the field increased, and colleges began offering psychology degree programs. The first major change in the interpretation of psychology was in 1913 with John B. Watson's paper "Psychology as Behavior." This launched the study of behaviorism, which focused on the behaviors of people, rather than the deep motivations that psychoanalysis studied.

The development of child psychology was pioneered by Jean Piaget with the publishing of his book The Child's Conception of the World in 1920. His paper prompted the further study of child development as a sub field of psychology.

Gestalt psychology was founded by Kurt Koffka. Gestalt is the German word for "whole," and this theory posited that all psychological phenomena must be viewed as part of the whole. A person's psychological state could not be viewed as an entity unto itself.

Cognitive Psychology And Evolutionary Psychology
Cognitive psychology and evolutionary psychology, developed in the 1950s and the 1970s, respectively, are the most recent theories that inform modern psychology. Cognitive psychology is inspired by study in mathematics and other fields. It focuses on a person's cognitive states and the way the mind works. Evolutionary psychology applies theories from evolutionary biology to the cognitive behaviors of the brain. It frames behaviors in light of their evolutionary purpose and studies the ways that social phenomena have helped humans evolve.

Psychology is continuing to grow and change. Ongoing research in this field is helping us to understand how we behave and how we think.

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