Psychology is the study of the mental process and behavior of humans and animals and their interaction with the environment. Psychologists study the cognitive process, emotions, behavior, personality, memory, reasoning, and the interaction between an individual and the environment. During the early times, psychological study derived its speculations from the field of philosophy and theology. Later, psychology emerged as a separate and distinct field of study. Psychology claimed its own identity when there was an attempt to study human behavior and mind using scientific methods. Scientifically, it is defined as the study of human behavior and thought processes using systematic approaches.
Modern psychology was divided into many sub-disciplines which seem to have little in common beyond the interest to study human behavior and mental process using scientific techniques. Each area of modern psychology uses different models and approaches. Psychology emerged from philosophy as a separate subject when psychologists refrained from asking questions about human nature, instead started to seek answers to those questions. Modern psychology focused on the development of scientific tools, methods, and techniques to achieve precision in understanding the mind. In recent years, psychology fragmented into various areas to focus on different conditions and group of people. School psychology examines the issues related to learning and teaching. Sports psychology is concerned with the mental health of athletes. Clinical psychology focuses on treating specific psychological problems. Industrial psychology focuses on the workplace to improve job satisfaction and productivity of the employees. Some other new areas of psychology are forensic psychology, environmental psychology, and community psychology.
Events That Influenced the Development of Modern Psychology
The development of psychology is affected by cultural and environmental factors. Some of the contextual forces that shape its nature and outcomes are explained below:
Economic Opportunity: The United States saw a dramatic change in the late 19th century. There was a raise in experimental psychology labs, development in education, growth in the economy, and an increase in population due to the influx of immigrants and high birth rate. These social changes gave an exciting opportunity to psychologists to apply their knowledge and technique to solve real-world problems.
World War: World Wars I &II increased job opportunities for psychologists. War personally impacted the ideas of research psychologists. Psychological works during wartime contributed to the development of psychological techniques.
Prejudice and Discrimination: For many years, discrimination based on race, religion, and gender barred opportunities for women, Jews, and African Americans. There were numerous instances in which they were excluded from faculty positions and denied admission to the college.
Personalistic Theory versus Naturalistic Theory: Two ways to view the historical development of modern psychology are the personality approach and the naturalistic approach. The personalistic theory says that changes in scientific history are due to the achievements and contributions of a specific person. For example, Charles Darwin was a contributor to evolutionary theory. In contrast, the naturalistic theory proposes that changes in scientific history are attributable to the intellectual and cultural climate that makes the contextual factors accept the new works. For example, if Darwin died young, the evolution theory would have been developed by some other person when the contextual factors were receptive to it.
Development of Modern Psychology
The emergence of various schools of thought in the later 19th century was an important aspect of the history of psychology. Each school of thought offered a new concept and research strategies. These theories and research made a substantial contribution to the evolution of psychology.
Structuralism: Wilhelm Maximillian Wundt was a pioneer of modern psychology. In 1879, he instituted the first laboratory of psychology that was dedicated to studying the human mind. Wundtâ€™s school of psychology aimed to study the fundamental elements of consciousness by using trained introspection. Later, his student Edward Titchener expanded Wundtâ€™s theory and termed it as structuralism.
Functionalism: Functionalism focused on the purpose of consciousness and behavior. This theory was influenced by the work of William James and the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin.
Behaviorism: Behaviorism concerned with the observable behavior can be objectively measured. The theory also stated that behavior is a response to environmental stimuli.
Gestalt psychology: Gestalt psychology is primarily concerned with learning, perception, and sensation elements to identify the whole new pattern that did not exist in isolated parts. This theory focused on mental experience and behavior as a whole.
Psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freudâ€™s theory largely focused on giving a perspective to unconscious determinants of behavior. This theory suggested that unconscious emotions, memories, and thoughts can influence a personâ€™s current state of mind.
Humanistic Psychology: It is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the uniqueness of each individual and a holistic understanding of human nature. It is concerned with the self-fulfillment and fullest growth of an individual.
Cognitive Psychology: It involves the study of how people think, perceive, and process information. Cognitive psychology emphasizes mental processes such as motivation, emotion, learning, personality, problem-solving, and creativity.
Cross-culture Psychology: This is the study of the cultural effect on human behavior. This approach focuses on the systematic comparison of universal behavior and unique behavior to identify how culture impacts human thoughts and behavior.
Evolutionary Psychology: This theoretical approach explains that certain cognition and behavioral tendency exist due to an evolutionary purpose-developed for survival and reproduction. Evolutionary psychology proposes that the human mind and behaviors are greatly shaped by evolutionary biology. This includes language acquisition module, alliance-tracking mechanism, incest avoidance mechanism, and so on.
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