Summary of Lecture of History of Psychology
Although psychology is considered a rather young discipline, it has its roots back
to the time of Aristotle and before, when the earliest philosophers were theorizing about
mental processes. Prior to the 19
Century much of behavior was explained by external
forces, e.g., the influence of stars and planets, mythical gods, demons, and the like.
During the 19
Century physiologists were just beginning to study the brain,
nerves and the sense organs using scientific methods. Most importantly, in the mid-
, an eminent physicist had shown how mental processes could be
studied by the use of scientific methods. Early in the 1850’s Fechner had become
interested in the relationship between physical stimuli and the resulting sensations that
people experienced. He was especially fascinated by the sensitivity of the human senses.
In order to study this he began to ask questions like:
How bright must a star (light) be in order to be seen?
How loud must a sound be in order to be heard?
How heavy must an object be in order to be felt?
Fechner devised the necessary techniques to find precise answers to these types of
questions. When his major work entitled, Elements of Psychophysics
, was published in
1860, it showed other scientists how experimental and mathematical techniques could be
used in the laboratory to study mental processes, particularly those we consider sensory
Wilhelm Wundt, founder of psychology as a discipline, roots of structuralism
Less than two decades later, a German physiologist, Wilhelm Wundt, founded the
discipline called psychology. Originally trained as a physician, Wundt taught physiology
for 17 years at the University of Heidelberg. Early in his career Wundt showed an intense
interest in behavior. However, at that time the study of behavior had no identity of its
own and was considered a part of philosophy. Wundt thought that psychology should be
an independent science and in 1875 he accepted a position as chair of philosophy (the
department in which psychology was included) at the University of Leipzig.
Wundt was credited with founding the first experimental psychology laboratory
four years later in 1879, giving to birth of psychology as a laboratory science.
He believed that psychology should investigate the “
elements of the human
” and in doing so he and his followers developed the method of analytic
. Introspection was a special kind of
. Each self-observer
was carefully trained to answer specific, well-defined questions in the laboratory setting.
For example, in one study Wundt and his students watched and listened to the beats of a
metronome. They were to analyze all of their mental processes before, during, and after
the metronome beats.