What is Psychology? ‘“ The People behind the Study
To most students who are about to study psychology, the most common question they ask is ‘What is Psychology?’ The simplest definition of psychology is that it is a study of mind and behavior. The definition may seem simple but psychology is actually a broad subject.
Psychology was derived from the Greek words psyche (breath, spirit, soul) and logia (study of something). Psychology may also include the study of the mind and behavior of animals. However, this article will mainly focus on the human mind and behavior.
There are some questions on how psychologists study the mind. The mind is a sophisticated thing that is difficult to study. When you look at the brain itself, you will only see gray matter. Everything stored in it such as dreams, cognition, memories and perceptions cannot be seen physically.
So, how did psychology started?
Studies show that psychology started thousands of years ago in ancient China, Egypt, Greece and Persia. However, the year 1879 which gave birth to the field of study. In Germany, Wilhelm Wundt founded psychology and established a laboratory that carried out psychological research at Leipzig University. Wilhelm Wundt was named father of psychology because of his works.
Sigmund Freud became popular for his development of what psychologists call psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a method of psychotherapy. According to Freud’s theory, the unconscious is responsible for most thought and behavior in each individual. The theory also includes that the unconscious is also responsible for the disorders of the mentally ill.
E. B Tichener vs. William James and John Dewey
Wundt had a great student in the name of E.B. Tichener and he was a strong believer of structuralism. However, James and Dewey believe in functionalism. Structuralism is different from functionalism in a way that the former is interested in ‘what is consciousness?’ while the latter is interested on the functions of consciousness. The debate on structuralism against functionalism made the rapid spread of psychology in the USA.
John B. Watson
Watson believed that structuralism and functionalism deviates too much from the actual science. He believes that psychology should focus on study of behavior. Watson believes that behavior is influenced by the environment. His study of psychology was now known as behaviorism.
Years passed and many psychologists have emerged until humanism becomes popular. Humanism has a different theory that opposes the behaviorism. Humanists believe that environment does not play an active role in a human’s behavior.
In 1970, another school of thought in psychology emerged, the cognitive theory. Although cognitive theory believes in the environment has something to do with human behavior. However, its approach is that human take in information from the environment and the processing of that information takes place mentally.
Today, no new theory has been emerging. Currently, behaviorism, cognitive theory, humanism and psychoanalytic theory are studied by most psychologists. Psychologists have been more diverse in choosing what appears to be the best field of study. Today psychologists are more on objective scientific methods to understand human behavior.