Wundt, introspection and the first Psychology lab
Towards the end of the 19th century Psychology became an established discipline in its own right.
Wilhelm Wundt (1832 - 1920) who was a Physiologist, setup the first experimental psychology lab in 1879 at the University of Lipzig Germany.
Wundt and his colleages studied the human mind through "Introspection". They studied and analyzed their own conscious mental processes.
Introspection was later rejected because it was to subjective - its accuracy could not be checked because it relied upon what one person told another about their private, therefore invisible, thought processes.
Frued and Psychoanalysis
This approach was developed by Sigmund Frued (fr-oy-d) (1856 - 1939).
The term "Psychoanalysis" is used to describes both the theory that our behaviour is motivated by our unconscious thoughts, and the therapy that Frued developed for treating nuerotic cases.
Frued was convinced that problems in Adulthood had their origins in early experiences, particularly the ones that happen before 5 years.
Frued developed several psychoanalytical techniques to gain access to the unconcious mind, including dream interpretation and free association.
by doing this he sought to uncover unconscious conflicts and help people realise the causes of these, and come to terms with them.
Watson and behaviourism
Behaviourism dates from 1913, when John Watson (1878 - 1958) argued that psychologists should focus on studying observable behaviour not mental processes. Unlike mental processes, behaviour is visible and can be directly measured and observed. Other people can also verify them and this makes the account more objective.
The roots of behavioursim stretch back to Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), who is famous for his work on conditioning animals.
So, introspection was replaced by techniques that other scientists used, such as Chemists, Biologists and Physicists. By doing this psychologists could claim to be more scientific.
Behaviourism had a big impact of Psychology for about 50 years, and some of its ideas are still influential today.
One such example would be operational definition, which is a precise statement of how a concept is recognised and observed.
Social Learning Theory
In the 1960's social learning theorists such as Bandura, showed that sometimes learning was psossible without reinforcement (being rewarded for a behaviour).
All that was needed is the chance to observe the behaviours of others.
This observation was called imitation or modelling.
The cognitive approach
Psychology was initially accepted as a science when it restiricted its stubject matter to the study of human and non-human behaviour, as reflected in the work of psychologists such as Watson and Skinner.
But, in the late 1950's and early 1960's, some psychologists went back to being intrested in mental processes and the human mind. They began to study the mental (cognitive) processes that people use to acuire, store, retrieve and use knowledge they have about the world around them.
This approach came about as a reaction against the narrow view of the behaviourists, who concetrated solely on observable behaviour, and the behaviourists didnt study complex activities like percieving, remembering, processing information, problem solving and planning.
It is now accepted, that even though you cant see these processes, that they can be inferred by using specific tests of problem solving, perception, memory, etc. How people perform on these tests or what they report is considered valid data.
The Physiological (biological) approach
Physiological psychologists believe that in order to describe and explain human behaviour and experiences, we need to look closely and human biology.
An example would include, how do different area's of the brain contribute to diffrent behaviours?
The evolutionary approach
The evolutionary approach also emphasizes the importance of biological factors.
Its starting point was Charles Darwins theory of evolution. He believed that the process of natural selection had shaped human behaviour and experience.
According to modern evolutionary psychologists, our modern behaviours are shaped by the problems faced by our ancient anchestors, and the solutions that led to some surviving and others falling by the wayside.
While this approach has been popular in recent years, there are those who critisize it, pointing out that our social and cultural factors influence bahaviour and shape it in a way that has nothing to do with natural selection.
Looked at together, these seven approaches above demonstrate that contemporary psychology focuses on the study of behaviour in humans and non-humans, mental processes and experience, although in diffrent ways.