Wundt (1832- 1920)
Wundt was a German medical doctor and psychologist who has been nicknamed the "father of psychology". In other words, without Wundt, there would be no psychology. He established psychology as a science in its own right and took it out of science/philosophy.
He looked at methods such as introspection, which involves looking inside yourself. He carried out trials/experiments in which the participants were asked to describe how they thought they felt.
He also set up the first psychology laboratory to carry out experiments.
Wundt's background was in philosophy, which is reflected in the topics with which the institute that he founded was interested in. For example the study of reaction times and sensory processes.
An example of this was the exposure to a sound stimulus (metronome), or light stimulus, after which ppts would be asked to describe how they felt.
His aim was to record thoughts and feelings and to analyse them into their constituent elements, In the same way that chemists analyse and categorise elements of the periodic table. This school of psychology is known as structuralism.
Darwin (1809- 1882)
Charles Darwin was a naturalist who studied and developed the theory of evolution. He stated that all species evolved from something. To theory of evolution, from his book "The Origin of Species"states that the passage of life is about survival of the fittest, and that it is all about natural selection- only the strongest characteristics will survive.
He said that as the result of genetic variation the characteristics of individuals belonging to a particular species will vary.
Darwin developed these ideas on a 5-year journey to the Galapagos islands on the HMS Beagle. He observed that in the Galapagos islands there were 14 different types of finch. And he deduced that this was due to the food available in the different areas of the islands. The variations in the birds had occurred due the differences in the environment surrounding them.
The development of this theory gave way to the nature/nurture debate. The main part of this theory backed the nurture side of the debate- we are what our environment demands we be, or we adapt to suit it. This contrasted with the nature side, that says we are born with what we need, and it is not influenced by anything in our environment.
Freud (1856- 1939)
Freud started to develop his psychodynamic theory around 1900. He was interested in the relationship between childhood and development later in life. He stated that a lot of our behaviour is influenced by our unconscious mind, which was central to him. He believed that material deep in our unconscious mind influenced our conscious thoughts actions and feelings.
Freud developed the therapy of psychoanalysis along with his theory, and the information on which his theory was based on the patients that came to him for treatment (Little Hans, Dora, Rat man).
Freud's theory relates to many different aspects of psychology, such as personality, aggression, moral behaviour, mental disorders and memory to name a few.
Skinner adopted a contrast to the theory developed by Freud, He took on a much more scientific approach and looked at things that could be measured and recorded, as opposed to those which were based on mere theory.
Skinner looked mostly within the framework of behaviourism, which had roots in the ideas of Watson.
Behaviourists argue that in order for psychology to be accepted as a science it needs to be objective, and measurable. It must use the same methods to collect data as other parts of science. Based on this idea, as the contents of a person's conscious mind are not directly measurable, they are not valid. However, studying behaviour would provide observable, measurable events.
Withing the general framework of this approach,Skinner proposed that new behaviours are learned by association, in particular the association between a behaviour and its consequences. He was particularly interested in the way that these consequences brought about behaviour changes.
Rogers (1902- 1987)
Rogers is part of the humanist approach in psychology. This is again a very different approach.
It is sometimes referred to as the third force as it arose from Rogers' dissatisfaction with Freud and Skinner's ideas. For rogers, Freud's ideas were unduly pessimistic, with people seemingly at the mercy of unconscious impulses and thoughts over which they have no control.
Skinner's belief that that virtually all our behaviour is determined by things around us and our environment also seemed to Rogers to be mechanic and pessimistic.
In a contrast to both these schools of thought, he developed a theory that everyone has the ability to think about the way that they act and is capable of making both positive and negative changes. Development occurs because of the choices that people make. He pushed that the focus should be on the individual and their personal experiences.