Origins of Psychology - Wundt, introspection and the emergence of psychology as a science.

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KEY TERMS:

PSYCHOLOGY - THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF THE HUMAN MIND AND ITS FUNCTIONS, ESPECIALLY THOSE FUNCTIONS AFFECTING BEHAVIOUR IN A GIVEN CONTEXT.

SCIENCE - A MEANS OF ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE THROUGH SYSTEMATIC AND OBJECTIVE INVESTIGATION. THE AIM IS TO DISCOVER GENERAL LAWS.

INTROSPECTION - THE FIRST SYSTEMATIC EXPERIMENTAL ATTEMPT TO STUDY THE MIND BY BREAKING UP CONSCIOUS AWARENESS INTO BASIC STRUCTURES OF THOUGHTS, IMAGES AND SENSATIONS.

The Emergence of Psychology as a Science

The first lab dedicated to psychological study was opened by Wilhelm Wundt in Germany, 1879. Before this, psychology had philosophical roots dating back much earlier.

The French philosopher Renee Descartes (1596 - 1650) suggested that the mind and body are independent of each other. This idea became known as Cartesian Dualism, and although this view has since been challenged, it was important because it suggested the mind could be an object of study in its own right. Descartes demonstrated his own existence with the famous quote 'I think, therefore I am'. 

John Locke (1632 - 1704) applied the idea of empiricism to psychology. This is the idea that all experience can be obtained through the senses and that human beings inherit neither knowledge nor instincts. This view would later form the basis of the behaviourist approach that the world can be understood by investigating external events that are observed and measured. 

Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882). Evolutionary theory is today heavily applied within psychology. Central to Darwin's theory is the idea that all human and animal behaviour changes with every generation so that individuals with stronger, more adaptive genes survive and reproduce. Those with weaker genes do not and therefore are 'selected out' - survival of the fittest. The application within psychology, is that many human behaviours, such as social behaviour, e.g. group cohesion, team work and even sexual jealousy, have evolved due to their adaptive value - in the long run, they are behaviours that increase the likelihood of survival and reproduction.

Wilhelm Wundt - Introspection (1879) - NAMED IN THE SPECIFICATION. Wilhelm Wundt opened the Institute for Experimental Psychology at the University of Leipzig in Germany in 1879. This was the first laboratory dedicated to psychology, and its opening is usually thought of as the beginning of modern psychology. Wundt was important because he separated psychology from philosophy by analysing the workings of the mind in a more structured way, with the emphasis being on objective measurement and control. Wundt wanted to study the structure of the human mind (using introspection). He believed that consciousness could be broken down (or reduced) to its basic elements and thus the structure of the mind could be deduced (structuralism). Wundt's introspection was not a casual affair but a highly practiced form of self-examination. Highly trained assistants would be given a stimulus such as a ticking metronome and would reflect on the experience. They would report what the stimulus made…

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ImogenChippindale

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