Intro to Psychology

An exhilirating journey for all

The Origins - where did it all begin?

The first interests in the way the mind works were shown by philosophers in the 16th and 17th centuries, however, they can be traced back even farther to the days of Aristotle and Plato. Though the discoveries of these Greek philosophers contributed very little to our modern knowledge of psychology, their methods of inquiry were very influential. During the 19th century, philosophers became less reliant on theological and non-empirical explanations for behavior and instead advocated for direct observation. However, the progress was still very slow. It was not until the mid-19th century that physiological phenomena such as perception, thought, and learning would be studied scientifically. The introduction of a new scientific and experimental methodology would lead to rapid advancements towards what we now know as modern psychology.

The History of Psychology - Important Figures

William Wundt: The true father of psychology. Established a small laboratory at the university of Leipzig in 1879. Wundt defined the task of psychology as the systematic study of the structure of the conscious adult mind. Conscious mental process such as emotions and reacting to stimuli are best understood when broken down to their simplest form. Wundt was a strong advocate for "introspection" which means to look inward for studying mental processes. He was also the mentor of Edward Titchener who brought Wundt's ideas of psychology to Cornell university in America.

William James: Most known for his study of understanding the mental processes that helped humans and animals adapt to their environments. This became known as functionalism. James published the text, Principles and Psychology. Functionalism was used to broaden Psychology into not only humans but animals.

Abraham Maslow: Inventor of humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychologists emphasize the role of free will and our ability to make conscious, rational choices about how we live our lives. They also believe humans have a natural inclination to fulfill their human potential, process called self actualization.

Scope of Psychology

Psychology is broken down into three parts, psychology as a science, psychology as the study of behavior, and psychology as the study of humans and animals. Psychology addresses a variety of questions and seeks to answer them using the scientific method. Studying psychology provides insights into why people behave the way they do. It also helps us to better understand our thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and attitudes; and hopefully it can strengthen our appreciation and tolerance for the various differences that exist among people.

Important Figures Continued

Sigmund Freud: Austrian physician who developed the theory of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a procedure employed to help treat patients who show neurotic symptoms. He used a method called catharsis where he would find the root of the emotional stress his patient is in and talk with them about it and it proves to relieve some of their symptoms. This method is still commonly used today. He emphasized the unconscious mind with its irrational urges and drives beyond the control of conscious rational processes. Freud's belief of this statement caused him to receive a lot of criticism.

John Watson: Founder of behaviorism. He opposed the use of introspection invented by William Wundt. Behaviorism's goal is to identify the processes by which stimuli and responses become connected or associated. Behaviorism is characterized by its insistency on an empirical, objective science of behavior that has no need for theories of mind or free will.

Wolfgang Köhler: Inventory of Gestalt psychology. Gestalt psychology means the whole (our perception) is more than the sum of its parts (sensory elements). For example putting together a bunch of simple musical notes and a melody emerges. This melody does not exist with just the individual notes.


Essentially all scientists, psychologists included, share the common goals of: understanding, predicting, controlling/influencing. However more specifically for psychology the goals are: