Origins of Psychology and the Emergence of Psychology as a Science

Origins of Psychology

It all started with…Wundt!

Wundt is often referred to as the  ‘Father of Psychology’ (who defined Psychology as ‘the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour’). Wundt set up the first lab dedicated to psychological enquiry in Germany, in the 1870s. He promoted the use of introspection as a way of studying mental processes.

Introspection can be defined as, ‘the examination of one’s own thought processes.’

·Wundt’s researchers were trained to examine their thought processes for feelings, emotions and sensations. Research was completed at the university in a controlled environment. The researchers would report back to him what they had experienced and their analysis of that experience. Paved the way for psychology to be accepted as a science in its own right.

Obviously, you can see that there would have been some issues with the process of introspection. The main issue was that introspection was viewed as being subjective. As a result, early Psychological study was not viewed as being scientific. Remember, in order for a discipline to be labelled as ‘scientific’that discipline must follow a process in which processes can be repeated (in order to assess for reliability).

Emergence of Psychology as a Science

· The scientific approach focuses on empirical (scientific) methods

· Empiricists believe that knowledge comes from observation and experience alone, rather than being innate.

· Scientific methods are methods that are objective, systematic and replicable. The researchers do not let preconceived ideas or biases influence the collection of data.

· Measurements are accurate and easily replicated in order to establish reliability, results that are not reliable cannot be accepted as true.

· Scientific methods allow for working hypotheses to be tested. The scientific method allows the following assumptions to be explored

(1) Determinism – the idea that all behaviour is caused by internal or external factors alone, there is no element of free will that influences a response to a stimulus

(2) Predictability – human behaviour, if determined, should be able to be predicted. Researchers should be able to state how humans will react in a variety of different situations.