Psychological Foundations

Introduction to The History of Psychology

What you’ll learn to do: describe the evolution of psychology and the major pioneers in the field

Painting of Plato and Aristotle.
Figure 1. Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greek philosophers examined a wide range of topics relating to what we now consider psychology.

Many cultures throughout history have speculated on the nature of the mind, heart, soul, spirit, and brain. Philosophical interest in behavior and the mind dates back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, China, and India, but psychology as a discipline didn’t develop until the mid-1800s, when it evolved from the study of philosophy and began in German and American labs. This section will teach you more about the major founding psychologists and their contributions to the development of psychology.

Learning Objectives

  • Define psychology
  • Define structuralism and functionalism and the contributions of Wundt and James in the development of psychology
  • Describe Freud’s influence on psychology and his major theoretical contributions
  • Describe the basic tenets of Gestalt psychology
  • Define behaviorism and the contributions of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner to psychology
  • Explain the basic tenets of humanism and Maslow’s contribution to psychology
  • Describe the basics of cognitive psychology and how the cognitive revolution shifted psychology’s focus back to the mind
  • Summarize the history of psychology, focusing on the major schools of thought
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