Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour, experience and mental processes. Behaviour includes all of our outward or overt actions and reactions, such as talking, facial expressions and movement. Mental processes refer to all the internal, covert actions of our minds, such as thinking, feeling and remembering. To study behaviour and mental processes in both animals and humans, researchers have to observe them. Whenever a human being is observing anyone or anything, there’s always a possibility that the observer will see only what he or she expects to see. Psychologists don’t want to let these possible biases cause them to make faulty observations. They want to be as precise and measure as carefully as they can, so they use the scientific method to study psychology.
One of the Wundt’s student was Edward Titchner(1867-1927), an Englishman who eventually took Wundt’s ideas to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Titchner expanded on Wundt’s original ideas, calling his new viewpoint structuralism because the focus of study was the “structure of the mind”. He believed that every experience could be broken down into its individual emotions and sensations. Although Titchner agreed with Wundt that consciousness, the state of being aware of external events, could be broken down into its basic elements, Titchner also believed that the introspection method could be used on thoughts just as it was on physical sensations.
In 1894, one of the Titchner student at Cornell University became famous for becoming the first woman to receive a Ph.D in psychology. Her name was Margaret F. Washburn, and she was Titchner’s only graduate student for that year. In 1908 she published a book on animal behaviour that was considered an important work in that era of psychology.
Structuralism was a dominant force in the early days of psychology but it eventually died out in the early 1900s as the structuralists were busily fighting among themselves over just which key elements of experience were the more competing view arose not long after Wundt’s laboratory was established shortly before structuralism came to America
To understand what psychology as a discipline is all about, let’s first look at some of the events that form part of our routine life. These are the indispensable feelings, thoughts, actions etc that we feel, think or do, but never bother to figure out how these happen to us so effortlessly.
What things are at play that help us to walk, sleep, talk, reason, memorize, feel sad or get angry. What triggers some of us to over react? What makes us run when in danger?
Thus, everything we do, feel and think comes under the field of psychology.
According to American Psychological Association, psychology is the study of mind and behavior. Still further, it is the scientific study of mind and human behavior.
Now, as you can see, there are two aspects to this definition. First, that psychology is a scientific study, that is, it uses scientific methods like experimentation, observations etc to study its various subject matters like personality, perception etc.
Second, it is the study of mind and human behavior. Thus, study of mind means different facets of functioning of human mind like memorizing, logical reasoning, decision making etc. Likewise, the study of human behavior includes everything that we say, feel or do which can be further observed and measured.
In fact, our behavior is the result of neural activities happening inside our brain. That’s why it’s said that everything psychological has a biological base.
That being said, this is how modern psychology was defined. But, it’s important to understand how psychologists, over a period of time, came to define psychology as the scientific study of mind and behavior.
Roots of Modern Psychology
Philosophy – One of the Roots of Psychology
Until the 16th century, philosophers had been using reason alone to understand the human mind. It was, however, in the 16th century renaissance period that science as a field originated. And it is during this period that philosophers started raising doubts over how humans perceived the world around them.
For instance, Rene’ Descartes, a French Philosopher, emphasized on questions such as relationship between mind and body. He said both mind and body are two separate structures and that they communicate with each other via pineal gland located inside the brain.
Thus, eventually towards the end of the 19th century, philosophers came to a conclusion that questions about mind could not be answered simply by the way of reasoning. One would require cautious examination of how human mind worked.
Physiology – the Other Root
Thus, physiology as a discipline came to the forefront in which physiologists had been using scientific methods to explain the nervous system. During this time, physiologists described how electrical signals were transmitted between neurons, enabling humans to think, feel or everything that they are able to. How information was taken by the receptors in ears and eyes and how this input information was interpreted by the human brain.
Therefore, by combining all these studies with the belief that reasoning alone could not do much in answering questions in respect of human brain, modern psychology was born.
Let’s have a look at how psychology got established as a discipline towards the end of the 19th century.
First Research Laboratory by William Wundt: William Wundt is also known as the father of experimental psychology for his contributions to the field of psychology. He founded the first laboratory for research is psychology at the University of Leipzig.
First Laboratory of Psychology by G. Stanley Hall: G Stanley Hall founded the first laboratory of psychology at the John Hopkins University in 1883. He also provided support in starting the American Psychological Association in 1892.
Challenges In Respect of What Psychology as a Discipline Should Include
Psychology faced its own share of challenges with psychologists contending as to what should form part of psychology. Here are some of the ideas proposed by various psychologists:
William Wundt: He proposed that psychology should study consciousness and its components
William James: He suggested that psychology as a discipline should study the functions of the consciousness
John B Watson: He contended that psychology must include the study of overt human behavior that can be observed and measured
Sigmund Freud: He proposed that psychology should study the unconscious, that is, the internal mind states
Thus, psychology as a discipline is vast in nature and can be understood from various perspectives. Further, it consists of numerous sub fields like positive psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology etc that various psychologists specialize into.
Psychology is the mystery of being ‘oneself’ with ever innovating concepts of creating a fulfilling experience of life!
Learning psychology means; learning the mystery of ‘being oneself’. Mystery is the negative existence.
In other words, Psychology is an intellectual function of a psychosomatic being to create a positive existence out of the negative status of ‘being intellectual’.
Thus, the personal psychology of any individual needs success and survival to create a ‘positive being’ at the minimum possible effort and resources. Therefore, human psychology works always clever and selfish.
Any wrong desires and decisions needs ‘clever and selfish’ concepts for it’s success. However, being ‘cleverly selfish’ has a social problem.
Social creativity needs high regard and respect for the social partners! This makes the most problem for the human psychology of success and survival at any cost.
On the other hand, psychology has no use and become worthless, if it does not create success and survival. The dare need for success and survival makes the human psychology helpless. All the problems of economic, political and social nature emerge from the wrong psychology of people who try to succeed in making oneself great personalities in a world, ruled by mystery.
Human life moves on a ‘helpless psychology’ of success and survival in order to get out of the helplessness of being human. It will continue until one liberates from the mystery that creates the helplessness of being human.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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