Psychology is a broad independent scientific discipline that branched off from philosophy. The definition of psychology has evolved over time. The origin of the term "psychology" is attributed to a Greek Philosopher, Rudolph Goclenius. Currently, psychology is defined as a discipline that is concerned with the study of not only behavior but also of the mental processes (). It is a field that is not only ever expanding but also increasingly becoming diversified. Consequently, several branches of psychology have been identified and developed. In Greek, the root word was used to mean either soul or spirit, while logos was used to imply knowledge. Consequently, in the ancient time, psychology was regarded as the study of the spirit. However, psychology was regarded as the study of mind and consciousness in the last century. This paper is going to answer the question of "Past, present and future: Discuss the place of psychology in our society." some of the definition of terms has been done. The subsequent parts will involve identification of complexities as well as controversies that are involved in the definition of psychology. It will also involve identification of strengths as well as weaknesses of psychology as well as its different approaches. Additionally, the paper will focus on the description of the past, the present, and the future theories of psychology. A critical comparison of the theoretical approaches of psychology will be covered. This will include the continual description, analysis, and criticism of the usefulness of psychology in the society.
The field of psychology has a long history and its definition has been revised several times. The complexities and controversies surrounding the definition of psychology is associated with several revisions that has been made in the past. While trying to define psychology, some scholars have argued that the discipline is divided into three major branches. The three branches include basic psychology or psychological formalism, human psychology, and professional psychology (Henriques, 2011). Basic psychology or psychological formalism is concerned with mental behavior, while human psychology focuses on not only human mind but also the individual human behavior. However, professional psychology emphasizes the professional application of the knowledge of the psychology to advance the greater good of the society.
One of the most controversial issue regarding the definition of psychology is whether it is best to characterize psychology as the science of the mind or whether to characterize it as the science of the behavior. While Wundt conceptualized psychology as the science of the consciousness, Watson rejected Wundt's view asserting that psychology has to be about the study of the behavior. Consequently, the complexity and controversies surrounding the discipline of psychology has resulted in a definition which is a hybrid of Wundt's and Watson's positions. Hence the definition of psychology is currently taken as the science of behavior as well as mental processes (Henriques, 2011). Despite this definition, Henriques (2011) argued that there are several problems in such a kind of definition. Firstly, he argued that the term behavior carries two mutually exclusive meanings. One of the meaning is the unique behavior patterns possessed by animals, and the other is measurable change in the object-field relationship. Henriques further pointed out that the second problem in the definition of psychology as not only a science of the study of the behavior and mental processes is its reinforcement of the problematic type of dualism. This is due to the fact that such a definition is ambiguous since it suggests that mental processes are separate from behaviors. He pointed out that is a problem since psychology in the viewpoint of unified theory regards everything, including the mental processes, as behavior.
Initially, psychology was existing within the broader subject of philosophy. However, it was not until the mid of 1800s when it exists as a separate discipline. The origins of psychology can be traced to the early times of Greeks. During the 17th century, some of the philosophers such as French's Descartes introduced the concept of dualism which posits that the body and the mind were two integrated entities that create the human experience (Cherry, 2018a). Although certain issues such as nurture vs. nature are grounded in the ancient philosophical traditions, modern psychologists still debate them today (Bornstein & Lamb, 2015; Yao, 2017). Although the early philosophers depended on the methods which include logic and observation, the modern psychologists employ scientific methods to arrive at conclusions regarding human thought as well as human behavior. When psychology first became an independent discipline, the first school of thought of psychology was known as structuralism. Structuralism which emerged in the mid-1800s was advanced by Titchener, Wundt's former student (Levelt, 2014; Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Structuralists contended that it is possible to break human consciousness into smaller elements (Wertheimer, 2012). Despite the fact that structuralism was lauded for its focus on scientific research, the methods employed were subjective, limiting, and not reliable.
In the mid- to the late of 1800s, functionalism was prevalent and it was advanced by William James, a major American psychologist. Functionalism focused on how behavior influence how people live in their environment (Rathus, 2012). That is, conscious experience as well as behavior. Functionalists employed methods such as direct observation to study not only the human mind but also the human behavior. Structuralism and functionalism, the two early schools of thought, focused on human consciousness. However, their conceptions on human consciousness was totally different. Although those who advocate for structuralism attempted to break down mental processes into their tiny parts, the functionalists thought that consciousness occur as a more continuous as well as a changing process.
The early form of psychology laid a lot of emphasis on the conscious human experience. However, Sigmund Freud came up with the concept of psychoanalysis which challenged the previous theories by advancing a theory of personality that focused on the significance of the unconscious mind (Freud, 2016). Based on his interaction with patients suffering from hysteria and many other types of ailments, Freud believed that experiences encountered in early childhood as well as unconscious impulses was linked to the development of not only adult personality but also adult behavior. Freud believed that psychological disorders were associated with unconscious conflicts of slips of tongue and dreams which become extreme or unbalanced. Freud's psychoanalytic theory had a significant impact on the 20th century psychological thought and it had a great impact on field of mental health as well as other fields which include the popular culture, literature, and art.
The major change in the field of psychology was witnessed in the early stages of the 20th century with the emergence of a new school of thought termed behaviorism. It marked a significant shift from the previous theoretical approaches which discarded the focus on the conscious as well as the unconscious mind. Rather, the approach attempted to make the field of psychology to be more scientific discipline as opposed to just emphasizing on strictly observable behavior. One of the early utilization of the theory was achieve by Pavlov in his classical conditioning. According to behaviorists, consciousness is neither usable nor a definite concept. B.F. Skinner further advanced the idea theory of behaviorism in this theory of operant conditioning where he showed the impact of punishment as well as reinforcement in behavior (Skinner, 2012). Despite losing the command of psychology, the basic principles associated with the theory are still used today. These include therapeutic methods such as token economies, behavioral modification, and behavior analysis.
The third force in the field of psychology, also known as behaviorism and psychoanalysis, emerged in the first half of the 20th century. However, toward the second half of the 2oth century, a new school of thought known as humanistic approach emerged. The approached emphasized conscious experiences. The school of thought was advanced by Carl Rogers. As psychoanalysts focused on unconscious impulses, the behaviorists were more concerned with the environmental impacts. However, Carl Rogers had a strong believe in the power of self-determination as well as the free will (Lopez, 2011). Humanistic perspective was also contributed by Maslow in his theory of hierarchy of needs which explained human motivation.
At about 1950s-1960s, there emerged a movement that was referred to as cognitive revolution which made a great impact in the field of psychology. The psychological approach became popular thus replacing both behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Other than being concerned with observable behaviors, psychologists were also interested in what takes place inside the mind of a person. Since it emerged in the early half of the 20th century, the approach has remained popular in the field of psychology. Its dominance has been contributed by researchers' continued focus on memory, perception, problem-solving, decision-making, language, and intelligence. The discovery of tools that are used to perform brain imaging such as PET and MRI scans have enabled researchers to improve their quality and also to study the internal workings of a human brain in greater detail (Tupper & Cicerone, 2012).
Psychology has continued to evolve since the latter half of the 20th century, and new perspectives, as well as ideas, have been added. Recent research in the field of psychology has focused on many aspects of the human experience from how behavior is influenced by biological factors to the influences of both cultural and social factors. Currently, none of the modern psychologists can identify themselves with one school of thought. Rather, they emphasize a particular especially perspective, approach or area, while drawing ideas from various theoretical backgrounds. Consequently, the modern psychologists' eclectic approach has resulted in new ideas as well as theories that are going to influence psychology in the future.
Psychologists employ multiple perspectives when they are studying the way people behave, think, and feel. Some researchers usually employ one school of thought such as cognitive perspective, while others employ multiple perspectives. Psychology is a field that has both strengths and weaknesses. No perspective can be regarded as superior to another one since each one stresses different facets of human behavior. However, to understand the strengths and weaknesses, it is important to understand the various approaches or perspectives of psychology. In the modern era, the psychology's seven perspectives include psychodynamic, behavioral, biological, cognitive, evolutionary, cross-cultural, and humanistic (Cherry, 2018b). Each of the seven perspectives has their weaknesses.
Psychodynamic approach is associated with Freud, and it emphasizes the role of the unconscious mind, interpersonal relationships, and early childhood experiences to not only explain human behavior but also to treat individuals who are suffering from mental diseases. One major strength of the perspective is its focus on the effects of childhood experiences on the development of the personality (Stacey, 2018). Additionally, the strength of the approach is that it considers both nature and nurture. However, the weakness of the approach is its unfalsifiability. That is, the assumptions behind the theory cannot be me...
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