Historical Development of Psychology as a System

Subject: Psychology
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Psychology entails the scientific study of the human mind and its basic functions. It seeks to understand and demystify the mechanics of the human mind. Psychology is also concerned with understanding human behaviour and the relationship between the human mind and resultant behaviour (Corby, 2011). Scholarly exploits in psychology early in the history of humankind. There were signs of psychological exploits during the days of ancient Egypt. Until the late 19th century, psychology qualified as an appendage of philosophy. Later on, psychology evolved as an independent field of science, especially in Germany and America (Corby, 2011). Psychology relates to other disciplines in social sciences. Such disciplines include sociology, philosophy, anthropology, neuroscience, and other areas of humanities. In modern discourse, psychology entails the interrogation of human behaviour and resultant mental processes. There are sufficient indicators of interest in psychological discourse dating back to medieval civilizations of Greece, India, China, and Egypt (Corby, 2011).

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Experimental studies in psychology commenced in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt initiated a laboratory facility focusing primarily on psychological studies in Leipzig. He was the pioneer in the study of psychology as a field of science. Other notable contributors to the study of psychology are William James, Ivan Pavlov, and Hermann Ebbinghaus (Corby, 2011). After the establishment of experimental psychology, other diverse forms of applied psychology emerged. In the 1880s, Stanley hall introduced scientific discourse to America from Germany. Another example was a theory formulated by John Dewey. In the late 19th century, Hugo Munsterberg commenced his interrogation on how psychology applied to fields of industry, law, and other assorted areas of academic discourse (Corby, 2011). The establishment of a psychological clinic was a notable development. Lightner Witmer established the clinic. During this period, Sigmund Freud commenced his study in the area of psychoanalysis. This approach has been influential in shaping psychological discourse. The development of psychology has been tremendous and phenomenal (Corby, 2011). Indeed, there has been debate and tension between scientific psychology and applied psychology.

In the final years of the 19th century, psychologists had established the significance of psychological discourse to humanity (Wolfe, 2013). For instance, G. S. Hall posited that psychology would initiate and deliver innovations that would rival those in automobile, telephone and other industries. During those days, science embodied progressive means of improving human life through innovations and technological advancements (Wolfe, 2013). Examples of such innovations were psychological thoughts and practices that applied in schools, businesses, courts, and other related areas of concern. Lightner Witmer was a pioneer in the application of psychology in clinical practice. He practiced this in his clinic. In the clinic, he attended to persons with severe and acute difficulties in the language (Wolfe, 2013). They suffered difficulties in spelling, grammar, composition, and general comprehension of language.

However, these individuals did not exhibit any signs of intellectual incapacitation. Witmer bemoaned the absence of scientific efforts towards identifying and curbing learning problems (Wolfe, 2013). Through his clinic, Witmer exemplified the clinical method in treating learning disorders and other related ailments. Through such efforts, he became a champion for psychological methods as a perfect way of dealing with real problems that afflict modern society. He believed that psychology had rational answers and explanations regarding real problems in the world (Turton, 2008). He further believed that psychology mattered beyond mere philosophical speculation and general assumptions based on laboratory experiments. He was instrumental in connecting fields of pure and applied psychology. He argued that it was not necessary to separate fields of pure and applied psychology because they emanate from a similar premise. According to him, of importance should be the contribution of psychology to the advancement and propagation of humanity (Turton, 2008).

Hugo Munsterberg was another influential contributor to the field of psychology. He believed that psychology should traverse the confines of laboratories. He worked on diverse topics ranging from lie detection, gambling, democracy, and other important areas of human interest (Sturt, 2009). He believed that psychology-based research and methodologies would ameliorate proceedings in a court of law. He conducted extensive studies on the area of lies and their possible detection. He advocated for the acceptance of psychology as the science for human efficiency. He argued that the secret to business efficiency was the ability to correspond the skills and capabilities of the worker to the requirements of the job (Sturt, 2009). Psychologists could survey jobs, establish required traits, and create tests to select workers suitable for the job. There are numerous developments in relation to the field of applied psychology.

Through the vocational Guidance Movement, there was the increased practice of vocational counselling in schools (Sturt, 2009). There were instances when vocational tests sufficed on a growing number of industrial workers. Psychology has witnessed numerous hiccups and remarkable developments in its journey as a profession (Shipway, 2011). Psychology qualifies as a profession because it satisfies some basic guidelines that define a profession. It has a specialised body of knowledge that is relevant to its subject matter. It has set standards streamlined by a precise code of ethics. Psychology also has a mode of continuing and propagating its education to ensure continuity in the generation of ideas (Shipway, 2011). It also provides vital services to the public. Psychology has a recommended and well-defined curriculum that seeks to advance knowledge in areas of concern. Numerous journals published in psychology act as a means of advancing knowledge in the field.

Professional psychology has been a facet of psychology for a long period. In 1917, Hall initiated The Journal of Applied Psychology. The American Psychological Association (APA) failed to recognize professional psychology thus it could not incorporate it in its mission statement (Shipway, 2011). This necessitated the formation of the Association of Consulting Psychologists. Later on, the ACP merged with APA to create a new outfit, The American Association for Applied Psychology (AAAP). The association included clinical, educational, consulting, and industrial psychology sections. Many efforts advanced the adoption of psychology as a standard driver of innovation and human empowerment in the world. Leaders understood the potential of psychology as a driver of change and human empowerment. For instance, APA was instrumental in offering psychological services to soldiers during WWII (Shipway, 2011).

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In this historical analysis, it is important to highlight various theorists whose contribution was monumental in the development of psychology as a system. One such personality is Sigmund Freud. He formulated several theories that have continued to stir debate in the academic discourse. His theories have been instrumental in helping and facilitating a deeper understanding of personality development and the functioning of the human brain. The psychoanalytic theory anchors on the basic organization of the human brain. Freud classified the brain into two major parts: the conscious mind and the unconscious mind (Pandey, 2012). The conscious mind is an embodiment of all things that an individual has knowledge of. This includes our memory functions that vary depending on various forms of orientation. Memory is not an actual component of the conscious mind but it is easily retrievable from the unconscious spot. This plain memory is preconscious owing to its nature and composition. On the other hand, the unconscious mind embodies individual feelings, instincts, and memories that are beyond consciousness. Most components of the unconscious mind are bitter in nature. They include pain, turmoil, and stress. Though an individual may not be aware of the unconscious mind, it has a direct impact on behaviour and personal experiences (Pandey, 2012).

Beyond the two components of the mind, Freud cites three components of personality, namely: the id, ego and superego. The id is responsible for all basic human instincts. This segment of human personality exists unconsciously and is responsible for libido. The ego is responsible for dealing with real situations. It also ensures that the inherent needs of the id materialize in conformity with social needs and expectations. The superego is responsible for holding and actualizing components and patterns of behaviour that people acquire from society and other relevant institutions in society (Pandey, 2012).

In Freudian theory, defence mechanisms manifest as elaborate plans of action actualized by the unconscious mind to disfigure reality and project a rational self-image. Healthy individuals apply various mechanisms in the course of their life. A defence mechanism is unhealthy when its use results in unacceptable behaviour. This can happen when an individual’s health is affected (Pandey, 2012). Defence mechanisms cushion the mind from stress and anguish. They also provide an escape route from a hurdle that an individual cannot surmount. Defence mechanisms apply when the id relays signals that conflict with each other, the superego, and external forces threaten the ego (Kenney, 2012). The idea of impulses emanates from Freud’s structural model. According to it, id impulses anchor on the pleasure principle. This principle states that human desires should actualize immediately they arise. Freud believed that the id was the custodian of the instincts of life and death. For instance, when a person has an urge to steal, feelings of anxiety and guilt arise. This is due to the conflict between the id and superego. Freud argued that such conflicts led to problems related to psychosexual stages (Kenney, 2012).

There have been numerous debates and tensions in the development of psychology as a discipline of science. For instance, the boulder conference of 1949 was instrumental in creating a training model for clinical psychologists. However, this training model has undergone numerous revisions, most of which are motivated by meaningless wrangles and pointless dissatisfaction (Kenney, 2012). Through the years, this model did not follow through as recommended by its architects. This dealt a severe blow to the field of clinical psychology. In response to these wrangles, the APA constituted a committee to draft training recommendations. The committee drafted a curriculum that would encourage clinical studies. This resulted in the initiation of a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree (Kenney, 2012). The field of psychology has witnessed tremendous growth in various related areas and fields. There has been emphasis on master-level mental health certification. However, industrial-organizational psychology has not witnessed much change regarding these developments. This has led to the emergence of new professional fields in areas such as sports psychology and health psychology.

Psychology in America has remained a scientific and professional endeavour (Kenney, 2012). In the early days, psychology was vital and applicable in areas of business, schools, the military, courts, marketing, and the advertisement industry. Through a certain period, there emerged disciplines of psychology that slowly gained autonomy and recognition. They formed autonomous associations and initiated journals that effectively served their intra-disciplinary interests (Kenney, 2012). During the first and second world wars, psychologists faced mounting pressure to devise new methodologies and practices that were relevant to the prevailing conditions. They faced a challenge to actualize psychological principles beyond the classroom in universities and medical laboratories. In modern practice, professional psychology advocates for a science-practitioner model that amplifies the scientific criteria for the application of psychological knowledge. There have been varied reactions to the debates and tensions that have characterized the development of psychology as a discipline of science (Kenney, 2012). Many observers believe that the debates and tensions have been instrumental in enhancing the development of the area of psychology. They argue that the tensions and debates resulted in healthy and accurate discourse that often led to the enactment of necessary changes that were for the ultimate good. However, others feel that the debates and tensions only led to the underdevelopment of psychology as a branch of science (Davis, 2009).

In most cases, truth denotes situations that have a factual and real basis of argument. In scholarly discourse, it represents compliance and adherence to various parametrical requirements and guidelines that characterize various situations and occurrences in society (Davis, 2009). There has been heated debate with regard to the concept and idea of truth. According to Donald Spence, there is a clear distinction between historical truth and narrative truth. Narrative truth anchors on memorable occurrences and prevailing circumstances in society. On the other hand, historical truth anchors on factors such as time and adherence to statutory requirements and obligations in society. Such realities are critical in the dichotomy of truth as a scholarly concept.


Corby, B. (2011). Psychology: Towards a Knowledge Base. London: McGraw-Hill International.

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Davis, R. (2009). Development of Psychology: Facts and Fallacies. London: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Kenney, L. (2012). Psychology and Society. London: ABDO.

Pandey, S. (2012). Psychological Approach to Contemporary Society. London: Concept Publishing Company.

Shipway, L. (2011). Psychology: Theory and Practice. Newyork: Routledge.

Sturt, S. (2009). Psychology: New Research. Newyork: Nova Publishers.

Turton, J. (2008). Psychology and Society. London: Routledge.

Wolfe, D. (2013). Psychology: A Historical View. London: SAGE.

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