History of Modern Psychology


The history of psychology can be traced back to the times of the Ancient Greeks; this is the period when the ancient Greeks studied the mind and behavior of man. Some reports also suggest that it existed in the ancient Egypt. In the early and middle 1800s psychology was categorized under philosophy, it was later made to be an independent discipline in the U.S and Germany in the late 1970s. It is also believed that the physicians in Islam performed psychotherapy to those who suffered from mental sickness. This can be traced back to as early as 700AD. An example is one that was built in Fez area of morocco (Goodwin, 2008, pp. 1-52). This paper will attempt to discuss the roots in early philosophy that led to the development of modern philosophy, major philosophers in the history of psychology and the development of psychological science in the 19 century.

Psychology is the study of human and animal behavior as well as their mental development. It closely connected to metaphysics as in both cases people tend to be aware of their emotional problems. Disciplines that are closely tied to psychology includes sociology; when it relates behavior and social and environmental factors, anthropology, physics; when it comes to dealing with vision, and biology among others. Aristotle is believed to be one of the pioneers in the development of psychology (Goodwin, 2008, pp. 1-52).

Development of Modern Psychology

Another philosopher who brought the popular usage of term psychology is, Wolff who existed in the late 1600 and early 1700.The development of psychology was greatly helped by Hobbes, who believed that all phenomenons had scientific reasoning. Others included the theories of Descartes, Spinoza and Libniz who were also significant in the development of modern psychology. At this moment, the study of relationship between body and mind was quite crucial. 19th century brought more development in laboratory work from Weber, Fechner, Helmholtz, Tichener and Wundt; who were essential in the establishment of psychology into a scientific discipline. This they did by the use of scientific research and their belief that quantification of mental processes was possible through scientific techniques. Dynamic psychology was derived from Darwin’s theory on natural selection (Goodwin, 2008, pp. 1-52). This was then given a new approach by James in 1890 when he viewed conciseness in evolutionary form.

Another pioneer of psychology was Goclenius, a German, who came up with the word psychology in medical viewpoint. Other revolutionary leaders in psychology included, Freud who is also accredited with inventing a discipline of psychology known as Psychoanalysis. His arguments were hugely important in shaping up, modern psychology, as they could be used on for practical gains by individuals and sufficiently tackled sexuality leading to open discussion in a time when it was a taboo to even mention it. This instigated the development of behaviorism which came courtesy of Watson, Skinner and Thrndike (Ash, 1995, pp.14-25). They argued that Psychology needed to be regarded as a science of behavior dismissing on the study of mind, these happened in the early 1900s.Of equal significance were the works of Koffka, Kohler and Wertheimer in developing Gestalt psychology which asserted that psychology studied human behavior as a whole rather than in particular parts of stimulus reaction

Maslow and Rogers, also made contributions when they used the fact of human’s intentional rational decision on themselves as a suggestion that they had a tendency to accomplish their best potential. This eventually led to modern psychology, categorized into different disciplines on the basis of mental processes and conduct. Psychologists currently work in several sectors, giving rise to applied psychology. Clinical psychology has been of importance in the U.S since it deals with the treatment and diagnosis of psychological illnesses. Other models include Biological; which deals with the mapping of brain, neuropsychological; which tries to give biological reasons for our thoughts and actions. Cognitive, educational psychology; which was later expanded by Hall and Thorndike, it is mainly focused on enhanced learning and teaching schemes (Goodwin, 2008, pp. 1-52).

Social psychology came into focus courtesy of McDougall and Ellis. It focused on the impacts of social setting on individuals. Among its branches is Developmental psychology also experimental psychology. This area studies the mind and personality while focusing chiefly on personality as well as how it is shaped. Other fields have also come up in this category; for instance, industrial psychology or organizational psychology which deals with conditions at work places, such as job satisfaction, among others. Health psychology; which tries to establish a way to recovery through psychology, psychological inputs in pathology and ways of preventing illnesses like diabetes and cancer among others. There is also environmental psychology; which studies man’s relation with environment. Other fresh fields include forensic, community, counseling and school psychology (Bartlett, 1937, pp. 97-110).


Psychology has shaped over the years to develop into numerous fields and disciplines. This has mainly been due to the contribution of the ancient philosophers. Among those considered are, Aristotle, Darwin, Thorndike and many others. In general, psychology has made great contributions in understanding of the relationship between an individual’s actions against his/her mental state. However, with further development, more is yet to come.


  1. Ash, M.G. (1995). Gestalt psychology in German culture, 1890-1967. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Print.
  2. Bartlett, F. C. (1937). American Journal of Psychology. Cambridge, England: 50, 97–110.
  3. Goodwin, C. J. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.