WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY?
To be human is to be curious about ourselves and the world around
us. Psychology.s ancestors therefore date to the world.s early writings.
Before 300 B.C., the Greek naturalist and philosopher Aristotle
theorized about learning and memory, motivation and emotion,
perception and personality. Today we chuckle at some of his guesses,
like a meal making us sleepy by causing gas and heat to collect around
the source of our personality, the heart. But credit Aristotle with asking
the right questions.
At the dawn of modern science in the 1600s, British philosophers
adopted a down-to-earth approach to knowledge, rooted in observation.
Thinking about thinking continued to evolve until the birth of
psychology as we know it, on a December day in 1879. In a small room
on the third floor of a shabby building at Germany.s University of Leipzig, two young men were helping a long-faced, austere, middleaged
professor, Wilhelm Wundt, create an experimental apparatus.
Wundt was seeking to measure the .atoms of the mind. . the fastest and simplest
mental processes. Thus began what many consider psychology.s first
experiment, launching the first psychological institute, staffed by Wundt
and psychology.s first graduate students.
The young science of psychology thus evolved from the more
established fields of biology and philosophy. Wundt was both a
physiologist and a philosopher. Darwin was an English naturalist. Ivan
Pavlov, who pioneered the study of learning, was a Russian physiologist.
Sigmund Freud, renowned personality theorist, was an American
So what is psychology? With activities ranging from recording
nerve-cell activity to psychotherapy, psychology is not easily defined.
Psychology began as the science of mental life. Wundt.s basic research
tool became introspection . self-examination of one.s own emotional
states, feelings, and thoughts. Thus, until the 1920s, psychology was
defined as .the science of mental life. Let.s unpack this definition. Behavior is anything an organism
does . any action we can observe and record. Yelling, smiling, blinking,
sweating, talking, and questionnaire-making are all observable
behaviors. Mental processes are the internal subjective experiences we
infer from behavior . sensations, perceptions, dreams, thoughts,
beliefs, and feelings.
For many psychologists, the key word in psychology.s definition is
science. Psychology is less a set of findings than a way of asking and
answering questions. As a science psychology aims to sift opinions and
evaluate ideas with careful observation and rigorous analysis. In its quest
to describe and explain nature (human nature included), psychological
science welcomes hunches and plausible-sounding theories. And it puts
them to the test.
Date: 2015-01-29; view: 537