This paper will discuss psychology as a science and other relevant topics under it. Although this is only a brief discussion about the whole subject itself, it envisions to open a broader perspective in taking the subject on a much lighter approach. Furthermore, this paper will tackle about the historical background of psychology and the importance of studying psychology. The topics included herein are made to be brief, concise and laid in simple explanations for better understanding of the subject. Psychology is one of the most difficult courses to be studied since it is a systematic way of arranging logical thoughts supported with scientific explanation in order to prove its credibility.
Keywords: Definition of Psychology, History of Psychology, Behavior Types and Schools of Thoughts.
The term ‘psychology’ comes from two Greek words, ‘psyche’ which means ‘soul’ and ‘mind’ whilst ‘logos’ means ‘study’. When combined, psychology literally means the ‘study of the mind and soul.’ On the modern sense, psychology could be defined as the scientific study of the soul and practical application of observable behavior and mental processes of organisms. It basically deals with the systematic study of behavioral processes of different organisms. To further understand the terms used in the definition, it is necessary to recognize these following elements. Psychology is considered as a science because it is focused upon the study and investigation of certain behavior with the application of one or a combination of scientific methods. It can be categorically labeled as empirical and dependent upon measurement. Therefore, gathering of factual information is considered important to prove certain phenomena. Study of behavior is the basic idea of psychology and studying the mind may be considered to be a difficult task to achieve. As one would have difficulty on trying to study what runs in the mind of an individual. Therefore, in order to study the mind, one has to associate the way of thinking of an individual to his behavior. This would actually link the behavior of man and what runs in his mind. Lastly, mental processes includes forms of cognition or the way of knowing which includes man’s perception, attention and capability to remember, to reason and to solve problems. Dreams, fantasies, wishes and anticipation are considered as mental processes.
In psychology, there are different types of behavior. Behavior refers to the actions and reactions of an individual when exposed or placed on a certain situations or environment. Behaviors can be classified into:
- Overt and Covert Behavior- Overt behavior is a behavior which is observable and can be manifested outwardly (i.e. walking, playing, writing). On the other hand, covert behavior is a behavior of which actions that is not directly visible (i.e. lying, thinking, learning).
- Conscious and Unconscious- Conscious behavior pertains to the action that is within one’s awareness (i.e. pounding of the heart due to nervousness, falling in love) whilst the unconscious are those actions done by an individual yet he is not aware of doing so (i.e. thumb sucking, nail biting).
- Rational and Irrational- Rational behavior is manifested through an action which is in the realm of sanity and adequate reason, for example, admiring an athlete because of his physique; contrary to this one, irrational behavior pertains to actions which are done without any apparent reason and beyond scientific explanations.
- Voluntary and Involuntary- Voluntary behavior is done with the man’s full will and discretion whilst involuntary are those actions done automatically like breathing, digestion and circulation of the blood.
- Simple and Complex- Behavior may also be considered as simple or complex based on the number of neurons involved in the process of behavior. Simple behavior utilizes only fewer neurons as compared to the amount of neurons used in complex behavior.
Psychology is also a branch of social science although it differs from the other social science such as: Sociology, Humanities, Political Science, History and Economics, because psychology specifically is engaged with the study of an individual and its processes. While other social sciences deals with the study of groups or history; psychology is less a science of reported findings, as it attempts to ask and answer questions using observable behavior patterns and what can be classified as mental processes of the subject. The following is the application of the principles of biology to the study of mental processes and behavior.
- Biopsychology- is the application of the principles of biology to the study of mental processes and behavior.
- Physiological Psychology- is the study of neural mechanisms of perception and behavior through direct manipulation of the brains of nonhuman animal subjects in controlled experiments. Later, the results are related to human behaviors as well.
- Psychiatry- a branch of medicine which exists to study, prevent and treat mental disorders in humans. The art and science of clinical application of psychiatry have been considered a bridge between the social world and those who are mentally ill.
- Psychotherapy-pertains to the application of specialized psychological methods to the treatment of diagnosed mental disorders or to the problems of a person’s daily adjustment.
- Psychotropic- a sub-field of medicine that deals with the various pharmacological agents such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-manic and anti-psychotic agents utilized to affect behavior, mood and feelings.
- Psychosurgery- a branch of medicine which involves the surgical severing and chemical alterations of brain fibers with the purpose of modifying psychological disturbances and other behavior aberrations. This is similar to the ancient method of brain extirpation.
- Social Psychology- merged the discipline of sociology and anthropology together with the basic premise about the common concern of psychology which is to study human behavior and mental processes.
- Psycholinguistics- sometimes called the psychology of language is the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use and understand the language.
As all in sciences, psychology aims to contribute further to the knowledge of human nature. Specifically, it aims to deepen the knowledge about human behavior so that man can improve the quality of his existence. Simply undertaken to achieve these objectives, psychology as a scientific study aims to describe, understand, predict and influence human and animal behavior and mental processes. Understanding involves the organization of facts about behavior, development of reasons pertaining with the different relationships among observed behavior and finally, arriving to a reasonable and paradigms in explaining behavior. To predict behavior will enable the psychologist to anticipate any future actions of an individual. This will be based partially to the past performance of the individual and at the same time based on the state of cognition of the subject involved. Influence involves the alteration of one’s behavior. It further trends to change a certain trait, idea and belief of an individual.
Psychogenesis of psychology in the ancient period, man has tried to explain behavior since time immemorial. Although man is not quite aware that they are utilizing psychology, the most common way of explaining behavior during the ancient times is the use of animism. Essentially, it is the gods and spirits who were attributed to be the direct cause of events and activities of man. The Greeks began studying psychology in their quest for knowledge of human nature. Democritus (460-370 BCE) theorized that the human mind is composed of atoms, which penetrate in and out of our system. Plato, believed that the soul is distinct to man and it is God-given. Thus, it inhibits the body as the ‘knower’, ‘thinker’, and ‘determiner’ of an individual’s actions. Plato further reiterated that the human psyche (soul) consists of three distinct elements: the element of reason (head) and regarded as the highest level of value; spirited element (heart), by which man would express his emotions; lastly, the element of bodily appetites and desire (diaphragm). In an individual, one of the said elements may tend to be dominant to the person resulting to a certain pattern of personality and goal in life. Aristotle, (384 B.C-322 B.C.) is considered as the father of psychology because he is the first person to put into writing his explanation pertaining the behavior of man. He introduced the three functions of the soul: vegetative, which deals with the basic maintenance of life, appetitive, which focuses on the desire and motives; and the rational that governs reason that is located in the heart. Aristotle argues that the brain is merely a gland that performs minor functions.
Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.E), is the father of medicine who first theorized that mental disorders arose from natural causes. He was also the first person to classify different mental disorders during the classical period. Galen (129-216 A.D.) theorized the relationship of temperament to physiological factors. According to Galen, behavior may be attributed to the ‘humors’ or vital juices of the body, specially the bile. The temperaments correspond as ‘sanguine’ (yellow bile) for cheerfulness, phlegmatic (green bile) for sluggishness and melancholic (black bile) for sadness, whilst choleric (red bile) for irascibility. The Greeks dominated the psychological thinking through their philosophy and science for fifteen centuries before other philosophers emerged and contested their ideas. Psychology is also existent during the Medieval Period when St. Augustine of Hippo, a Catholic saint combined the Greek Platonic thought with Christian thinking and introduced the method of introspection. In this method, the individual tries to describe his own conscious processes. Meanwhile, St. Thomas of Aquinas merged Aristotle’s idea that the mind is a living matter to his idea of immortality. This is the belief that when the body dies, the soul separates and becomes a spirit. The Renaissance also gave birth to leading psychologists who contributed a lot in the field. In 1590, a German scholastic philosopher named Rudolf Göckel (1547-1628) is often attributed for the initial use of term ‘psychology’ in his writing, ‘Yucologia Hoc Est De Hominis Perfectione, Anima, Ortu’. Francis Bacon first proposed that psychology should separate from philosophy and should be treated as a natural science. This is his concept of Naturalism. The French mathematician and philosopher, Rene Descartes introduced the idea of dualism and the concept of reflex action which indicates that the mind and body interact. The mind is the spiritual entity and the body is the physical or material entity. Although, they are considered to be distinct and separate, they work together to make an individual functional. According to Thomas Hobbes, human beings are physical objects and sophisticated machines whose functions and activities can be described and explained in purely mechanistic terms. The human body therefore, should be seen as an instance of its physical operations. Furthermore, Hobbes’ ideas pertain to the specific desires and appetites arise in the human body and are experienced as discomforts or pains which must be overcome. Thus, each of us is motivated to act in such ways as we believed likely to relieve our discomfort, to preserve and promote our own well-being. John Locke introduced the idea that all experiences can be analyzed in his work, ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’. He also linked the idea on his concept of ‘Tabula Rasa’ of which at birth, the mind is like a blank tablet that gathers its contents through the experiences that an individual will have in his entire life. This collection would reflect on the individual’s behavior. George Berkeley argues that in his theory of knowledge, ideas become the only reality. Therefore, the idea of an individual becomes true only to himself because this is the level of knowledge that he believes in. The modern psychology was established in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt and the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig, Germany. He was regarded as the ‘Father of the Modern and Scientific Psychology’. Wundt went on to use scientific methods in studying phenomenon of consciousness. This was the period where scientific psychology was officially born. William James is the founder of the American Psychology who met Wundt and went on to publish a two volume book entitled, ‘Principles of Psychology’. The work of this Harvard University professor became an authoritative text in the United States during that time. In the early 1900’s, Emil Kraeplin, a German psychiatrist was the first to formally describe bipolar disorder. He coined the term ‘manic depressive’ to explain how mania and depression both affect the patient. His work in the early 20th century led to the many advancements in classifying, treating and predicting the course of mental illness which ushered in the formal discipline of psychiatry. Because of his work, he is recognized as the ‘Father of Modern Psychiatry’. Edward Titchener studied under Wilhelm Wundt’s and went on to develop the idea of Structuralism. This school of thought went on to trigger disputes thus, creating movements to further develop the emergence of psychology.
The contemporary psychology was spearheaded by Sigmund Freud, the ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’ who underwent a thorough study of the unconscious mind and developed the psychoanalytic process of free association. Carl Jung, who is a very close associate of Freud who developed his theory of the origin of neurosis. He was a Neo-Freudian and established Analytic Psychology. He gave emphasis on the importance of the collective unconscious as the basis of the affect behavior. A school of psychology or a school of thought is an organized explanation of certain phenomena believed by groups of people supporting the principle. Structuralism is a school of thought which grew out of the work of James, Wundt and their associates. These psychologists believed that the chief purpose of psychology is to describe, analyze and explain conscious experience, particularly feelings and sensations. Structuralism believes in the importance of the structure of the mind. For example. They identified four basic skin sensations: warmth, cold, pain and pressure. They analyzed the sensation of coolness as the combined experience of cold and smoothness. The structuralists primarily used the method called introspection. In this technique, subjects were trained to observe and report as accurately as they could their mental processes, feelings and experiences. However, in 1940, introspection had disappeared from scientific psychology. Functionalism as spearheaded by John Dewey, William James, James Rowland Angell and Harvey Carr tried to retract the idea of structuralism. The group, who called themselves as ‘functionalists’ challenged the idea presented by structuralism stating the importance of the ‘function of the mind’ rather than the ‘structure of the mind’. The function of matter, which is the whole system of the stimulus and the response, makes the human functional. Functionalism also stressed the importance of functional adjustment of an organism to his environment. Behaviorism was introduced by an American psychologist, John Watson in 1913. His followers believed that observable behavior, not inner experience was the only reliable source of information. This concentration on observable events was a reaction against the structuralists’ emphasis on introspection. The behaviorists also stressed the importance of the environment in shaping an individual’s behavior. They chiefly looked for connections between observable behavior and stimuli from the environment. The behaviorist movement was greatly influenced by the work of the Russian psychologist, Ivan Pavlov. In a famous study, Pavlov conditioned the behavior of a dog by ringing a bell each time he gave a dog some food. The dog’s mouth watered when the animal smelled food. After Pavlov repeated the same procedure many times, the dog’s saliva began to flow whenever the animal heard the bell, even if no food appeared. This experiment demonstrated that a reflex, such as the flow of saliva can become associated with a stimulus other than the one that first produced it; in this case, the sound of the bell instead of the smell of food. The learning process by which a response becomes associated with a new stimulus is called conditioning. Gestalt psychology, just like the other movements, developed as a reaction against structuralism. Founded about 1912 by Max Wertheimer, a German psychologist. Gestalt means ‘to configure’ or ‘to form a pattern’. Instead of individual sensations, Gestalt psychologists believed that human beings and other animals perceive the external world as an organized pattern. Psychoanalysis, was founded by Sigmund Freud in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He was an Austrian doctor performing hypnosis because of his bad voice. He thus reiterated that not all people could be hypnotized but instead they could be psycho-analyzed. Psychoanalysis was based on the theory that behavior is determined by a powerful inner forces that is buried in the unconscious mind. Cognitive psychology is a theoretical perspective that focuses on the realms of human perception, thought and memory. It portrays learners as active processors of information, a metaphor borrowed from the computer world and assigns critical roles to the knowledge and perspective students bring to their learning. What learners do to enrich information, in the view of cognitive psychology, determines the level of understanding they ultimately achieve. From the point of view of existentialist psychology, this school of thought started from Humanistic Psychology’s focus on the human condition and took it to an extreme. Drawing from the works of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, it dealt with the large, subjective issues that previously only metapsychology dared to tackle: angst, terror and despair. Existentialists believe in both free will and the uniqueness of an individual. Individual behaviors are not seen as evil or good, but neutral, interpreted only by the individual. In psychotherapy, generalization is not possible; each client’s subjective world must be uniquely encountered. Lastly, humanistic psychology is the school of thought which believes that an individual’s behavior is primarily determined by his perception of the world around him; individuals are not solely the product of their environment; and the individuals are internally directed and motivated to fulfill their human potential. Abraham Maslow is the proponent of this school of thought. Moreover, in studying psychology all of the schools of thought uses controlled experiments, animal studies, qualitative and descriptive research, survey questionnaires, longitudinal studies and neuropsychological methods. All of these methods of psychology are carefully executed in order to obtain the desired results. Psychology is important to a person and to the society because this is the study that enables people to understand their own personalities and a scientific way of attaining true knowledge.
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