This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 01 table of contents.

Summary: The History of Psychology

The field of psychology started in the mid-1800s by defining itself as "the science of consciousness." By the 1920s psychologists were more likely to define their field as "the science of behavior." Behaviorists argued that a truly scientific psychologist should report only the data that is actually observed: behavior. Although this would appear to constrict the subject matter of psychology by leaving out the mind, Hilgard pointed out that behavioral methods broadened psychology. They encouraging psychologists to study those who could not make introspective reports, such as animals and children.

The behavioral era dominated psychology in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s. Partly as a reaction to behaviorism's neglect of subjective mental processes, humanistic psychology emerged as an alternative approach during the early 1960s.

Computer technology led to the resurgence of cognitive psychology in the 1970s. Computers provided a new metaphor for discussing mental processing and new tools for doing research on human information processing. Another change in the 1970s and 1980s was the emergence of neuroscience as an important source of information about behavior and mental processes. Today, the different approaches to psychology coexist. Each provides a useful perspective, and they are often combined when more than one approach is relevant to a topic.


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