As we reflect on the discipline of Psychology there are a couple of areas that are important for us to look at
As we reflect on the discipline of Psychology there are a couple of areas that are important for us to look at. In looking at Psychology it is important that we first take a look at the origins of psychology. To understand something, you must know where it comes from. Also included in the reflection of psychology is taking a look at approaches to contemporary psychology including the key issues and controversies of psychology.
What are the origins of psychology? Psychology did not emerge directly as a science. In the beginning it started as a branch of philosophy. Early on philosophers relied on methods such as observation and logic, where psychologists today utilize scientific methodologies to study and then draw conclusions about human thoughts and their behavior. It was physiology that contributed to psychology becoming a scientific discipline. But it was not until about 2000 years later before it emerged as a science.
Psychology was a result of cosmologists being curios about and wanting to understand about the mystic experiences and activities of people. Some of what they were looking at were life experiences, dreams, urges, and behaviors of people in different situations. It was in the 16th century that the term psychology was first encountered. The word comes from two Greek words ‘Psyche’ meaning soul and ‘logos’ which means doctrine. What was meant by soul is the principle underlying all the phenomena of mental and spiritual life.
There was a time when people thought that when a person had a psychological problem it was caused by evil spirits. The treatment that would be used was called trephining. This was where there would be a hole drilled into the skull that would let the evil spirits escape. There was also some like 17th century philosopher Descartes who thought that nerves were hollow tubes that “animal spirits” conducted impulses. This was similar to the way water traveled through pipes. Then there was Franz Josef Gall who though you could tell about personal characteristics by counting the number of lumps on a person’s skull. All of these may seem strange to us now but at the time it made since to them. And it was through these ideas and thoughts that some of modern theories were birth. Modern ideas about the mind and the way it functions were derived from Greek philosophy. Greek physician Alcmaeon laid one of the first stones in the foundation of psychology. He proposed that ‘mental life is a function of the brain’. His idea produced a basis to understand human psyche even today. Even though some early psychologist ideas may have seemed strange they led to new approaches on how people are treated even today.
What are the major approaches in contemporary psychology? There are several major approaches in contemporary psychology and many different ways of thinking about human behavior. When studying how people think, feel, and behave there a variety of perspectives that psychologist can utilize. Some of the psychologist will focus on one specific school of thought will others will use multiple approaches. It is my belief that there is no one single perspective or approach that is better than the others. They each have a place when studying human behavior.
One perspective that originated with the work of Sigmund Freud is the psycho dynamic perspective. This perspective of psychology and human behavior points out the role of the unconscious mind, experiences from childhood, and relationships with others to explain the way humans behave. It is also used to treat people suffering from mental illnesses. Because of Freud’s work and his influence, psychoanalysis was one of the first major forces in psychology. The idea that he held to was that there were 3 elements that made up the mind: the id, the ego, and the superego. The psyche that includes all the primal and unconscious desires is the id. The ego is the part of the psyche that must deal with the demands of the real world. The last part of the psyche to develop is the superego. This part is what manages all of our internalized morals, standards, and ideals.
There is also the Behavioral Perspective. This approach is focused on learned behaviors. Unlike the other perspectives, behaviorism focuses solely on observable behaviors. In the early twentieth century this perspective dominated psychology until the 1950’s, when it began to lose its hold. Behavioral perspective is still today concerned with how behaviors are learned and reinforced. These principles are often applied by therapists and counselors to explain and treat a variety of illnesses in mental health settings.
It was in the 1960’s that a new approach started to take hold. This was the cognitive psychology perspective. Decision making, problem solving, memory, thinking, and language are the focus of the cognitive approach. It was because of the influences of psychologist like Albert Bandura and Jean Piaget that, in recent decades, that this perspective has grown. Information-processing model, comparing the human mind to a computer, to conceptualize how information is acquired, processed, stored, and utilized are utilized by Cognitive psychologists.
The neuroscience perspective looks at how people and non-human function biologically because in the end us humans are animals made of skin and bones. This approach takes a look at how nerve cells are joined together. Also taken into consideration is how our hopes and fears are affected by the way the body functions and which behaviors are instinctual. To be able to see how heredity may have an influence on behavior and how the brain and nervous system affects behavior the Neuroscience also study heredity and evolution.
What are psychology’s key issues and controversies? When you start to take at the major approaches of psychology, you must consider the key issues and controversies that exist. While psychologist agree on what the key issues are the often disagree on how best to address or resolve those key issues. Each of the issues must be addressed and opposing views must be considered. The answers may very well fall somewhere between the two view points.
One of the major issues that is struggled with is nature versus nurture. Nature being hereditary and nurture being the physical and social environment. A look into how much, nurture and nature, each play into individual behavior. And how each of them interplays or connect with the other. Both nature and nurture both are involved in many topics in psychology. Although a psychologist might subscribe more to one than the other, most psychologist will agree that neither nature or nurture by itself is the only determinant of behavior.
Another major issue for psychologist is conscious versus unconscious causes of behavior. How much of our behavior is because of things that we are fully aware of, and what part of it due to unconscious activities must be looked at. Whether it is due to a mental process that the conscious mind is creating is important to know versus it being causes by a faulty thinking process.
Observable behavior versus internal mental processes is another issue to consider. The controversy is whether psychologist should look only at behavior that can be seen by outside observers or should the focus be on the unseen thinking process. Some say that the only legitimate source of information is the behavior that is observed directly. Others say looking at what is going on inside someone’s mind is more important. Ideally, I believe it should be a combination of the two viewpoints.
Another key issue is free will versus determinism. Free will is where choices are freely made by an individual and determinism is behavior is caused by factors that are beyond our control. The argument is whether we should really be responsible for our actions or if we are the product of our choices and decisions.
What is the future of psychology likely to hold? Although there is no way that we can predict what the future will hold for scientific development in the field of psychology, there are things that we can be certain of. One of the things that we can most likely count on is that psychology will continue to be increasingly specialized. With the study and treatments being more specialized it will allow for a more focused view of what can be done. New ideas and theories will also continue to develop due to our growing understanding of how the mind, the brain, and the nervous system works.
Advancements in genetic and gene therapy will also allow for prevention measures as well as new treatments to be discovered which will mean more people will be able to get help. Hopefully with increased public attention, advancement in research, and social awareness some of the problems we face can be prevented. Thus, making the world a better place for all of us.
Conclusion: Psychology is an ever-expanding science. We can look back at the beginning of the science of psychology and see thoughts and ideas that are still the foundation of what we know. However, we can and must also, realize that the understanding of psychology will be forever be growing and increasing. As new fields open up, as new ideas develop, and theories develop we need to have an open mind and be willing to consider the possibilities.