From Wundt’s laboratory in Leipzig to the
Woebot Labs Inc. in San Francisco, the field of psychology has seen a major
shift in its development. Psychology as a discipline underwent certain changes
based on the era in which it was studied. This essay seeks to highlight the
changes in psychology from its inception to its present state (2018) and in the
days to come.

Wilhelm Wundt is credited as the father of psychology owing
to his experimental laboratory at the University of Leipzig in Germany. He was
able to influence Stanley hall to establish a similar laboratory in the United
States. Wundt developed the first school of thought known as structuralism
whose main tool was introspection. The conscious mind was then analysed as
component parts that come together. This would later be disputed by William
James in 1890. He viewed the conscious mind as a continuous stream of thoughts
and behaviour which served a purpose, mainly for survival and adaptation to the
environment.

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A decade later, Sigmund Freud would break down the human mind
into three parts with his main focus being on the unconscious mind. Freud (1915) discovered that his patients would fail to
acknowledge some events and desires that were often too frightening or painful.
He believed that this type of information such was hidden in the unconscious
mind through the process of repression. Carlson (2010) highlighted the
influence Freud had on Carl Jung. At first the two psychologists were in
agreement on the libido being an important source of personal growth but Jung
disputed Freud’s ideology that it was solely responsible for personality
formation. Behaviourists would then dispute focus non-observable behaviour but
instead sought to investigate observable behaviour. Then came along the
cognitive school of thought which sought to understand how behaviour was
influenced by thoughts and feelings.

Since
psychology began to take shape as a scientific study, humanistic approaches did
not gain as much popularity since their approach was less significant. The
Gestalt school of thought was well known for the phrase, “The whole is greater
than the sum of its parts.” Psychologists would continue to conduct further
experiments to understand human behaviour particularly with the brain. The
emergence of brain imaging techniques was profound in determining the function
of various parts of the brain. This also led to studies in brain chemistry
seeking to understand its effect on human behaviour.

Psychology
made a significant shift in 1896 when Lighter Witmer opened the first
psychological clinic. Psychology was not only studied in the laboratory but
also given practical applications. This gave rise to various fields of
psychology we have today such as developmental psychology and clinical
psychology.

Major
events in the world also had an impact on the development of psychology. The
First World War of (1914-1918) saw its soldiers administered to standardized
intelligence tests. Upon the soldiers return, they were seen to experience
psychological effects of the war due to its sheer horror. The soldiers would
relive the experiences of the combat long after the war leading to the coining
of the term Shell Shock Disease. This is what we now call Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder. The First Wave of Feminism within the early 18th century
which advocated for women’s representation in power saw the election of Mary
Calkins as president of the APA. Also the removal of homosexuality as a
psychiatric disorder in 1973 from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders (DSM) further demonstrates the adaptation of psychology to the
times.

Major differences exist in the treatment of
mentally ill individuals within the Ancient Greece Era and the 19th
century. Before, mental illness was attributed to an imbalance in body fluids
or as a result of demonic spirits. However, Dorothea Dix and Clifford Beer
would champion the ethical treatment of mentally ill patients. Dorothea Dix
exposed their maltreatment and sought to establish hospitals devoted to their
care. As a patient in a mental asylum, Beers championed for better education on
mental illness.

Today, psychology has been used in a variety of
settings such as schools, the workplace and even in family settings. Technology
has made it possible for one to receive counselling at the comfort of their
home. Through applications like Better Help, clients are able to live chat
professional counsellors and even have a video session via Skype. Schwartz, S. et al (2016) state that the tremendous advances in
our knowledge of how the brain works has made neuroscience the dominant field within psychology. There has been an
increase on the number of articles containing the term “neuro” over the last
few decades. In part this is because it’s now quite difficult to get funding
for a research program if it doesn’t include at least one study using brain
imaging technology. Neuroscience has been predicted to play a significant role
in psychology in the future. The future would also see therapy being conducted
by robots such as Woebot. It is programmed to manage users’ mental health of
through daily chat conversations, tracking moods
and word games. Whether it would actually give medical results would raise
ethical and legal concerns but nonetheless it is an amazing feature the 21st
century can boast about.

 

Despite the major changes that the field of
psychology has undergone, there is still much to do. Bray (2009), states that “The lack of recognition of psychology as a STEM
discipline has major implications for funding and policy development. Psychology
and behavioural science could have been excluded from National Science
Foundation funding without the American Psychological Association’s efforts.”
Perhaps more education towards the public of psychology as a scientific
discipline would result in even further research.

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