The first chapter of the book introduces you to the origins and development of psychology as a scientific discipline. You will see here the trials and tribulations the discipline has undergone before it has reached the present state. Psychology did not exist in its present form, from the beginning. It has changed enormously through the years. The definition, the subject matter and the research methods employed to investigate the issues have evolved and are evolving even today. In the beginning, psychologists were not agreed upon what constitutes psychology, its definition, subject matter and the methodology. There were disagreements as to what psychology should study and how it should be studied. There were several approaches to the study and often these were referred to as Schools of Psychology. Each school with a leader and a group of followers emphasized a certain point of view. Thus, one group asserted that psychology should study the structure of consciousness, by analyzing the immediate experience into its constituent elements using the method of introspection. Another group thought that analysis of experience destroys the essence of experience and conscious experience should be studied as it occurs, as a whole. A third group emphasized the usefulness of psychological processes in life and living. A fourth group asserted that no one can observe consciousness or experience; all that we see is what people do, their behavior; if psychology were to be a science, its subject matter should be something objectively observable. Therefore, psychology should be the science of observable behavior. Even today, there is no complete concurrence of opinion as to what constitutes the subject matter of psychology. It is not surprising why psychologists disagree with each other. Psychology is a complex discipline that deals with an array of such diverse matters that are mind boggling. Look at some of the questions that modern psychologists are trying to answer: Why do people hate each other? Why do we make love? Why do we quarrel? Why do we help (or not help) in an emergency? Why some people are violent, can we reduce the incidence of violence? Why do we sleep and why do we dream? What is intelligence? Can intelligence be improved? What are the best methods of teaching and learning? Why do we forget what we learn? What are the causes of prejudice and discrimination? Why some people get addicted to drugs, alcohol or nicotine? Can we improve the productivity of industrial workers, the performance in sports and efficiency of military personnel? No one brand of psychology can answer all these questions. That is the reason why there are several varieties of psychologies and different kinds of psychologists. The diversity of the subject matter has led to the emergence of a number of subfields of psychology and each of the subfield is engaged in answering certain basic questions about behavior and experience. There are pure scientists engaged in studying the basic processes involved in behavior and experience. These are experimental psychologists, comparative psychologists, social psychologists, developmental psychologists, abnormal psychologists, so on and so forth. On the other hand, there are educational psychologists, industrial psychologists, clinical psychologists, and counseling psychologists who are applying the psychological insights to improve life and living.
This chapter presents information on several topics that are central to the understanding of psychology. It traces the way in which the meaning of the word psychology, its definition and the methods psychology uses to investigate its subject matter have evolved over the years. The chapter provides a brief history of the subject. Psychology has its roots in philosophy, physiology and physics. It has borrowed the subject matter from philosophy and its methodology from science. Therefore, you will be introduced to the origins of psychology within philosophy and within science. You will learn something about the founding fathers of the discipline. You will learn about the early laboratories of psychology, the first text books and the first students of psychology. You will also learn how these early students contributed to the development of psychology in their parts of the world. Psychology today is a sprawling discipline; it has several specialty areas. You will have a bird's eye view of the major areas of contemporary psychology. The differing approaches to psychological issues are presented to you in the section on contemporary perspectives. Note that in spite of the differing approaches to the study, there is a unifying thread that makes psychology a unified scientific discipline. Today, most psychologists hold that the field of psychology should be receptive to a variety of approaches and viewpoints.
- Definition of Psychology
- Major Areas of Psychology
- Experimental psychology
- Comparative psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Personality psychology
- Social psychology
- Industrial-organizational psychology
- Abnormal psychology
- Clinical psychology
- Counseling psychology
- Health psychology
- Community psychology
- Educational psychology
- Evolutionary psychology
- Origins of Psychology
- Roots of psychology within philosophy
- Roots of psychology within physiology
- Brain Physiology
- Localization of brain functions
- Birth of psychophysics
- Birth of experimental psychology
- Psychology after Wundt
- Contemporary Perspectives
- Biological perspective
- Behavioral perspective
- Cognitive perspective
- Psychodynamic perspective
- Humanistic perspective
- Sociocultural perspective
- Unifying Features Among the Perspectives
Psychology is a fascinating as well as a challenging branch of study in the family of sciences. It is fascinating because it concerns us, human beings, our behavior and experience. All of us are eager to know why we act as we do and why others behave the way they do. It is challenging because the complexities and contradictions of human behavior defy easy understanding and explanation in spite of serious theorizing and research for over hundreds of years. We have varieties of people around us. Some people are good and some are bad, some are kind and some others are cruel, some are logical and some others are illogical, some moral and several immoral, some cooperative and some others violently competitive. Why? There are no satisfactory answers. Human behavior has been and remains a mystery. Today, it seems that we know a great deal about everything else except ourselves. However, it is small satisfaction that over 500,000 psychologists hailing from various parts of the globe are engaged in the enterprise of unraveling the mystery of the human mind.
The scope of psychology is very vast; it studies myriad phenomena concerning the human experience and behavior. It is attempting to answer complex questions such as: How do we come to know the world around us? How do we acquire knowledge? What is learning? Where is the learned material stored? What is intelligence? Why do we hate some people and why do we love others? Why do we help people and sometimes, why we don't? Why some people suffer from mental disorders? What are the causes of psychological disturbances? Can we cure mental disorders? Why do some people commit suicide? Why do some get addicted to drugs? Why people are aggressive? Can we control terrorism? Why do we sleep, and why do we dream? Do dreams have meaning? By means of patient research, careful observation, imaginative hypothesizing, and constructive self-criticism, psychologists are trying to answer these and countless other questions. But before we proceed further, let us face the basic question: What is psychology?
DEFINITION OF PSYCHOLOGY
Psychology is such a complex discipline that defining it has not been that simple. Even if you define it today, tomorrow it may become inadequate. In fact, psychology is not a thing, it is about a thing. It is what a number of scientists and philosophers have created to fulfill the need to understand the mind and behavior of living organisms. Therefore, it has always been hard to define its theme and its boundaries. However, attempts have been made to define psychology and these have been changing over the years (Box 1.1). Literally, psychology means the study of the soul (psyche = soul, logy = study). But, psychology is not interested in the study of the soul. Only religion and theology are interested in the abstract concept of soul. During the early years of its existence, psychology was defined as the study of mind, or the science of mental life. It was thought that mind is reflected in one way or the other in processes such as, sensations, perceptions, memory, thinking, motivation, emotion and manifestation of personality traits.
At or around the same time, some pioneers asserted that psychology should engage in the analysis of consciousness. These early definitions were not acceptable to scientifically-oriented psychologists of the 20th century. They argued that mind and consciousness are abstract and subjective concepts that cannot be objectively observed; all that we observe is behavior; the mind, if there is one, manifests in the form of behavior; so, why not we simply study behavior? Not surprisingly, they asserted that psychology is or should be the science of behavior.
Behavior for these early scientists includes all that a person or an animal does. Behavior, unlike mind, can be observed, controlled, and manipulated. We have never seen or heard a mind, but we can see and hear behavior. More importantly, behavior can be objectively measured. Measurement is the heart of science. We can make inferences about the motives, feelings, attitudes, thoughts and other mental phenomena that underlie behavior from what people do and say. In this way, internal mental activities can be studied as they manifest themselves through what people do—behavior. In this approach, mind and subjective mental processes are not actually excluded from psychology; behavior is used as the avenue through which mind and other internal mental phenomena are studied.
Today, the majority of psychologists assert that psychology is the scientific study of behavior. Reviewing the definitions of psychology, one psychologist humorously observed: “Psychology lost its soul first, and then it lost its mind, further it lost its consciousness, somehow in the end, it is left with some behavior.”
Actually, there is nothing wrong in including mind and mental processes in the definition of psychology. Although mind cannot be observed, it cannot be denied that mind exists and it mediates behavior. Mind can be considered as a hypothetical construct. After all, physicists do not observe gravity; still the concept of gravity is extensively used in physics. It is used as a hypothetical construct to explain certain phenomena in the physical world. Similarly, we can employ the concept of mind in psychology. We will miss a great deal in understanding human behavior if we do not take into consideration the existence of subjective mental activities. It is a healthy sign that modern psychologists do not hesitate to use the word mind in defining psychology as it can be seen in the last five definitions in the Box 1.1. Therefore, we can define psychology as the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. The definition has three important terms—scientific study, behavior and mental processes. Mental processes refer to what is happening within when you are seeing, hearing, remembering, thinking or making a decision. Behavior refers to what you do, your outwardly observable activities. It includes speech, facial expressions and physical movements of the various parts of the body. A particular behavior is often preceded by mental processes such as, seeing (perception) something. For example, when you see a speeding car on the road, you move away toward the footpath. Psychologists study mental processes and behavior using scientific method. Scientific method is the universal procedure used by scientists to establish facts. Psychologists, like scientists, logically develop certain ideas about the possible causes of mental and physical activities and then test the resulting ideas by collecting additional facts, which will either support the ideas or refute them. We will learn more about the scientific method as used in psychology in the next chapter.
A better way of understanding psychology is by examining what psychologists are doing. Psychology is a vibrant but sprawling discipline. The tremendous diversity of issues that psychologists are tackling may give the beginning student the impression that the so-called science of psychology is a collection of unrelated topics. Fortunately, it is not so. There is an undercurrent that binds all the provinces of psychology, as well as psychologists. As Feldman (1997) puts it, psychologists constitute a huge joint family in which members are engaged in diverse activities; they may not interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, but are related to one another in fundamental ways and meet on important occasions. Let us examine the various areas that the members of this huge joint family of psychologists are exploring.
MAJOR AREAS OF PSYCHOLOGY
Psychology is a vast field; the areas covered are many and varied. The American Psychological Association (APA), the premier body of psychologists in the United States of America, lists over 54 divisions, which represent the broad fields of specialization within contemporary psychology. Some of the major areas are outlined below.
A few psychologists are studying the biological basis of behavior. They are interested in the structure and functions of the nervous system, digestive system, endocrine system and such other bodily organs and their functions. This area is called biopsychology or physiological psychology. Some biopsychologists are studying the effect of hormones on emotional behavior; some others are investigating the role of neurotransmitters in the causation of mental disorders; certain others may be interested in locating brain sites associated with pain, pleasure, eating and water intake. Biopsychology is an exciting area of study; you cannot be a good psychologist without the knowledge of physiology. In recent years, behavioral neuroscience has emerged as a separate discipline. This field concentrates on the study of the brain and hormonal processes that underlie behavior. Sometimes, behavior genetics and evolutionary psychology are grouped under behavioral neuroscience. A related area of study, clinical neuropsychology, combines the area of clinical psychology and biopsychology by focusing on the relationship between biological factors and psychological disorders.
A substantial number of psychologists are engaged in studying the basic processes of sensation, perception, attention, learning, remembering, forgetting, thinking, problem solving, motivation and emotion. They work in laboratories experimenting with human and animal subjects. These are called experimental psychologists. In fact, experimental psychologist is misleading term. Experimental methods are used by several other psychologists other than experimental psychologists. For instance, biopsychologists, social psychologists, cognitive psychologists, to mention a few, make use of laboratory procedures. It is not the method which distinguishes experimental psychology from other fields. It is distinguished by what it studies. Experimental psychologists are engaged in understanding the fundamental causes of behavior. They do what is sometimes called the basic research. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, some researchers looked at the computer as a model for the way human mental processes work which, ultimately during the 1970s, lead to a prosperous branch of psychology called cognitive psychology. This branch which focuses on higher mental processes such as memory, thinking, reasoning, judging, problem solving, decision making and language acquisition is a subfield of experimental psychology. In short, cognitive psychology is engaged in the study of the nature of human information processing, that is, the way information is stored and operated internally.
Scientists who study the behavior of non-human species are called comparative or animal psychologists. They study animal behavior in their natural habitat or in laboratory settings. The study includes genetics, brain processes, social behavior and evolutionary processes. Major advances in the area of learning, thinking and problem solving have been made by studying rats, cats, pigeons, monkeys and other animals in the laboratory. Comparative psychology is closely related to experimental psychology.
Psychologists who are interested in the study of the development of behavior throughout life are called developmental psychologists. They try to understand complex behaviors by studying their beginnings and the orderly ways in which they change during lifetime. They study motor development, language development, social and emotional development, moral development, cognitive development and development of intelligence. Within developmental psychology, there are subfields such as child psychology, psychology of adolescence, adulthood and old age.
The scientific study of personality—its structure, dynamics, development and measurement—constitutes a very absorbing branch of psychology. Personality psychologists try to explain the factors contributing to consistency and change in peoples' behavior over time. They are also interested in determining the components of personality that differentiate the behavior of one person from another under similar conditions. Personality is both a developmental and social product and hence, it overlaps developmental psychology and social psychology.
Human beings are social animals. We spend most of our life in the presence of others with whom we interact in a variety of ways and in different settings. Our actions, thoughts and feelings are affected by others. The primary focus of social psychology is on understanding how individuals are affected by other people. Social psychologists study the ways in which we perceive others and how these perceptions determine our behavior toward them. They investigate the dynamics of interpersonal relations, development of attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes. They also study diverse topics such as inter-group conflict, propaganda, persuasion, conformity, obedience, public opinion and the impact of media. Cross cultural psychology is an emerging subdivision of social psychology. It tries to determine similarities and differences of behavior in various cultures and ethnic groups.
Social psychology has made inroads into industry and the result is the emergence of industrial-organizational psychology (I-O psychology). It is concerned with the behavior of people in the work context. I-O psychologists study issues concerning personnel selection and training, productivity, job-satisfaction, employee morale and motivation, industrial unrest and such other issues. Two subfields within I-O psychology, namely, organization behavior and managerial psychology are taught prominently in institutes of management offering MBA courses. Another related area is consumer psychology; consumer psychologists analyze people's buying behavior including the effect of packing and advertisement on buyers.
Abnormal psychology is the branch of psychology that is focused on dysfunctional behavior or mental maladjustment. Abnormal psychologists try to determine causes, consequences and treatment of psychological disorders. They are also engaged in distinguishing normality from abnormality, classification of mental disorders, estimating their prevalence and suggesting prevention strategies. Several offshoots of abnormal psychology that have shown tremendous progress in recent times are clinical psychology, counseling psychology, health psychology and community psychology.
This branch attracts the largest number of psychologists all over the world. Most of the clinical psychologists work in mental hospitals, psychiatric clinics and community mental health centers. Generally, they work along with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who are engaged in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. There is some confusion in the minds of many people about the difference between clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. The clinical psychologist holds a degree in psychology (MA, MSc or PhD) with specialized training in clinical work for over two years. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor holding a degree in medicine (MBBS or MD) and a special degree or diploma from a psychiatric institution. As a consequence a psychiatrist can prescribe drugs, while a psychologist does not.
The work of counseling psychologist is very much similar to that of a clinical psychologist. The difference is in the work setting; while a clinical psychologist works in a mental hospital dealing with problems of mental patients, the counseling psychologist works with relatively normal people with minor adjustment difficulties. Mostly, they work with high school and college students helping them to solve problems pertaining to personal-social adjustments and educational and vocational goals. Counseling psychologists make extensive use of psychological tests to measure intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, interests and personality traits. They may offer psychotherapy to solve the problems of their clients. A number of people consult counselors to deal with familial and marital problems. Some business organizations, orphanages, rescue homes and prisons employ counseling psychologists.
Health psychology is a recent specialty that studies the factors that influence well-being and illness as well as measures that can be taken to promote health and prevent illness. The study of stress and coping is an area of special interest for health psychologists. They are also engaged in exploring factors that influence pain perceptions and in developing psychological interventions to reduce people's suffering. Health psychologists may also engage in developing and evaluating health-promotion and disease-prevention programs.
The area of community psychology is difficult to define because community psychologists are engaged in highly diverse activities. In general, they apply psychological insights to help solve (or prevent) social and personal problems of people in their natural settings. Problems that arise in homes, schools and work settings are hard to solve in a therapist's clinic. Therefore, the community psychologist goes to the place where problems occur, observes how the problems unfold naturally, design interventions to fit the setting and assesses the impact of those interventions. Community psychologists often serve as consultants to community mental health workers, police who work with trouble makers, departments of social service, school teachers and administrators. By first hand observation, the consultant can shed new light on a problem and help generate solutions.
An area that is closely related to counseling is educational psychology. Educational psychologists are engaged in developing effective teaching and learning methods. They are concerned with methods of motivating students, increasing academic achievement, creating favorable classroom climate, and establishing cordial teacher-student relationship. School psychology is a subfield of educational psychology. School psychologists work with primary and high school children focusing on their academic or/and emotional problems. One of their special jobs is to diagnose reading difficulties of children and trying to remedy them. They meet teachers, students, their parents and discuss the problems and suggest action to correct anomalies.
One of the new areas that emerged in the late 1980s is evolutionary psychology, which seeks to explain how evolution shapes human behavior. Evolutionary psychologists, following Darwin, stress that through natural selection, human mental abilities and behavioral tendencies evolve along with changing body. They explain human social behavior as a product of evolutionary principles. For example, look at some of the issues that evolutionary psychologists are concerned within the context of mate selection. Why humans seek out a long-term bond with a mate? Why men prefer women who are somewhat younger than themselves, whereas women prefer somewhat older men? Why men attach greater importance than women to potential mate's physical attractiveness and domestic skills, whereas women place more importance than men to a potential mate's earning capacity, status and ambitiousness? Examine the explanation evolutionary psychologists give for polygamous tendency in men and the general monogamous tendency in women. According to one evolutionary viewpoint called sexual strategies theory, mating strategies and preferences reflect inherited tendencies, shaped over the ages in response to different types of adaptive problems that men and women faced. According to this viewpoint, men who had sex with more partners increased the likelihood of fathering more children. Men also take a woman's youthfulness and attractiveness as signs of fertility and capacity to live longer to bear more children. In contrast, women had little to gain and much to lose by mating with many men. Woman makes greater investment (costs) than men in having a child, and she wants a committed person to help her in raising the child. When a woman has multiple sex partners, she will be uncertain about which one is the father, thereby decreasing a male's willingness to commit resources to help the mother to raise the child. Therefore, women select a mate who is willing and able to commit time, energy, and other resources (food, shelter, protection, etc.). Through natural selection, the differing qualities that maximized men's and women's reproductive success eventually became part of their biological nature. Thus, men and women have become biologically predisposed to seek somewhat different qualities in a mate.
In addition to the above, several new areas have emerged in recent years. For example, Environmental psychology studies the relation between people and their living environments. Forensic psychology studies legal issues, such as the role of juries, credibility of witnesses, human errors in judgment, so on and so forth. Sport psychology investigates the factors affecting optimum performance in games, role of sports in maintaining mental and physical fitness and such other issues. Psychology of women includes a broad range of issues such as discrimination against women, violence against women, brain-size difference between men and women, the effect of sex hormones on behavior and such other feminine-related issues. Psychometric methods deal with problems of measurement in psychology. Positive psychology is a growing field that encourages greater exploration of human strengths, virtues and assets rather than weaknesses and deficits.
As you can see, the scope of modern psychology is very broad; it stretches from borders of medicine and the biological sciences to those of social sciences. To understand the causes of behavior more fully, psychologists examine them at different levels. At the biological level, they examine brain processes, the impact of hormones and the genetic factors. At the psychological level, our thoughts, emotions and motives are examined and at the environmental level, our physical and sociocultural environments are examined. You may wonder just how psychology's scope became so broad. It happened partly because it has its roots in such diverse disciplines as physics, physiology, and philosophy. As a consequence, during its evolution, psychology developed different ways of looking at human behavior. These divergent views led to the emergence of several schools of psychology. After some years, the schools faded and gave rise to certain approaches or perspectives to the study of psychology. The perspectives guided the theorizing and research in psychology. Generally, the perspectives are the driving forces in science. When a perspective is proposed, its assumptions are challenged, discussed and debated and in the light of new evidence the perspective may be revised; the revised point of view, the new perspective, may again be challenged by newer perspectives. It is a continuous activity in any scientific endeavor. Since, the schools and perspectives in psychology have their roots in the historical evolution of the discipline, it is necessary to have a peep into the history of psychology.
ORIGINS OF PSYCHOLOGY
Although it is generally held that psychology formally began in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt, the German philosopher and physiologist, started the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig, it must be remembered that the psychological ideas were in the air from ancient times. Wundt's psychology was the offspring of the marriage between philosophy and physiology and that may be the reason why he called it physiological psychology—philosophical ideas studied according principles of science, especially physiology. Although psychology received its stuff from both philosophy and science, it must be remembered that psychology as a discipline with that name, before the middle of the 19th century, was a formal division not of science, but of philosophy. Of course, during the early period, there was no clear distinction between science and philosophy. Science was simply referred to as natural philosophy. For instance, Aristotle did not distinguish between rationalistic and empirical methods. It was only later that science and philosophy diverged and still later that philosophy became predominantly psychological, thus making psychology philosophical and not scientific. But these differences are artificial. Basically knowledge is one (Boring, 1950). However, it would be interesting to examine what it was within philosophical psychology that was married to physiology, which gave birth to physiological (experimental) psychology during Wundt's time.
Roots of Psychology within Philosophy
Philosophers have all along been asking questions about human phenomena such as: Who am I? Where did I come from? What am I doing? Where am I going? Why do I act as I do? Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato & Aristotle and several others had made significant statements about the nature of mind. For Socrates, the aim of all education was to help man to know the contents of his mind; it is exemplified by his dictum “know thyself.” Aristotle said that the mind was a tabula rasa, a blank tablet as yet unwritten on by experience, thus anticipating the school of empiricism of Hobbes and Locke. Aristotle laid down the basic principles of memory—similarity, contrast and contiguity—which are still actively influencing theoretical thinking about learning. He wrote on sensation, imagination and dreaming and hinted at the role of motivation and emotion on perception. More importantly, the best of the ancient thinkers have all along been thinking about the nature of the relationship between mind and body. Many early philosophers held that the mind is an immaterial entity not governed by physical laws and that body is matter that obeys physical laws. Their position was called dualism. The renowned French philosopher René Descartes (Fig. 1.1), who inaugurated the modern period of philosophy, was one such dualist (one who believes that the body and mind are two different entities obeying different sets of laws). Although different, he held, that body and mind interacted and influenced each other, a point of view called interactionism.
There were other dualists like the German philosopher Leibniz, who did not agree with Descartes' interactionism and proposed psychophysical parallelism (the view that mind and body are different and run parallel courses without interacting with each other, but giving the appearance of interaction). There were others who asserted that there was only one entity, either mind or body. Their view was called monism. Among monists, those who believed that only mind exists were called idealists and those who thought that only body (matter) exists were called materialists. A third group believed that mind and body were merely two sides of the same coin; this viewpoint was called double aspectism or double aspect monism. According to them, matter and consciousness were two inseparable aspects of everything in the universe. An important philosopher who proposed such a view was Spinoza. According to him anything happening to the body is experienced by the mind and emotions and thoughts influence the body.
One of the significant events that accelerated the emergence of psychology was the birth of British empiricism, which held that all knowledge was gained by sensory experience. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke (Fig. 1.2), the two eminent British thinkers, were the founders of empiricism.
Both believed that mind was made up of sense-experience. Chronologically Hobbes began the school of empiricism, but Locke was its spiritual head. It seems Locke did not receive his inspiration from Hobbes. Locke held that mind in the beginning was a tabula rasa and sensory experience wrote on it. For him, mind was a product of experience and it was made up of ideas which were derived from sensory experience. The ideas were arranged and organized by the principles of association. This makes Locke one of the founders of associationism, a theory that played a significant role in the evolution of psychology.
Other British philosophers such as George Berkeley, David Hume, David Hartley, James Mill, John Stuart Mill & Alexander Bain extended the empiricistic-associationistic tradition within philosophical psychology. The mind postulated by British empiricists was a passive agent that simply represented physical experiences as mental images, recollections and associations; it only reflects cognitively what is occurring or what has occurred in the physical world. On the other hand, another group of philosophers, who espoused rationalism, postulated an active mind that not only transformed the sensory information to make it meaningful, but also could discover and understand principles and concepts not contained in sensory data. For a rationalist, mind is more than a collection of ideas derived from sensory experience and held together by laws of association. It is active and creative; it adds something to our mental experience that is not found in our physical experience. Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel & Herbart were eminent rationalists. Herbart is considered a pioneer in educational psychology.
The philosophies of empiricism and rationalism pictured humans as either complex machines (products of experience) or highly rational beings operating in accordance with lofty, abstract principles. But they left something important from their analyses—the irrational aspect of humans. Those who stressed on the irrationality of humans came to be called as romantics. Generally romantics emphasized the inner, personal experience and distrusted both scientists and philosophers who pictured humans as products of either experience or as totally rational beings. Rousseau is considered the father of romanticism. He advised that people should trust their heart rather than the mind to guide them. Rousseau's influence can be seen in the works of 20th century psychologists such as Maslow & Rogers. Schopenhauer was also a romanticist who influenced Freud. Another group of philosophers who followed existentialism opposed both empiricism and rationalism. Existentialists stressed meaning in life, freedom of choice, subjective experience, personal responsibility and the uniqueness of the individual. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were the first influential existentialists. According to Nietzsche, there are no universal truths, only individual perspectives. The only source of information for what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable, are individuals themselves. Nietzsche referred to humans, who had the courage to live in accordance with their own values, thus rising above conventional morality, supermen. The influence of romanticism and existentialism in modern psychology is seen in psychoanalysis and humanistic psychology.
Roots of Psychology within Physiology
Although philosophers have been spinning theories of mind, they did not say anything important about the body where the mind resides. It was left to the 19th century physiologists to discover the mechanisms by which we come to know the physical world; that is, how the empirical events come to be represented in consciousness. Everything from sense perception to motor reactions was studied in detail during the first half of 19th century and these path breaking discoveries led to the birth of experimental psychology. In 1811, Sir Charles Bell discovered that the sensory fibers of a mixed nerve enter the spinal cord at a posterior (dorsal) nerve root, whereas, the motor nerves of the same nerve leave the cord by an anterior (ventral) root. François Magendie, a French physiologist made the same discovery later in 1822. This fact of anatomical and functional discreteness of sensory and motor nerves came to be known as the Bell-Magendie law. This was an important discovery in physiology. It established the fact that conduction in a nerve normally occurs in only one direction (the law of forward direction in the nervous system). The law is basal to the conception of reflex action and the reflex act.
The next important discovery was the division of the sensory fibers into kinds. Johannes Müller (Fig. 1.3), the German physiologist in 1826 discovered that there are five kinds of nerves, one for each of the five senses and each containing a characteristic energy and when they are stimulated a characteristic sensation results. That is, each nerve responds in its own characteristic way no matter how it is stimulated. For example, whatever the stimuli applied to the eye-light, pressure, electricity—all cause visual sensations only. This has come to be known as the doctrine of specific nerve energies. Müller formulated ten laws the central one of which states that we are directly aware, not of objects, but of our nerves themselves; that is to say, the nerves are intermediaries between the perceived objects and the mind and thus impose their own characteristics on the mind. However, Müller was worried over the question of whether the characteristic of the nerve itself or the site in the brain where the nerve terminated accounts for specificity. He concluded that the nerve is responsible, but subsequent research demonstrated that the brain site is the determinant. Müller anticipated a close relationship between physiology and psychology. He said that nobody can be a psychologist, unless he first becomes a physiologist (nemo psychologus nisi physiologus).
Müllerian theory was extended by Helmholtz (Fig. 1.4), another great German physiologist, who demonstrated that there are specific qualitative differences within a single sense modality; that is to say that there are specific fiber energies. For example, Helmholtz stated in his famous trichromatic theory of color vision that there are specific fibers that when stimulated give rise to different color sensations; one for red, one for green and a third for violet.
This was corroborated by Thomas Young and the theory is often called Young-Helmholtz theory of color vision. Ewald Hering & Christine Ladd-Franklin proposed alternative theories of color. Later, fiber specificity was shown in other senses—hearing, touch, smell and taste.
Helmholtz, a student of Müller, was an eminent figure in the history of science. His contributions to science are many and varied. He proposed the theory of conservation of energy, measured the velocity of nerve impulse and offered a theory of audition, in addition to his theory of color vision, and differentiated between sensation and perception. His work moved physiology closer to psychology thus paving the way for the emergence of experimental psychology.
Around the same time, tremendous progress was witnessed in the area of neurophysiology. Du Bois Reymond demonstrated the electrical nature of nerve impulse; Bernstein described the nerve impulse as a wave of negativity; Marshall Hall, extending the early work of Robert Whytt, described reflex action. It was also in 1850 that Fechner was toying with the idea of his psychophysics. Also young Wundt, who was around 18 years must have been a witness to all these advances. But before we take up the work of Wundt, we have to familiarize ourselves with other advances in physiology especially brain physiology.
Like several other theories, the views pertaining to brain functions started with wrong assumptions. From ancient times people were interested in determining the site within the body where mind is situated. Early thinkers located mind in various parts of the body. Aristotle located mind (soul) in the heart; so did the Egyptians. Pythagoras thought of the brain as the seat of the mind; Plato also thought on the same lines. Descartes located the mind in the entire body. It was Franz Joseph Gall who firmly believed that brain is the seat of the mind. He was the founder of a theory called phrenology.
Gall argued that the mental faculties are housed in specific areas of the brain, and depending on whether a faculty is well developed or underdeveloped in the brain, there would be a protrusion or depression respectively on the corresponding part of the skull, and by examining the bumps and depressions on the exterior of the skull, one can determine the strength or weakness of a person's mental faculties. Gall and his student Spurzheim divided the skull into 37 patches, each one associated with a specific faculty. Such an analysis was named phrenology, and it became very popular at that time because it provided an opportunity for the objective analysis of the human mind. It strengthened the idea of faculty psychology—the belief that the mind consists of several mental powers or faculties proposed by the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid. Phrenology was ridiculed and derided by both physiologists and philosophers. Physiologists did not find any evidence to show that the conformation of the exterior of the skull corresponds to the conformation of its interior. Philosophers objected to the division of the unitary mind into faculties. However, ridiculous phrenology might be; it served psychology in certain ways. It made brain the “organ of mind” and suggested that different parts of the brain have different physiological and perhaps psychophysiological functions, thus leading to localization of brain functions. Although the theory was basically wrong, it was enough right to stimulate the right type of scientific research.
Localization of Brain Functions
French physiologist Pierre Flourens is the most important figure in the advancement of brain physiology. Chronologically Luigi Roland (after whom central fissure of the cerebrum is named) is the first person to have engaged in the study of the anatomy and pathology of the brain. But he was unconvincing in his experimental procedures and often incorrect in his conclusions. Flourens was precise in his technique, clear in exposition and right in his conclusions. Using the method of extirpation or ablation of specific areas of brain in animals, he showed that cerebrum is the seat of perception, intelligence and the will; the function of cerebellum is the coordination of movements of locomotion; the medulla oblongata is the organ of conservation, the vital knot that is essential to the life of the organism including the nervous system; the corpora quadrigemina function for seeing; the function of the cord is conduction and the function of nerves is excitation. Flourens also demonstrated that in spite of the diversity of structure and functions (action proper), the nervous system acts as unit (action commune); there is a community of reaction. Thus, he anticipated one century earlier Franz & Lashley's conception of equipotentiality and mass action and the Gestalt view that cerebrum acts as a whole.
In 1861, Paul Broca, using clinical methods, announced the localization of center for speech at the base of the third frontal convolution of the left cerebral hemisphere. The area has come to be called Broca's area. In 1870, Gustav Fritsch & Eduard Hitzig discovered the motor areas in the cerebral cortex and David Ferrier fixed the visual center in the occipital lobe. By the end of the century, hearing was localized in the temporal lobes and somesthetic sensation in the post-central region, back of the motor area. The areas of taste and smell were uncertain. So, there was a good deal of localization of functions on the cortex as the phrenologists had maintained, but never was a mental function found where Gall had said it was.
Birth of Psychophysics
As we have seen, while the philosophers were developing the theory of mind, the nature of consciousness, experience and awareness, physiologists were locating the organs of the mind, investigating the bodily processes that produce conscious experience. It was shown that conscious experiences (the sensations) were triggered by brain processes. But how are the two, mental sensations and the bodily (sensory) processes related? It was left to two persons, Weber and Fechner, to find out the answer and develop an area of psychology called psychophysics.
German physiologist Ernst Heinrich Weber, using a two-point threshold and just noticeable difference (jnd), was the first to demonstrate the systematic relationship between stimulation and sensation. He showed that jnds correspond to a constant proportion of a standard stimulus. This has been called Weber's law. He determined the two-point threshold for various parts of the body by observing the smallest distance between two points of stimulation that would be reported as two points. Working with weights, he determined how much heavier or lighter than a standard a weight must be before it is reported as being heavier or lighter than the standard weight. This sensation of difference was called just noticeable difference. Thus, Weber's law was the first statement of the systematic relationship between physical stimulation and a psychological experience. Weber was a physiologist and was not interested in psychology. It was Gustav Theodor Fechner (Fig. 1.5), who realized the implication of Weber's work to psychology. He expanded Weber's findings by showing that jnds are related to stimulation in a geometric fashion. Fechner, although a physicist, was a philosopher by nature, and wanted to suggest a solution to the mind-body problem in a way that would satisfy materialistic scientists of his day.
He thought that a systematic relation between bodily and mental experiences could be demonstrated if a person were asked to report changes in sensations as a physical stimulus was systematically varied. This way he came to hypothesize that for mental sensations to change arithmetically, the physical stimulus would have to change geometrically. In testing these ideas, Fechner created psychophysics—the study of the functional relationship between mind and body. Since, it is impossible for one person to study the entire psychophysics, Fechner restricted himself to study the relation between sensation and stimulus. The results of his studies culminated in the enunciation of the famous psychophysical law. The law can be mathematically stated as S = c log R, where S is sensation, R is stimulus (Reiz in German), and c is constant. He derived the equation starting from the Weber's law: ΔR/R = c, where ΔR is the minimum change in R that could be detected; that is, the minimum change in physical stimulation necessary to cause a person to experience a jnd and R is the stimulus and c is a constant.
Fechner's claim to greatness in psychology does not, however, derive from his law. The important thing he accomplished was the development of a set of new methods of measurement in psychology. These are the now famous psychophysical methods: the method of average error, the method of limits and the method of constant stimuli that are used to determine absolute limen, difference limen and several other important constants. Several people recognize Fechner as the founder of psychology. The famous historian of psychology EG Boring (1950) writes: “Fechner, because of what he did and the time at which he did it, set experimental psychology off upon the course which it had followed.”
Birth of Experimental Psychology
So, by about 1860, the stage was set for the emergence of experimental psychology and the honor of inaugurating the discipline goes to Wilhelm Wundt (Fig. 1.6), a professor of philosophy at the Leipzig University, Germany. Wundt collected the diverse achievements in the various areas of science and philosophy, synthesized them into a unified scientific discipline and organized it around certain constructs, theories and methods, thus giving rise to the discipline of experimental psychology.
Wundt's contribution to psychology was amazing. He wrote a textbook of experimental psychology, started the first official psychological laboratory in 1879, directed an array of research, founded a journal to publish the research and expounded a system of psychology. Wundt dominated experimental psychology for three decades. Leipzig became the Mecca of psychology.
People from all over the world came to study with Wundt. Almost all of them went back and founded laboratories in their countries and became great psychologists in their own right. During his stay at Leipzig, Wundt supervised 186 doctoral theses (70 in philosophy and 116 in psychology).
According to Wundt, the subject matter of psychology was immediate experience, the method was introspection and the problem of psychology was the analysis of conscious process into elements, determination of the manner of connection of these elements and the determination of the laws of their connection. The goal of psychology was the analysis of mind into simple qualities such as sensations, images, feelings and the determination of their ordered multiplicity. Thus, Wundt's psychology was introspective, sensationistic, elementistic and associationistic. This brand of psychology continued as a school called structuralism for some time in the United States under the leadership of Titchener an eminent student of Wundt. But it did not survive for long.
Psychology after Wundt
Wundt's system of psychology did not survive in its original form for long. His system was referred to as psychology of contents because of its concern with the contents of the mind. Objections to this kind of psychology came from many directions. In fact, almost all the later developments in psychology were founded as protests against one or the other characteristic of Wundt's psychology. There were people like Franz Brentano who opposed the exclusive emphasis on structure and insisted with considerable vigor that the outstanding characteristics of conscious mind are its active processes and not its passive contents. Sensing and not sensations, thinking and not ideas, imaging and not images and similar acts (processes), Brentano argued, should be the proper subject matter of psychology. This line of thinking led to what came to be known as act psychology, which in turn led to the emergence of Gestalt psychology. Wundt held that higher mental processes cannot be studied experimentally. But, one of the students of Wundt, Oswald Kulpe, demonstrated that thinking could be studied in the laboratory and also suggested that there were imageless thoughts. Ebbinghaus demonstrated that learning and memory can be studied objectively in the laboratory. Thus, strong differences of opinion about what psychology should study and how it should do it, paved the way for the emergence of several schools of psychology—groups of like-minded psychologists formed around influential teachers who argued for one viewpoint or another (Table 1.1). These schools of psychology set the direction for much of research in psychology during the early years of 20th century.
Let us review some of these schools of psychology.
The first organized German protest to Wundt's psychology came in the form of Gestalt psychology, which was founded by Max Wertheimer (Fig. 1.7) and his colleagues Wolfgang Kohler (Fig. 1.8), Kurt Koffka (Fig. 1.9). These pioneers opposed the idea of dissecting the mind into elements. They asserted that analysis destroys the very essence of conscious experience, namely, its wholeness. The German word Gestalt means “form” or “configuration” and the Gestalt psychologists maintained that the conscious experience should be thought of as resulting from the whole pattern of sensory activities and the relationships and organizations within this pattern and not by the compounding of elements.
The contribution of Gestalt psychologists toward our understanding of perception, learning and thinking is phenomenal. You will learn more about Gestalt psychology in later chapters on perception, learning and thinking.
American protest to Wundt's system took the form of functionalism, another influential school of psychology. The origins of functional school can be traced to William James (Fig. 1.10), the great Harvard professor of philosophy, who is recognized as the father of psychology in America. His book, The Principles of Psychology (1890), marks the beginning of psychology in the Americas.
The first formal psychological laboratory was set up at Johns Hopkins University in 1883 by Stanley Hall, who was a student of both James & Wundt. Within a few years, most of the major universities in the USA had psychology laboratories and departments. Functionalism as a school of thought was started by John Dewey, James R Angell (Fig. 1.11) & Harvey Carr (Fig. 1.12) at the University of Chicago. Functional psychology may be regarded as the psychology of mental operations in contrast to Wundt's psychology of mental contents.
It emphasized the fundamental utilities of mind. Functional psychologists were interested in the adaptive aspects of mind; that is, the mind enabling the individual to adjust to the changing environment. They investigated the ways in which learning, remembering, thinking, problem solving, and motivation help people adapt to their environment, instead of limiting themselves to the description and analysis of the mind. In short, they were interested in studying the functions of mind. Functionalists were influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution and proposed that there was a link between humans and nonhuman animals. This insight led them to believe that the study of animals could provide clues to human behavior, which in turn led to the emergence of animal psychology.
A radical form of American opposition to Wundt's system came in the form of behaviorism. The proponent of this school, JB Watson (Fig. 1.13), rejected the concept of mind itself and insisted that psychology was a branch of natural science, and it should study only observable behavior. He emphasized that most of human behavior is learned and made the Pavlov's conditioning model the corner-stone of his stimulus-response psychology.
Watson was a radical environmentalist and argued that the goal of psychology was to predict and control behavior by determining how behavior was related to environmental events. America produced a great array of behaviorists such as EL Thorndike, CL Hull & BF Skinner, all of whom rejected the idea that psychology should study unseen phenomena, such as mind, mental processes, or consciousness.
Some of them acknowledged that mental processes probably exist, but they thought it was neither necessary nor useful to focus on them. Instead they asserted that to understand behavior, we should study behavior. The behaviorists' emphasis on controlled, objective observation of behavior had a deep and lasting impact on 20th century psychology. You will learn more about it in the chapter on learning.
The third American school of psychology, structuralism, was not a protest but an elaboration of Wundt's psychology. Its founder was a British student of Wundt, Edward B Titchener (Fig. 1.14), who stood firm by Wundt's ideology and taught German psychology, as propounded by his teacher, in Cornell University to American students. Structuralism, however did not survive in its original form. Titchener was a great experimental psychologist and as such, he influenced the growth of experimental tradition in the United States of America.
British psychologist, William McDougall (Fig. 1.15), agreed with Watson in defining psychology as the study of behavior, but insisted that purposive behavior should constitute the subject matter of psychology. McDougall made instincts, the innate patterns of behavior, the cornerstone of his theory and said that all behavior was goal directed. His system is also called hormic psychology because of its emphasis on the goal-directed nature of behavior. McDougal was a great social psychologist; he wrote the first textbook of social psychology, which has been published and republished an innumerable number of times.
A very influential school of psychology that had nothing to do with the mainstream psychology of Wundt or James is psychoanalysis founded by Sigmund Freud (Fig. 1.16), a Viennese psychiatrist. Freud asserted that behavior is controlled by unconscious instincts and made unconscious motivation cornerstone of his theory. He emphasized the role of sex and aggression as prime determiners of conscious behavior.
Freud was probably the most criticized scientist in the world. But Freud was a genius and his ideas have revolutionized the thinking and theorizing of many psychologists all over the world and today psychoanalysis continues to survive as psychodynamic approach within psychology. We will come across Freud's teachings in several chapters later in this book.
Today, the discoveries made by the early schools of psychology have become part of the general store of psychological knowledge, but the schools as such have disappeared. Of course, behaviorism and psychoanalysis are still active in modified forms. Along with these two, several other ways of looking at human behavior and experience, called perspectives or approaches, have emerged during the last several years. Each of these broad perspectives emphasizes different aspects of behavior and experience. A review of these perspectives will help us to understand the later chapters of this book. What perspective a psychologist follows depends on his or her area of interest and also the personal inclination of the scientist. Certain perspectives are more suitable to study some aspects of behavior than others. We shall have a brief preview of some of the major perspectives in contemporary psychology in the following paragraphs.
All said and done, there cannot be a mind without the body. Therefore, there is a small but powerful group of psychologists who emphasize the role of the body or biology in determining behavior. These people who follow biological perspective naturally try to relate behavior and experience to the functions of the body. For example, they are interested in knowing the neurological bases of behavior, determining sites of the brain that are associated with specific psychological functions, the impact of hormones on behavior, bodily changes during emotions, the mechanisms of heredity, so on and so forth. Biological psychology, which is also often called physiological psychology or behavioral neuroscience, has made enormous progress in recent times especially with the modern technological advancements. Two leaders of biological psychology, KS Lashley and DO Hebb, have studied the role of the brain in learning, memory and perception. The studies of biological bases have led to the discovery of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, chemicals released at the synapses, help communication between the nerve cells. The study of the role of these chemicals in determining behavior, especially deviant behavior, is an exciting area of behavioral neuroscience. Today, using computer aided brain-imaging techniques and brain wave recording procedures, it has become possible to watch live brain processes during perceiving, learning, remembering, thinking, problem solving and emotional states such as fear or anger and motivational states such as hunger, thirst and sex.
Behavioral neuroscience has led to the emergence of new disciplines such as cognitive neuroscience (the study of brain activities underlying higher mental processes such as attending, reasoning, problem solving, and so forth); behavior genetics (the study of behavior as influenced by genetic endowment); and evolutionary psychology, the discipline that tries to investigate the effect of evolution on behavior. Psychologists who subscribe to biological perspective have made major contributions to the understanding and betterment of human living ranging from developing of certain drugs to cure mental disorders to brain surgery.
The origins of behavioral perspective can be traced back to British empiricism of John Locke & Russian reflexology of Ivan Pavlov, but the real impetus to its emergence came from JB Watson. Watson banished all subjective concepts such as mind, experience, and consciousness from the purview of psychology and insisted that psychology should study what is observable and measurable—behavior. All that we engage in from the time we are born till we die is behavior. We eat, drink, talk, sing, laugh, fight, make love, sleep, and engage in a myriad of activities; these are behaviors which can be objectively observed, measured, controlled, manipulated and predicted. Why not study these activities without bothering about what is going on within the organism? That is exactly what Watson said and did. He revolutionized psychology in America with his brand of psychology that has come to be called behaviorism. He maintained that only by studying what people do, we can have an objective science of psychology. Thus, Watson helped shape the course of psychology during the first half of 20th century. He believed that one could gain a complete understanding of behavior by studying and modifying the environment in which people live. He asserted that by properly controlling a person's environment, one could elicit any desired sort of behavior. This belief is reflected in one of his very famous statements: “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed and my own specified world to bring them up in and I will guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—a doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors (Watson, 1924).” As you can see, Watson was an extreme environmentalist.
Later, behaviorism prospered under the leadership of an eminent Harvard psychologist, Skinner, who also asserted that the real causes of behavior reside in the environment and not within the individual. He maintained that “No account of what is happening inside the human body, no matter how complete, will explain the origins of human behavior (Skinner, 1989).” Further he asserted: “A person does not act upon the world, the world acts upon him (Skinner, 1971).” Skinner studied the stimuli that elicit behavioral responses, the reinforcements (rewards and punishments) that maintain or extinguish these responses and the modifications in behavior obtained by changing the reinforcements. He never bothered about any mental process that intervened between the stimulus and response. Because Skinner took such an extreme position regarding the determiners of behavior, his system has come to be called radical behaviorism.
Most of the experiments conducted by behaviorists were on animals and they believed that whatever principles operate in animal learning holds good for humans as well. The contributions of behaviorists made in the area of learning and the application of learning principles to various aspects of human living are unparalleled in the history of psychology. Behaviorism challenged the assumptions of all other psychological perspectives and dominated American psychology for several years. However, the influence of radical behaviorism faded after 1970 with the advent of cognitive psychology, which brought back to psychology the mental processes. Still, the impact of behaviorism continues to be felt in several areas of modern psychology, especially in the field of learning and its application to the treatment of psychological disorders.
Cognitive approach to the study of human behavior considers the S-R psychology of behaviorists too narrow. To think of human activities solely in terms of stimulus input and response output may be adequate to explain simple forms of behavior, but it is insufficient to understand several complex psychological phenomena such as attending, remembering, thinking, reasoning, problem solving and information processing. In fact, the word cognition is derived from the Latin root cogitare which means “to think.” Naturally, cognitive perspective examines the mind and how the mental activities influence behavior. According to cognitive psychologists, people think and plan the course of action in terms of remembered information; people are not merely passive receivers of stimuli; the human mind actively processes the information it receives and converts it into new ideas. Cognitive psychologists focus on the processes that enable people to know, understand and think about the world. They try to explain how people process information and how their ways of thinking about the world influence their behavior. Cognitive psychology today is as influential as was behaviorism during the first half of the 20th century.
Cognitive psychology has several subspecialties. For instance, cognitive behaviorism proposes that our learning experiences and the environment determine our expectations and thinking pattern and in turn our thoughts determine our behavior. Another area is cognitive neuroscience, which with the help of sophisticated brain-imaging techniques and electrical recording devices, studies brain activities when people are engaged in thinking, remembering, planning, learning language, acquiring knowledge and information processing in the laboratory. Modern information technology and computer technology have had a great impact on the development of cognitive perspective.
While behaviorists thought that all behaviors are learned, cognitivists asserted that behavior is determined by the way people think and process information, the psychodynamic perspective believes that it is our unsatisfied wishes, which are stored at the dark corners of the mind, that impel us to do what we do. As we have seen earlier, it was Sigmund Freud, who propounded this line of thinking. According to Freud, most of our behavior is determined by a set of innate urges that are repressed and unconscious. He argued that humans have evolved from animal ancestry; they share with them several urges that cannot be satisfied directly in the civilized society, these desires are pushed into the unconscious mind, these repressed desires do not keep quiet and they remain active and will be trying to find gratification. But the conscious forces do not permit the expression of the repressed desires. These unfulfilled wishes try to manifest themselves in indirect fashion and influence our behavior.
According to Freud, mind is like an iceberg a large portion of which is invisible and a small portion only is visible. The invisible part is the unconscious and the visible portion the conscious. The role of the conscious mind in determining behavior is minimal and it is the unconscious that plays a major role in determining human behavior. The most important unconscious urges that shape human behavior are sex and aggression, which are not easily satisfied in society and hence pushed into the unconscious mind from where they exert immense pressure on human behavior. Freud's theory, called psychoanalysis, is one of the most controversial but influential psychological theories of 20th century, especially in the areas of personality, psychopathology, and psychotherapy. Several of Freud's views were not acceptable to his own associates and some of them developed modified versions of the theory and others such as Alfred Adler and Carl Jung proposed alternative theories. All these theories are grouped under psychodynamic perspective and because the ongoing conflicts within the human mind are dynamic in nature (active, energetic and driving) the approach is named psychodynamic.
Among the several perspectives we have discussed so far, behaviorism and psychodynamic were the two most powerful forces that were dominant during the first fifty years of the last century. Psychoanalysts viewed man as an animal driven by unconscious urges and behaviorism made him a machine controlled and manipulated by external forces. Both these views were not acceptable to a group of psychologists. Therefore, a “third force” emerged within psychology and came to be known as humanistic psychology. Two important leaders of this humanistic perspective, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, emphasized that man is neither an animal, nor a machine; he is endowed with certain special characteristics not found either in animals or machines; man is a human being. Human beings are capable of choosing their life's goal; they have free will, they are capable of personal growth and self-actualization. Humanists believe that man is intrinsically good. Given freedom he becomes what he can become and can lead a rich and satisfying life. Thus, the humanists emphasize the positive and noble side of human beings. This approach in modern times has led to the development of the positive psychology movement whose emphasis is on human strengths, fulfillment and optimal living.
Humanistic ideology has come to be applied in various walks of life, such as industry, education, family living, and psychotherapy. Humanistic perspective has evolved as a reaction against dehumanizing, technological and societal forces. It has been influenced by existential thinking and phenomenology. It emphasizes the importance of subjective experience, especially man's view of himself—his self-concept, self-fulfillment in addition to positive human qualities such as altruism, love, value orientation and cordial interpersonal relationships. Thus, humanistic psychology stresses the role of psychology in enriching people's lives and making human life worth living.
We are social beings. We live in a society, and each society is characterized by a culture. The word culture refers to the enduring set of values, beliefs and traditions that are shared by all members of society and passed on from one generation to the next. All societies develop their own social norms, which are a set of unwritten rules that specify what behavior is acceptable and expected for members of the group. Social norms prescribe how we have to dress, talk, walk and respond to elders. These rules are internalized by all of us through a process called socialization. This is what is implied by the statement: “Be a Roman when you are in Rome.” Naturally, our behavior is influenced by the cultural group to which we belong. The subfield of psychology, which studies the ways in which social environment and cultural learning influence human behavior is called cultural psychology. This field (also called cross-cultural psychology) examines how culture is transmitted to its members and studies the similarities and differences among members belonging to diverse cultures. A large group of psychologists emphasize the importance of the social setting in shaping our behavior and these psychologists are following the sociocultural perspective.
For example, some cross-cultural psychologists have differentiated cultures based on the extent to which they emphasize individualism versus collectivism (Triandis, 2001). Most industrialized societies in North America and Europe promote individualism in which greater emphasis is placed on personal goals, achievements and personal identity. In contrast, several countries in Asia, Africa and South America nurture collectivism in which individual needs are subordinated to those of the society and personal identity is defined largely by social ties that bind one to family and the group. This difference is said to be the result of social learning experiences that begin during childhood. It is found that Japanese schools encourage children to work in groups, while American children are made to work on individual assignments. It is found that in some cultures love is an essential prerequisite to enter into marriage, whereas in others love is viewed as irrelevant and it is the family that determines whom you marry.
UNIFYING FEATURES AMONG THE PERSPECTIVES
When you review the differing perspectives in the study of humans, there is a possibility for you to think of psychology as a divided house. Fortunately, it is not so. Humans are the most complex and mysterious organisms in the universe. It is not possible to explain human behavior and experience in terms of a simple, single formula. An individual's behavior may have to be examined from different angles. That is what is implied in the existence of various perspectives. What perspective one adopts depends on the area of his or her interest. For example, one who is interested in studying learning and memory may search for the neural basis for these phenomena (biological approach). Another may investigate how stimulus and response are connected under the conditions of reward and punishment (behavioristic approach). A cognitive psychologist may look at memory in terms of information processing procedure (how information is received, coded, stored and retrieved). A person following psychodynamic perspective may consider forgetting as an instance of repression. The humanist may examine the value of meaningfulness, significance and personal relevance of the learning material in understanding the process of forgetting. The important thing to remember is that each approach offers a somewhat different explanation of the same behavior and each makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the total person. So, one should not go with the idea that psychology is a fragmented discipline consisting of a series of separate, unrelated, subject areas that lack cohesion. In spite of the apparent disparity among the various topics and perspectives, psychology is more unified in terms of the links between the various areas and perspectives. As mentioned earlier, psychology is a joint family of members engaged in different professions; they always meet during lunch and dinner.
We close this chapter with a mention of the major developments in the field of psychology over the years and the people who contributed to these developments in Table 1.2.