Ch 1: History and Approaches

About This Chapter

Psychology is a young science. Find out how it emerged as a scientific discipline distinct from its philosophical roots. After you're done reading, check your new knowledge with a quiz.

About This Chapter

In this introductory series of video lessons, we'll explore the trajectory of the discipline from its divergence from philosophy to its development as a science. Ever since German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt set up the first experimental psychology lab in 1879, psychology has been a scientific study of behavior. Behavior is measurable; so psychologists can get at the more elusive thoughts and feelings behind behavior by observing people's actions. For example, your fear of snakes is expressed when you scream and run away at the sight of one.

Major Approaches and Methods

These lessons address the main ways that psychologists have investigated behavior. Five major approaches in the history of psychology are introduced in What Is Psychology? These perspectives include cognitive, humanistic, biological, psychodynamic and behavioral psychology. You'll need to know the difference between these approaches, especially if you're studying for the CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) exam.

Once you understand what psychologists research, you'll learn about how the scientific method is applied to psychology in the lesson Psychology Is a Science. (You'll also get a glimpse into the stranger-than-life world of roller derby!)

How Scientific Psychology Developed

A review of two early approaches - structuralism (a German school of thought that attempted to identify the basic structure of psychological processes) and functionalism (an American approach that explored evolutionary functions of behavior) - establishes psychology's foundations in scientific experiments. In the early 20th century, these early schools of thought later gave way to three later approaches - gestalt, psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Whereas the initial methods were focused on systematic observations of conscious behaviors to establish psychology as a science, psychoanalysis dove into the role of the unconscious mind. Gestalt psychologists looked at the way our minds collectively perceive and organize information, while behaviorists attributed all behavior to conditioning.

The lesson, Psychology after 1950: Overview of Specializations, lays out five branches of psychology that were developed after 1950. They are cognitive, humanistic, social, developmental and clinical psychology. These approaches have different aims and modern psychologists may employ more than one approach at a time.

Finally, the video Ethics of Psychological Experiments reminds us that the scientific study of humans and other animals must be approved in order to minimize the risk to subjects' health and well-being.

Watch, Replay and Learn at Your Own Pace

We hope you'll enjoy this chronological overview of the development of psychological thought. The videos are jam-packed with terms that you may already be familiar with or you may be learning for the first time. Go at your own pace: rewind and replay if you need to review for a test. Watch the lessons that cover subjects you're most interested in learning. We've laid out a suggested course map, but feel free to choose your own adventure to fit your needs and learning style.

Enduring Question

While watching these videos, keep asking yourself, 'Why do I do what I do?' Then see how the different approaches can draw out different answers.

7 Lessons in Chapter 1: History and Approaches
Intro to Psychology

1. Intro to Psychology

What at first seems obvious may not be the case. Psychology looks past intuitions and feelings to search for the true roots to our behaviors. Watch this lesson to learn about two experiments that demonstrate how testing the 'obvious' can yield surprising results.

What Is Psychology?

2. What Is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of how we think, feel and behave. In this lesson, you'll get an overview of the five main approaches that have guided modern psychological research.

Psychology Is a Science

3. Psychology Is a Science

How do psychologists use the scientific method to research behaviors? From formulating hypotheses to reducing biases, psychology carefully analyzes behaviors and their potential causes.

Two Early Approaches: Functionalism and Structuralism

4. Two Early Approaches: Functionalism and Structuralism

What were the first two approaches to psychology, and how were they related? What do introspection and evolutionary principles have to do with it? In this lesson, you'll explore structuralism and functionalism.

Three Later Approaches: Gestalt, Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism

5. Three Later Approaches: Gestalt, Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism

How was psychology studied in the early twentieth century? In this lesson, you'll look at three common approaches of the early twentieth century and get a sense of the diverse routes psychologists can take as they study how the mind works.

Psychology after 1950: Overview of Specializations

6. Psychology after 1950: Overview of Specializations

Psychologists today study behavior through five main specializations: cognitive, humanistic, social, developmental and clinical. In this lesson, you'll focus on the central ideas behind each approach.

Ethics of Psychological Experiments

7. Ethics of Psychological Experiments

What are the ethical principles of psychological research? In this lesson, you'll take a look at the careful considerations a psychologist must make with respect to her participants when she designs a test.

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