Psychology began in experimental form perhaps as early as with the Egyptians. Historian Morton Hunt reports that one of the Pharaohs conducted a “psychological” experiment in the seventh century BC. The pharaoh believed that Egypt was the original civilization created by the gods. To test his theory, the ruler ordered that a group of children be raised in isolation from infancy and with no instruction in languages of any kind. If the children eventually spoke Egyptian then this would prove his theory to be true.
The Greeks experimented with psychological theories about human personality and capacities. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had questions about the mind and the essence of human nature. Hippocrates (400 BC) and Galen (140 AD).proposed that human personality was produced by the excess of one of four humors or fluids in the body. Human personality was divided into four groups: Melancholy, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Choleric.
Ancient monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam include psychological assumptions as part of theology. The assumption was that something was psychologically wrong with people as part of a “fallen” spiritual condition. The solution was to practice behaviors deemed desirable by the religion.
Modern psychology was influenced by the disciplines of theology, physiology, and philosophy. The pioneers of psychology emphasized human consciousness and inner dynamics that were believed to influence psychological processes and cognitive ability. Theological explanations were discounted and naturalistic explanations were sought to explain human nature.
The first attempt to develop the discipline of psychology outside of the laboratory was found in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis under Sigmund Freud reduced the human psyche to inner drives in conflict with social demands or the demands of conscience and to psychological maladjustment early in life. Carl Jung shared the Freud’s focus on the influence of inner processes on behavior and cognitions, but associated these with archetypes of collections of human thought processes that served as a form of “spiritual” essence. Alfred Adler shared the view that psychological health was shaped through inner processes and early experiences. Adler based these experiences on early family interactions.
William Wundt, professor of physiology, opened the first lab (1897) for applying the experimental method to studying human consciousness. Wundt and other researchers associated with this lab focused attempting to understand possible links between sensations and perceptions. The theory of Structuralism grew out of their research. Structuralism was devoted to studying consciousness by breaking it down into components: perception, sensation, and affection. The primary technique was introspection and feedback of one’s conscious experiences.
Functionalism grew out of the theories and research of John Dewey and William James. Rather than seeking to understand what composes consciousness as in Structuralism, Functionalism focused instead on the purpose or function of consciousness.
John B. Watson (1913) disagreed with the Structuralism and Functionalism. He suggested that processes associated with consciousness did not drive human beings but behavior was a result of automatic responses to stimuli from the environment. Proponents of Behaviorism focused on controlling and manipulating behavior through rewards and punishment.
Humanism reacted to Behaviorism’s simplistic view of human nature and to the negative sentiments of the Psychoanalytic view of human nature victimized by the conscious. Humanists like Carl Rogers argued that the human psyche is good and growth-oriented. Humanism emphasized the importance of choices, experiences, and meaning.
The cognitive-behavioral theory of psychology came of age in the 1970s. The theory combines principles of behaviorism with Humanism. Behavior is not automatic but a response to thoughts and beliefs. Beliefs can be rational or irrational. The influence of humanism is that people have the freedom of choice to believe and act as they desire.
The end of the twentieth century witnessed the rise of multiculturalism in psychology. Multiculturalism borrows from the humanist tradition in its positive view of human nature. Multiculturalism also recognizes the influence of an individual’s environment. A popular tool used in Multiculturalism is sharing one’s life’s story or narrative. The narrative is an authority in defining truth and reality for the individual. The goal is to decide if how one has chosen to live could improve by do something different.