Origins of Psychology

Analyzing the Psychological Impact of Memory and Responses

Memory and incidents combine to invoke psychological responses in the human mind. Remembering days of infamy may have violent results in the individual, or render him catatonic; he may, however, experience catharsis. Responses to stimuli, horrific, or positive, were the hallmark study of early philosophers who branched out their studies into more specific areas later referred to as psychology.

Individual Americans, and persons in sympathetic countries, remember explicitly where they were on September 11, or November 22, or December 7, all days of great national grief in the United States. Graphic images from these days are easily recalled, or subconsciously repressed.

Baby Boomers who can remember the crisis of December 7, 1941 are in their 80s now; there are fewer and fewer of them as the years go by to remember the horror of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Boomers were in high school on November 22, 1963, looking forward to a long Thanksgiving weekend that turned into endless hours of disbelief, and perhaps several of the longest days of their lives, as they glued themselves to their television sets and watched again and again the murder of their President and his accused assassin.

On September 11, 2001, jolted Americans watched a sea-blue New York City skyline that became a fireball over the World Trade Center. As on December 7, thousands perished on that day of infamy.

Memories of extreme conflict and how people respond to their environmental conditions was a subject of intense study as philosophers began to break into separate groups supporting different theories on the basic components of human behavior. A review of the early studies conducted in psychology, the science of the behavior of human adults and children, and animals, and how these subjects deal with their experiences, shows that philosophy was psychology’s early parent.

The Greek words psyche (mind) and logos (discourse) combined by Greek philosophers to equal the study of mental philosophy. What is the mind, how do the mind and the body relate to one another, and how do senses interpret the environment were the beginning questions in the vast field of mental philosophy.

William Wundt (1832-1920) instituted the idea that speculation should be eliminated in favor of experimental research in the study of the human mind. He focused on the conscious mind with his experimental introspection, looking inward by exposing the human mind to various environmental stimuli and recording the effects of resultant sensations.

The theories of Wundt, who was a structuralist, were later expanded into studies that exposed conscious functions. The functionalists concentrated on studies of how the mind learns.

Later, German psychologists took issue with structuralists, claiming that it was not sensations that ruled experiences, but rather perceptions of objects and people. The Germans, led by Max Wertheimer (1880-1943) and contemporary Wolfgang Kohler, took the name Gestalt (meaning, configuration in whole, or in a pattern) psychologists. Kohler was particularly known for his experiments with apes, proving that animals could engage in higher learning.

Behavior of humans and of animals became more and more the control focus of studies in psychology. Behaviorists rejected subjective experience, as it could be known only to each individual’s conscious mind. They adopted objective experimentations, recognizing and recording the actions of their human and animal players.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) ran away with the idea that there are physical, emotional, and nervous reactions that have no explanations on organic levels, and are therefore disorders stemming from mental issues. He developed psycho-analysis to try to explain these neuroses.

Freud gained fame and criticism for his studies that emphasized the subconscious mind, the storeroom of experiences which are held beneath the conscious surface. Conflicts between the conscious and subconscious minds are the catalyst for mental disorders, Freud believed.

When Americans experienced 7-41, 11-22, and 9-11, conscious and subconscious reactions resulted. Overloaded physical and mental capacities individually manifested actions (responses), or inaction. Scars went deep.

Many individual wounds may be left unhealed for lifetimes. Others may benefit from the exercise of remembering the horrific events with friends, with family, or perhaps with the help of those who deal with psychology, the invented science that delves into the very life of the mind.