Psychology: Its Evolution and Different school of thought

The Primary Belief

Most of the people think, Psychology is the study of the human being, but this is not true, rather, Psychology is the study of both Human and Animals. Psychology helps us to study the inner and outer mechanisms of the human as well as animals. Psychology is actually a hub science in which its study is not restricted to Psychologist rather it is open to all and this discipline used in various real-life situations like the treatment of diseases like cancer, climate change, Artificial intelligence and much more.


Psychology is the scientific study of behavior, mental processes, and expressions of the Human beings and Animals. Behavior mainly includes all our outward activities like Facial expressions, conversation, movements, etc. This outward activity is also called overt actions. Unlike behaviors, Mental processes are internal activity, which we call as Covert actions. These internal actions are mainly hidden actions like thinking, remembering, feeling, etc.

Evolution of Psychology

Psychology is very youngest discipline. Before psychology, this discipline was studied by Philosophers, Physicians, and Physiologists. Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Descartes tried to understand the mind and its interaction with the physical world, whereas, Physicians and Physiologists understood the connection of the body with the brain. So this is how Psychology emerges both as a Humanity subject and scientific subject as well.

First experiment at Laboratory of Leipzig, Germany, in 1879

Wilhelm Wundt, a physiologist, first attempted to apply the scientific principles to study the human mind. From this experiment, the first concept of consciousness comes into the picture. So in terms of Wundt, Conscious is the state of mind wherein we are aware of the external events.

Students from around the world participated in this experiment and they had been asked to examine and measure one’s one thought objectively, which was termed Objective Introspection. So Wundt believed that Consciousness could be broken down into thoughts, experiences, emotions and other basic elements with respect to the individual.

Wilhelm Wundt

Wilhelm Wundt

This was a very first laboratory experiment in Psychology. Hence, it was first attempted by any individual to bring objective and scientific measurement to the concept of Psychology. Thus, such an effort established Wilhelm Wundt as the father of the Psychology.

Various Schools of Discipline 

After Wundt’s experiment, many Psychologists came into the picture and as per their inclination, they proposed different schools to study the discipline. They have taken different approaches but their main goal was to study the discipline scientifically.


Edward Tichener

Edward Tichener

Edward Titchener, an Englishman, was one of the students of Wundt. He further took Wundt’s concept to the Cornell University, New York.

Titchener expanded the Wundt’s concept and called it Structuralism. Its primary focus is the study of the complete structure of the mind. He agreed with Wundt’s ideas that every consciousness could be broken down into basic elements like experiences, emotions, etc. Therefore, he believed that experiences could be broken down into individual’s emotions and sensations. Further, he added in his belief that Objective introspection could be used on thoughts and Psychical sensations.


Structuralism had a great impact on the early days of the psychology, but, after 1900 it vanished because they ended

William James

William James

up fighting to identify the key experiences. Then a new school of psychology further came into the picture i.e., Functionalism.

William James first started teaching Psychology at Harvard University. He was initially a faculty of Anatomy and Physiology, but further he developed the interest of Psychology, then he started teaching it exclusively. He further wrote a very famous book on Psychology, Principles of Psychology.

James believed Conscious ideas are continuously flowing and it keeps on changing. He said that what we are thinking right now about the object, we were thinking differently before the present time and we will keep thinking differently in future too.

Therefore, James focussed on the functioning of the mind. He focussed on how the mind allows people to function in the real world. Example, how people work, plays and adapt to the surroundings. According to him, it was the mind to determine the functions and behavior of the entire body. He tried to integrate the postulates written in Darwinism with Psychology.

He also believed if physical traits aid in survival then why couldn’t behavior? Animals and people whose behavior helped them in survival would pass those behavioral traits to their offspring, perhaps by teaching or some mechanism of heredity.

Functionalism played a major role in the modern development of the psychology; however, further advancements came in the different form of schools. In today’s era, functionalism used in educational psychology, industrial/organizational psychology and some other psychological branches.

Gestalt psychology

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Max Wertheimer

Max Wertheimer

Above quote was given by Max Wertheimer. He also opposed the concept of Structuralism and given then different logic to it. According to Max, psychological events (such as perceiving and sensing) could not be broken down into smaller elements and still be properly understood.

Max, along with his few friends, started studying perception and sensation with the new perspective, and they called it Gestalt psychology.

Gestalt is a German word, which means an “organized whole” or “configuration”. This configuration fits well with the focus on studying whole patterns rather than the small piece of them.

Today, Gestalt psychology is used in the study of cognitive psychology, it is the field which not only focuses on the study of perception but also focuses on the learning, memory, thought the process and problem-solving.

Gestalt psychology is also used in psychological therapy, which is generalized to Gestalt therapy.


While Structuralist was arguing, Functionalist was specializing and Gestalt was looking into a bigger picture, then,

Sigmund Freud Psychology

Sigmund Freud

a neurologist from Austria came with something which brings new thinking perspective to the psychology. He was


Sigmund Freud who kept the foundation of Psychoanalysis.

He proposed the concept of unconscious mind into which we push or repress all of our threatening urges and desires. One of the Freud’s patient was going through a nervous disorder for which he and his doctors could not find any kind of physical issues. Therefore, they thought that the cause must be in the mind, hence, he further explored it. Eventually, he believed that these repressed urges trying to come to the surface which created the nervous disorders.


John B Watson

John B Watson

Ivan Pavlov, a Russian Physiologist, tried an experiment on dogs by offering food after ringing bell. So he basically came to the concept of conditioning. He showed that reflex could be caused to occur in response to a formerly unrelated stimulus.

Further, John B. Watson came up with the concept of “science of behavior” or behaviorism. He ignored all the consciousness issues and tried to bring back psychology to its scientific views. Hence, he focussed on Observable behavior, which is something could be directly seen and measured. He kept the foundation of Behaviourism on the concept of Pavlov’s conditioning.

Freud believed that all kind of behavior stems from unconscious motivation, whereas, Watson believed that all kinds of behavior are learned.

Behaviourism also helped in the development of cognitive psychology.


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