Identity (Post 7 – The roots of psychology)   no comments

Posted at 11:35 am in Psychology

Having summarised my initial anthropology readings in my previous blog post, I have now moved on to psychology. The book I have chosen to begin with is Psychology by Carlson, Martin and Buskist (2004). As this assignment concerns the underlying theories of each discipline, the section titled ‘Philosophical roots of psychology’ seemed like a good place to start. To summaries, these are as follows:


A belief that a body is controlled, or animated, by a mind or spirit. Although this is a rather basic and historical theory, there are still links to modern explanation of behaviour, with a person’s will now being seen as the cause of certain behaviour. This is not, however a scientific explanation, as a person’s will cannot be studied.

Dualism (Descartes)

Belief that reality can be split into two separate entities: mind and matter. Proposed the theory that mind and body interact. Influenced introspectionism and behaviourism.

Empiricism (Locke and Hume)

“Pursuit of truth through observation and experience”. Suggested that all knowledge must come from experiences, rejecting the belief that children were born with ideas in their mind.  Simple ideas connect to form complex experiences. Positivism (Hume) – “All meaningful ideas can be reduced to observable material”.  Ideas influenced behaviourism.

Idealism (Berkeley)

Ideas come from senses – “knowledge is the result of inferences based on the accumulation of past experiences derived through the senses”. Materialism (Mill) – Mind as a machine, part of the physical world.

More modern theories regarding psychology were then covered, and can be reduced down to and summarised as:

Structuralism (Wundt)

Mind could be broken up into the components which formed it to be studied (introspection).

Functionalism (James and Angell)

Study of conscious activity such as perceiving and learning. Thinking as a function to influence behaviour.

Psychodynamic Theory (Freud)

Theory of personality. Concepts of ego, superego and id. Included structures and emphasised function.

Behaviourism (Thorndike, Pavlov and Watson)

Followed from Functionalism. Relation between environment and behaviour. Cause-and-effect relationships. This theory relies on observable behaviour. Belief that reflexes can be conditioned. This developed further into radical behaviourism: All behaviour comes from interactions with the environment, with reinforcement influencing the responses to stimulus.

Genetic Epistemology (Piaget)

Interested in how a developing child acquires knowledge.

Gestalt Psychology (Wertheimer)

No longer exists, but has been adapted into other areas of psychology. Attempted to discover how cognitive processes are organised and interact to form perceptions.

Humanistic Psychology

Argument against behaviourism and psychoanalysis – conscious processes should be studied. Focuses on “experience, choice and creativity, self-realisation and positive growth”.

Cognitive Revolution

Behaviourism too restricting, more focus on memory and more personal ‘private’ events.

Biological Revolution

Focus on understanding the brain, and locating which function occur in certain parts of the brain.

Written by Chris P on December 19th, 2010

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