THE ORIGINS OF PSYCHOLOGY
Man has a natural need for self-analysis: his ideas, his perceptions, his feelings and his emotions have taken part in history, but only in modern times has this tendency found a scientific method in psychology. Psychology is the study of behaviour and mental processes. Its goals are:
- to study behaviour by observation;
- to understand the contributions of genetics and environment (social and cultural).
Psychology has become a autonomous science independent from philosophy (science of why), physiology (science of how) astronomy (science of where) and biology (science of inside), but it unifies and develops all these perspectives.
The term psychology was born between the sixteenth and seventeenth century, but it has been used, in its modern meaning, from the eighteenth century by a rational philosopher, Woll. It has its origins in the thoughts of ancient civilisations, where the relation between the nervous system and mental activities has studied, as in Egyptian and Chinese civilisation. In ancient Greek civilisation we can find a lot of hypothesis on heart and brain reciprocal relation. Scientific revolution and Cartesian thought has favoured the passage from the study of the mind to its processes, as it has been studied by English empiricists Hume and Locke. Locke uses for the first time the term intellect with meaning of a faculty and not of a substance: he studied the associations and the main processes of it. A group of French philosophers, called Ideologists, as Condillac studied these intellectual processes.
The true scientific psychology was born in Germany: two precursors of this birth are Herbart and Fechner. Herbart was the first to affirm psychology as an autonomous science, insubordinate to the other subjects. Fechner was the founder of psycho-physics and sustained that spirit and matter are two different aspects of reality, which derived from different ways of observation; so he creates conditions for unifying body and soul and for making psychology more and more scientific.
The adaptation was studied in Anglo-Saxon countries by famous scientists as Darwin and Galton. They studied individual psychological characteristics and its hereditary transmission. The discovers of these studies, which developed until the middle of nineteenth century, were important for Wundt. He created presuppositions through which psychology became an autonomous subject, recognised in its specificity by all scientific community. He defines psychology as the study of conscious experience.