Psychology is the science of behavior and mental processes and physiological processes underlying them (Schultz, 2005). Since time immemorial, philosophers have tried to understand mind processes and epistemology. One of the goals of psychology is to describe, explain, control and predict behavior.
The great Greek philosopher Plato brought forward concepts of nativism and idealism according to which knowledge is innate. Aristotle came up with empiricism according to which knowledge originates from sensory experiences and association whereby sensory elements build up complex thought. John Locke reintroduced Aristotle’s empirical approach of innate ideas and proposed analytic reductionism where elementary ideas are drawn from complex thoughts and human ideas drawn from experiences.
Immanuel Kant critiqued J. Locke stating that knowledge arose from prior/innate thought categories. Immanuel Kant also disagreed with David Hume who maintained that impressions, ideas and their associations are what cognition was made of (Myers, 2004). Hume also introduced the laws of resemblance, contiguity and cause, and effect.
Wilhelm Wundt introduced an experimental approach to psychology. Structuralism was his school of thought whereby he sought to identify the components of the conscious mind through analytic introspection. Images, feelings, and sensations were believed to be the basic mental elements.
Watson (1998) introduced behaviorism. He rejected the study of mental processes and proposed the study of overt behavior according to which no one can observe another’s mind. He stated that through observing behavior, predictions could be made to determine the relationship (Myers, 2004). He viewed behavior as a response to certain stimuli. He also introduced the concept of conditioning whereby an organism learns to react to a certain stimulus in its environment in a specific manner (Schultz, 2005).
Sigmund Freud introduced the psychoanalytic movement which emphasized the importance of unconscious causes of behavior. According to Sigmund, the prime motivators of behavior are the unconscious causes of behavior related to sex or aggression called psychic determinism.
He proposed three components of personality; id, ego and superego and also came up with psychosexual development based on the belief that a person’s behavior is determined largely by underlying dynamic psychological forces of which he/she is not aware (Schultz, 2005). Abnormal symptoms would be a result of conflict among these factors.
Contemporary movements pioneered by Broadbent stated that man actively seeks for stimuli rather than passively waiting for it and information processing in humans was similar to the control mechanism of machines.
Personalistic approaches are of the view that ideas of a few unique individuals greatly contributed to the change and progress in scientific history despite the fact that these individuals went unrecognized during their time in history. Naturalistic approach attributes progress and change in history to different environments and cultures. It identifies culture as a major influential factor whereby it can be receptive to some ideologies and reject another ideology.
New approaches concerning the nature of knowledge include Putnam functionalism which puts emphasis on processes and functions and views the human mind like a computer whereby the brain cognitive processes are likened with a computer’s information processing.
In conclusion, each school of thought pointed out weaknesses in the old schools and offered new dimensions and strategies. The following schools of psychology have had a great impact on current psychology trends. Perception introduced by W. Wundt is deemed significant to mental functioning. Behavioral, social, cognitive, information processing, and cognitive theories have been integrated into modern psychology and have led to advancement in understanding mental processes and functioning.
Myers, D. G. (2004). Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Schultz, D. P. (2005). A history of modern psychology. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Watson, J. (1998). The principles of psychology. New York, NY: Dover Publications.