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History of Psychology

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Behavior and the relation of the mind and body have been subjects for human speculation since the times of Plato, Aristotle and other ancient Greek philosophers.

However it was not until the late nineteenth century that scientific methods of observation of behavior and experimental testing of theories of behavior were introduced.

Wilhelm Wundt established the first psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig in Germany in 1879. He and his students became known as structuralists and sought to describe conscious experience by analyzing how each of the senses works. The school of behaviorism was founded in 1913 by the American John B. Watson, who believed that psychologists should study what men and animals do rather than what they experience and his point of view became very popular during the 1920s and 1930s. A school of Gestalt psychologists was started by Max Wertheimer in Germany around 1912 and followers of this school adopted the opposite approach to the structuralists in that they believed that all of the senses that contribute to an experience should be examined together instead of separately.

Three other men who were not all psychologists had a great influence on the development of the science. The English naturalist Charles Darwin, who first proposed a theory for the evolution of Man and other species, emphasized the role of heredity in determining behavior. Ivan Pavlov, the Russian psychologist, did extensive research on conditioned reflexes. The Austrian physician Sigmund Freud was the father of psychoanalysis, a method for treating mentally disturbed people.

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