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Intro to Psychology

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

By Sumay McPhail

Psychology is one of the fields that psychologists and scientists don’t know that much about. Psychology is the study of the brain and behavior and of all the scientific practices is probably the most complicated and diverse. In this article I will be talking about what psychology is, Structuralism and Functionalism, and Psychoanalysis. Structuralism, Functionalism and Psychoanalysis are all different approaches to studying phycology and I will be explaining them in this article. “Perhaps are minds just aren’t complicated enough to understand themselves” - Crash Course Psychology

Our brains are the most complicated things in the universe that humans know about. The field of psychology has been about answering questions like, Do I have free will? What is mental illness? And What is consciousness? The word psychology comes from the Latin language and means the study of the soul. The modern definition of psychology is “the science of behavior and mental processes“. Only until the 16th century was the term psychology established, but humans have always been pondering themselves and how their minds work. 2000 years ago the first psychological exams were conducted by the Chinese. In the 1800s Muhammed ibn Zakariya al-Rhazes first used the term mental illnesses and even tried to treat it. Psychology is a very diverse field especially in how people think about trying to learn about the brain. There are three main approaches to psychology: Structuralism, Functionalism, and Psychoanalysis.

In 1876 a physician Wilhelm Wundt set up the very first psychology laboratory. Wilhelm Wundt’s approach to psychology, structuralism, argued that you should be able to break down the brain into structures just like you could break down an atom into photons, neutrons, and electrons. His approach required looking inward and trying to break down what you felt doing something. This made it so that the structuralism approach was too subjective because what people feel doing a certain task can vary from person to person. William James, an American psychologist proposed a new way of approaching phycology, and asked why we feel the way we feel and think the way we think. This way of thinking about psychology was called functionalism since it focused more on the functions of the brain. William James published a book on psychology named “The Principles of Psychology” in 1890 explaining his definition of psychology “the science of mental life”.

Sigmund Freud started his own practice of psychology as well mainly focusing on nervous disorders. A life-changing moment happened when Freud witnessed a patient get treated for their disorder just by talking about their symptoms. This revolutionized Freud's way of thinking about psychology and he helped his patients by letting them talk about anything or in other words to “Free associate”. In the 1900’s he published a book named “The Interpretation of Dreams” which explained the last branch of psychology, psychoanalysis. But psychoanalysis was not only the approach of Free associating, but it was the theory that our personalities, behavior, etc. are mostly shaped by unconscious motives. Freud also believed that although our subconscious is below our consciousness, it could still be reached by using things like our dreams to gain self-insight. The branch of psychology, psychoanalysis, was a huge breakthrough and has shaped the way we think about psychology, even today.

The modern definition of psychology “the science of behavior and mental processes“ is an integration of all three methods that I talked about in this article. Phycology is extremely important to learn about since it can help you map out the biases and tendencies of the human mind. This can help you understand yourself, avoid mistakes, and understand others. In this article I talked about what psychology is, Structuralism and Functionalism, and Psychoanalysis. Which method of psychology do you think makes that most sense...Structuralism, Functionalism or Psychoanalysis?



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