Psychology had a long history of development and co-existing with other fields of knowledge before becoming a separate academic discipline, molding its practice, and building up with different theories and approaches. This paper is to examine the origins and history of psychology and to compare and contrast the major perspectives in contemporary psychology.
Origins and history of psychology
Deep understanding the modern approaches in the science and practice of psychology is only possible with the knowledge of the historical development of psychology. The human mind and behavior were the subjects of interest of philosophers and scientists from the ancient times. In Ancient Greek philosophers reflected on the matters of mind and consciousness. Even at that time, there were, at least, two perspectives. One of them viewed the mind as the equivalent to the soul, with its rather idealistic than physical nature. The supporters of the other perspective were looking for the correlations between human behavior and character with the physiology. The latter approach resulted, for example, in the Hippocrates understanding of the physical nature of the mental disorders, or the refuted yet popular back then opinion on four types of temperament, depending on the dominant fluid of the human body (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2013).
The study of human mind and behavior continued in the Middle Ages and during the periods of Renaissance and Enlightenment. However, those two approaches always superseded one another. Any theory of psychology claimed either the dominance physiological background in defining human mind and behavior or the prior importance of some extra-physical component, such as soul, social background, etc. The first approach was in the shadow of its counterpart up until psychoanalysis; while the philosophers and activists of the Enlightenment, such as John Locke, Gottfried Leibnitz, Jean-Jacque Russo and others, who claimed the primate of social learning and upbringing in the formation of the character (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2013). Nevertheless, those two approaches were divided into more specific perspectives after the introduction of experimental psychology in the 19th century and even greater advancements in the 20th century, when it becomes an academic discipline.
Contemporary perspectives in psychology
Today, we see psychology as the combinations of the academic research and the practical application of helping people. However, combining those two and bringing psychology to the level of experimental science only became possible given the technological and scientific advancements of the 19th century. Mental disorder began to be considered again something that can be influenced. Then Freud developed the idea that the influence can be archived through the medium of conversation with the patient, which is the basis of psychoanalysis (Pickren & Rutherford, 2010). The first psychological societies started to appear on the edge of 19th and 20th century, and apart from psychoanalysis, such major perspectives as biological, behavioral, cognitive, social and later existential-humanistic were formulated (Pickren & Rutherford, 2010). Those perspectives define the approaches on the larger scale, i.e. they name what the schools, supporting the perspective, consider as the prior component of the human mind and behavior, such as physiology, cognition, etc. However, each perspective includes a range of separate theories and schools.
The schools of psychology, dominating today in the academic worldview, such as behavioral approaches, functionalism, structuralism, humanistic-existential theories, kinds of social psychology, including former psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, focus on the psychological functioning in the context of the society (Schultz & Schultz, 2015). While Gestalt psychology, applied psychology, cognitive and analytical psychology reflect on the nature of mind, self and perception.
The variety of theories dominating in the contemporary psychological study needs to be understood through being familiar with the historical development of psychology, since the theories the current unpopularity of the psychological theories does not mean that they are false, it only indicates the fashion and fad of the research
Hergenhahn, B., & Hanley, T. (2013). An Introduction to the History of Psychology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Pickren, W., & Rutherford, A. (2010). A history of modern psychology in context. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
Schultz, D., & Schultz, S. (2015). A history of modern psychology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.