Historical Developments in Psychology Studies since 17th Century A.D. Rapid developments The 17th century was a century in which modern concepts and development were taking place in many fields like Physiology, Astronomy, Physics etc, and displaced the old concepts of Aristotle, Plato etc. These developments brought about changes in the philosophical approach towards the understanding of human nature as well.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650 Ad)
• His most important work was his attempt to resolve the mind- body problem, an issue that had been controversial for centuries.
• He saw human body as a piece of machinery; intricate and complicated. He believed that body is a machine whose operation can be adequately explained by the mechanical laws of the movement of objects in space. He recognized no difference between the hydraulically operated figures and the body, and he explained every aspect of physical Functioning (digestion, circulation, sensation, motion and so on) in mechanical terms history of psychology studies
• Mind-Body “Interactive Dualism”: mind and body are separate entities influencing each other. However, he argued that the mind can exert a greater influence on body than was previously thought.
• Nerves are hollow tubes through which “Animal Spirits” conduct “Impulses” he claimed that the heart was filled with a kind of innate heat. In his book “On Man” he went on describing how the pineal gland is moved and shaken by incoming animal spirits. He also added that the animal spirits are carried down the nerves to muscles as spirits run into the muscles, they are inflated, thus causing contraction of the body region. According to him, messages are transferred to the brain via the animal spirits in the nerves, where the pineal gland pushes them into those pores leading most directly to the nerves controlling the movements of the organs
Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828 Ad)
• Known for his work on phrenology
• He postulated the idea that particular psychic functions are represented by particular areas of the brain studies.
• Intelligence, moral character and other personality characteristics can be discerned by the shape of, and the number of bumps on, a person’s skull.
John Locke (1632-1704 Ad)
His major contribution to psychology in history was an essay concerning human understanding, which appeared in 1690 and was the culmination of some 20 years of study and thought; it was later considered as the formal beginning of English/British Empiricism.
His primary question was how the mind acquires knowledge?
Locke, first denied the existence of innate ideas, arguing that humans are not equipped at birth with any knowledge .He admitted that certain ideas may seem to adults to be innate (such as the idea of God) because adults have been constantly taught the ideas since childhood and cannot remember any time when they were unaware of them. So, he explained the innate ideas in terms of habit and learning. He gave the concept of “Tabula Rasa”; People are born in this world with empty minds i.e. Tabula Rasa or a blank slate. The ideas and memories are imprinted on our minds as a result of experience.
The physiological research that directly stimulated and guided the new psychology was a product of the late 19th century. These developments supported the scientific approach to the psychological investigation of the mind. Early developments in physiology led to the development of experimental and research oriented psychology. In 19th century, great changes occurred in terms of scientific research and developments. Besides developments in other fields, discoveries in Physiology also took place.
A number of great thinkers made contributions in this regard and all of them are worth mentioning. However, since this is not a course in the history of psychology, we will restrict our discussion to the major contributors alone.