Although Wilhelm Wundt is recognized as the father of psychology, other authors have stood out and are considered the fathers of other psychological currents. Like Sigmund Freud from psychoanalysis, John Watson from behaviorism, Ulric Neisser from cognitivism or the Perls marriage from Gestalt psychology.
In this article we will talk about who was the father of psychology and what their contributions have been in this area. Finally, we will mention some psychological currents and the main representative of each of them.
Who really considers himself the father of psychology?
Although there have been notable figures throughout the history of psychology, authors of great importance and who are known not only within the field of psychology, but also outside it, as would be the case of Sigmund Freud, who received the title of father of psychology is German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt.
Wundt’s consideration as the father of psychology was due to the fact that he was the first to separate psychology from philosophy, psychology having previously been presented as part of this field of knowledge. A pertinent fact that stood out in Wundt’s career was the development of the first experimental psychology laboratoryat the University of Leipzig, in 1879, thus being considered the beginning of modern psychology.
Who was Wilhelm Wundt?
As a child, Wilhelm Wundt was not distinguished by his academic performance, but this assessment would change when he began his university studies, as he managed to obtain his medical degree, being the best in his course. In the field of medicine, he was particularly interested in physiology, which studies the physical and chemical functions of the body. He has linked and worked with important physicians specializing in physiology as Johannes Müller and later with Hermann von Helmhotz.
Wundt was an assistant to Helmholtz at the University of Heidelberg, although his experience was not very good and he eventually quit his job and began his studies in philosophy at the University of Leipzig, later becoming a professor of psychology at the University. As mentioned earlier, Wundt was interested in physiology, showing a keen interest in the study and scientific knowledge, that is, everything that could be known by the experimental method. He is also interested in the social sciences. In this way, the type of psychology he proposed he tried to combine the social sciences and the physical sciences.
In this way, Wundt would begin his work as a teacher and professor of philosophy, but always showing a more experimental and scientific aspect. It was in 1879 that the first psychology laboratory was founded at the University of Leipzig, where Wundt taught. This union proposed by the author between Physics and Psychology is reflected in his work entitled “Principles of physiological psychology”, which pointed to the emergence of a new science. Wundt is therefore considered the father of modern psychology, among other things because he developed the first scientific and psychological system.
The author proposes the study of the immediate experience of conscious processes, using both the instruments of the experimental field and psychological knowledge to describe the immediate processes. It also studied both sensations and feelings, taking into account objective measures such as the subject’s reaction time.
The structuralist movement
Along with Edward Titchener, Wundt was a prominent author of psychological structuralism. This current seeks to describe the mental structures from the description of the processes of the psyche. In this way, Wundt tried to study, to know consciousness scientifically using the model of chemistry, that is, to search for the elements that were part of it. In the same way that the periodic table of chemical elements was raised, the author tried to find out the elements that made up the minds of people.
In order to know the elements that were part of the psyche, Wundt used the technique of experimental introspection or self-observation, which consists in having the patient reflect on his own thought processes. This strategy was carried out under strict control, by previously training the subject and controlling the different variables that could influence, so that the result is as objective as possible.
So this current proposes to study the elementary structure of the process of consciousness in order to finally discover its last elements, which are sensations, images and feelings. They will also try to establish laws of combination between the simple elements, the last elements, to obtain the complex phenomena of the spirit.
Wundt’s influence today
As we have already seen, one of the most important contributions that Wundt made to the field of psychology was the inauguration of the first experimental psychology laboratory, supporting a more scientific and objective psychology and thus assuming the beginning of modern psychology, separating from philosophy. .. and defining itself as a branch of science.
Despite the great change that Wundt made in this field, being considered the father of psychology, currently the methods and techniques he proposed are not the most widely usedsince introspection, the main technique he used, although he tries to be as objective as possible controlling the different variables, remains a subjective strategy of the subject himself, and it is difficult to evaluate scientifically its efficiency.
Other relevant authors in psychology
As we have seen, the author considered the father of psychology is Wilhelm Wundt. Even so, we can divide psychology into different schools or currents, highlighting in each of them different authors. For this reason, we will cite below some of the best known psychologists in each field, who are also of great importance in the history of psychology.
1. Evolutionary Psychology
Evolutionary psychology is the branch of psychology responsible for studying the development of human beings, from birth, through all stages of their life cycle. The study that offers this field of psychology It is important to know the evolution expected of the people to know if it is necessary to intervene to avoid more serious alterations in the future.
The psychologist Jean Piaget is considered the father of this branch of psychology, since he was the first to make a comprehensive study of the psychological development of people throughout his life.
Piaget tried to describe human development from two concepts: cognitive functions and structures.. Functions are innate biological processes and are invariable; instead, the structures are variable and can be changed. The most characteristic structure proposed by the author are the diagrams
Psychoanalysis is the psychological current which presents as an object of study the unconscious, information that the subject may not know, or which is difficult, but which is fundamental for the explanation of his behavior. They also attach particular importance to the study of the subject’s past, his childhood and any traumatic events he has experienced. Although still in force today, this current is distinguished by its lack of empirical basis and the difficulty of verifying the effectiveness of its techniques.
The father of psychoanalysis is Sigmund Freud, who proposed so-called concepts: the unconscious, already mentioned; the id, the ego and the superego; libido; psychosexual phases or urges.
3. Behavioral Psychology
Behavioral psychology studies observable human behavior. In this way, the measures it uses are objective, that is, it is only interested in variables external to the subject, which we can observe from the outside, thus avoiding the subjective appreciation of the individual himself or of the professionals who measure the behavioror in any case not to consider it as an accurate reflection of true psychological processes.
One of the most important psychologists of this psychological current is John Broadus Watson, known for the controversial “Albert boy” experiment where he tested the possibility of intentionally establishing a phobia.
4. Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychology is the opposite of behaviorism, since he is interested in knowing the mental processes of people, how they perceive information from the outside, interpret it, transform it, store it and retrieve it. Ulric Neisser is considered the father of cognitive psychology.
Currently, one of the most used currents and which has proven to be the most effective in intervening in various pathologies is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which uses techniques from both schools.
5. Gestalt Psychology
Gestalt psychology places more importance on the whole than on the sum of things. It also highlights the relevance of “here and now”. The founders of this psychological current were the Perls couple, Laura and Fritz Perls.
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