The History of Psychology



Approx. 1879

Founded by Wilhelm Wundt and developed and made famous by his mentee Edward B. Titchener, structuralism was an attempt to identify individual units of conscious experience. Titchener asked his patients to report back to him based upon 1) physical sensation, 2) feelings and emotion and 3) images. This theory was significant in that it brought psychology into a separate region than philosophy. After Titchener's death a few counter-movements arose, such as functionalism, behaviorism and Gestalt psychology.

The Term Psychotherapy is First Used

Approx. 1886

The idea of healing through talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider.

Vygotsky Develops Sociocultural Psychology

Approx. 1900

Sociocultural psychology is a developing branch that examines the effects of a society on an individuals development. According to this theory, a person's though process is based on his or her socio-cultural background.

Cognitive Development Theory Developed

Approx. 1920

Jean Piagnet was the first to develop this theory, based on the difference between childish and adult intelligence. According to Piaget, children are born with a very basic mental structure (genetically inherited and evolved) on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based. The goal of the theory is to explain the mechanisms and processes by which the infant, and then the child, develops into an individual who can reason and think using hypotheses.

Growth and Development of Behaviorism

Approx. 1920 - Approx. 1950

Behaviorism is a school of thought found by John B. Watson based on the idea that behavior is measurable, trainable and changeable. Simply put, behaviorism states that all behavior is based on conditioning. This conditioning is divided into classical and operant, or reinforcement and negative reinforcement.

Gestalt Psychology is spoken of by Wertheimer


A school of thought that looks at the human mind and behavior as a whole, not two separate entities. Max Wertheimer is the originator of this theory (for the most part), and it was formed partially as a response to structuralism. Wertheimer is quoted saying "There are wholes, the behaviour of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined by the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt theory to determine the nature of such wholes" (1924).

Operant Conditioning is Coined

Approx. 1935

Operant conditioning is the idea of training through positive reinforcement for good behavior and negative reinforcement for bad behavior in order to change a human's or animal's tendencies. The term was coined by behaviorist B F Skinner.

Lobotomies Are Practiced

Approx. 1935 - Approx. 1967

Lobotomies were neurosurgical operations that involved severing connections in the brain's prefrontal lobe. Lobotomies have always been controversial, but were widely performed as treatment for schizophrenia, manic depression and bipolar disorder, among other mental illnesses.

Jacob Robert Kantor Coins Psycholinguistics


Psycholinguistics is "the study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use and understand language" ( It is typically divided into language acquisition, language comprehension, language production and second language acquisition.

Functionalism's Highest Popularity

Approx. 1940 - Approx. 1950

Functionalism is one of the key theory perspectives in sociology. It began with the works of Emile Durkheim, who was interested in how society remains relatively stable (structurally speaking). The idea is that the different parts of society depend on each other in order to create a functioning society. Deviating behavior results in societal change because of the co-dependent nature of the theory. Robert K. Merton was a functionalist who went further into the human aspect, dividing it into manifest (intentional and obvious) and latent (non-obvious and unintentional) functions.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


Maslow set out to discover the basis of human motivation in the mid 1900s and came out with the following: 1) biological and physiological needs, 2) safety needs, 3) love and belongingness needs, 4) esteem needs and 5) self-actualization needs.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders


Is a manual for the standardization and definition of mental disorders so that national diagnoses will match. The initial intention was to collect statistical information and the first attempt was with the census of 1840. This edition was heavily protested due to the racist nature, labeling some black towns as entirely insane. It was later revised and finally published in 1952

Neuropsychology Reemerges

Approx. 1966

Neuropsychology is a combination of psychology and neurology with the intention of understanding how the structure and function of the brain relate to specific psychological processes. In other words, explaining the mind/body connection. Thomas Willis was significant in the beginning of this field, as he took stock in the physiological aspect and examining the brain. He coined the terms "hemisphere" and "lobe," and it is for him that this entry is here on the timeline.

Bowlby Begins to Develop Attachment Theory


By definition, attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. This idea was founded by John Bowlby. It states that attachment is not necessarily reciprocated; for example, Bowlby found that children experienced extreme distress when separate from their mothers, even when their mothers were not their caretakers. This shows that the bond is often illogical, but very real and present in most all of us.

Expanding influence of Humanism

Approx. 1970 - Approx. 1980

Can be defined many ways, but in psychology refers to the study of the whole person, rather than the parts. Humanistic psychologists emphasize that an individual's behavior is connected to their inner feelings and self concept.

Modern Era of Evolutionary Psychology


Is a theoretical branch of psychology examining the human development of useful traits such as memory, perception and language. Simply put, evolutionary psychology is connecting psychology to the evolution of the human mind.