Despite Wilhelm Wundt being recognized as the father of Psychology, other authors stood out and are considered the fathers of other psychological currents. Like Sigmund Freud of psychoanalysis, John Watson of behaviorism, Ulric Neisser of cognitivism, or the Perls couple of Gestalt psychology.
In this article, we will talk about who was the father of Psychology and what were his contributions to this field. Finally, we will mention some psychological currents and the primary representative of each of them.
Who is considered the father of psychology?
Although there have been notable figures throughout the history of Psychology, authors with great relevance and who are known not only within the field of Psychology but also outside it, as would be the case of Sigmund Freud, who has received the Psychology father’s title is the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt.
Wundt’s consideration as the father of Psychology is because he was the first to separate Psychology from Philosophy since Psychology was previously presented as part of said field of knowledge. A relevant fact that stood out in Wundt’s career was the development of the first laboratory of Experimental Psychology, at the University of Leipzig, in 1879, thus being considered the beginning of Modern Psychology.
Who was Wilhelm Wundt?
As a child, Wilhelm Wundt did not stand out for his academic performance, but this assessment would change when he began university studies since he managed to graduate in Medicine, being the best in his course. Within the field of Medicine, he was especially interested in physiology, which studies the physical and chemical functions of the organism. He related to and worked with important physicians specializing in physiology such as Johannes Müller and later with Hermann von Helmholtz.
Wundt was Helmholtz’s assistant at the University of Heidelberg, although his experience was not very good and he ended up abandoning his work and began his studies in Philosophy at the University of Leipzig, later becoming a Professor of Psychology at this University. As we mentioned before, Wundt was interested in physiology, showing an affinity for the study and scientific knowledge, that is, everything that could be known through the experimental method. Likewise, he also showed interest in the social sciences. In this way, the type of psychology that he proposed tried to combine the social and physical sciences.
In this way, Wundt would begin his work as a professor and professor of Philosophy, but always showing a more experimental and scientific side. It was in 1879 when the first psychology laboratory was founded at the University of Leipzig, where Wundt taught. This union that the author proposes between Physics and Psychology is reflected in his work entitled “Principles of Physiological Psychology”, where he pointed out the appearance of new science. Wundt is therefore considered the father of modern psychology, among other things, because he developed the first scientific psychological system.
The author proposes the study of the immediate experience of conscious processes, using both instruments from the experimental field and psychological knowledge when describing immediate processes. Likewise, he 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 leading author on 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 scientifically study, know, consciousness using the chemical model, that is, look for the elements that were part of it. In the same way, that the periodic table of chemical elements was proposed, the author wanted to know the elements that constituted the minds of people.
To know the elements that were part of the psyche, Wundt used the technique of experimental introspection or self-observation, which consists of making the patient reflect on their own thought processes. This strategy was carried out under strict control, previously training the subject and controlling the different variables that could influence it so that the result was as objective as possible.
Thus, this current proposes to study the elementary structure of the process of consciousness to finally discover its last elements, which are sensations, images, and feelings. Likewise, they will try to establish laws of combination between the simple elements, the last elements, to obtain the complex phenomena of the mind.
Wundt’s influence today
As we have already seen, one of the most relevant 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 itself from Philosophy. and defining itself as a branch of science.
Despite the great change that Wundt made in this area, is considered the father of Psychology, currently, the methods and techniques that he proposed are not the most used, since introspection, the main technique that he used, although he tries to be as objective as possible by controlling the different variables, does not cease to suppose a subjective strategy, of the subject himself, and it is difficult to assess its effectiveness scientifically.
Other relevant authors in Psychology
As we have already seen, the author is considered the father of Psychology Wilhelm Wundt. Even so, Psychology can be divided into different schools or currents, highlighting different authors in each of them. For this reason, below we will cite some of the best-known psychologists in each field, who are also of great relevance in the history of Psychology.
1. Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is the branch of psychology that is responsible for studying the development of human beings, from birth, through all the stages of their life cycle. The study proposed by this field of Psychology is important to know what is the expected development of 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 carry out a complete study of the psychological development of people throughout their lives.
Piaget tried to describe human development from two concepts: cognitive functions and cognitive structures. Functions are innate biological processes and are invariable; instead, the structures themselves are variable and can be modified. The most characteristic structure proposed by the author is the diagrams
Psychoanalysis is the psychological current that presents the unconscious as the focus of study, the information that the subject cannot know, or is difficult for him, but that is basic for the explanation of his behavior. Likewise, they give special importance to studying the subject’s past, their childhood, and the possible traumatic events they experienced. Despite still being in force today, this trend stands out for its little empirical basis and difficulty in verifying the effectiveness of its techniques.
The father of psychoanalysis is Sigmund Freud, who proposed concepts known as the unconscious, already mentioned; the id, the ego, and the superego; libido; psychosexual stages or drives.
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 assessment of the individual himself or of the professionals who measure the behavior, or in any case not considering it a faithful reflection of true psychological processes.
One of the most important psychologists within this psychological current is John Broadus Watson, known for the controversial experiment of “child Albert” where he tested the possibility of establishing a phobia intentionally.
4. Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology is the opposite current to behaviorism since it is interested in the knowledge of the mental processes of people, and 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 widely used currents and one that has proven to be more effective in intervening in different pathologies is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which uses techniques from both schools.
5. Gestalt Psychology
Gestalt Psychology gives more importance to the whole than to the sum of things. Likewise, it highlights the relevance of the “here and now”. The founders of this psychological current were the Perls couple, Laura and Fritz Perls.