Psychology: from the science of the soul to the science of behavior

Psychology: from the science of the soul to the science of behavior

We are currently talking about psychology as behavioral science. However, psychology etymologically means the science of the soul. We will see in this article how the concept of psychology has evolved over the centuries to reach its current conceptualization.

The concept and purpose of psychology has changed throughout history. The same is true of the methodology or the relationship between specialist and patient / client. The diversity of approaches, orientations, currents and interpretations of psychology as a science have changed its definition and focus of attention.

Although the academic and clinical discipline of psychology has become a "highly medicalized" field and, consequently, pathology-oriented,the study of our inner mental life was, for many centuries the study of our soul, our being or essence the deepest.

Psychology is much more than the science of behavior.
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Psychology: from the science of the soul to the science of mental life

The term psychology comes from the Greek wordspsyche (soul, in the classic sense of the word, that is, what gives life to the body) andlogos (science or treatise). In other words,psychology means etymologically the science of the soul.

Psychology as a science of the human soul has existed since humanity began to ask questions of "objectives". That is, questions about herself and her own mental life. So that notors can not initially understand psychology without the history of psychology. The definitive separation occurred when psychology began to turn to the experimental. To look for a different methodology of introspection.

So that psychology passed from being considered, at the end of the nineteenth century, as the science of the soul or the philosophy of the mind, to the science of the mental life. Thepsychology has therefore ceased to deal with spiritual problems to focus on the empirical study of phenomena of the mind. We can even speak here of the "first laboratories".

William James (1842-1910) defines psychologyat that timeas the science of the mental life, its phenomena and its conditions. This view of psychology, interpreted as the science of mental life, focuses primarily on the inner experiences of consciousness. In other words, on the study of thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Psychology: From the science of mental life to the science of behavior

Psychology had been understood since the end of the nineteenth century as the science of the mental life.Psychologists sought information based on the conscious experiences of their patients in relation to the responses they gave to different stimuli.

The concept of psychology has nevertheless undergone a new changein the first half of the twentieth century. Psychology was therefore considered a science of behavior.The change results from the fact that behavioral psychologists of the time said that what could be observed was the way in which external stimuli affected the external behaviors of the human being, whereas feelings, thoughts or feelings could not to be observed and could hardly be an object of science.

Back to origins: psychology as a science of behavior

However, in the 60s of the last century,Psychology has again included in its study, in addition to conscious processes, unconscious processes. Cognitive psychology led to the study of how the mind deals with information. So he agreed to redefine psychology as a science of behavior and mental processes. The first models of information processing appeared.

It should be noted here that thebehavior and behavior are synonymous concepts. Nevertheless, if they can be used interchangeably in a familiar language, their nuances differentiate them. Behavior refers to the way we exist in the world. This existence has two dimensions: an exterior, which is observable; an interior, intimate and private. Driving has to do with external behavior, observable behavior. To refer to inner behavior, psychology often uses the term consciousness.

Current definition of psychology

Say thatthe current psychology is the science of behavior and mental processes is correct. It is nevertheless an incomplete definition. Current psychology goes much further. Indeed, it seeks to explain how we feel, how we perceive, how we learn, how we communicate or how we solve problems.Social influence and belonging groups also play a very important role.

Psychology as a science today seeks toexplain, measure and understand the nature of personality, motivation, intelligence or different disorders emotional and mental that affect humans. It also deals with personal and social problems, as well as individual and collective differences.

That is whythe current definition of psychology as a science is much broader.Its object of study is much larger. Thus we can say that current psychology is the science that studies the behavior of individuals and their mental processes, including the internal processes of individuals and the influences that occur in their physical and social environment.


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