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The evolution of psychology and reasons to enter the field today

During the last 25 years, psychological science has grown and advanced like never before. Many disciplines within the field have flourished and expanded since the Association for Psychological Science (APS) was founded in 1988. During that time, whole new subfields, research areas and methodologies have emerged. These cross both disciplinary and geographical boundaries, pointing to a trend toward global, integrative psychology. A new era of integrative science has begun, involving the full spectrum of disciplines, from humanities to genetics.

Here, we talk about how psychology has changed over the years and the possible reasons why you may want to enter this fascinating field.

The importance of studying the history of psychology 

Many educators believe that all students should study the history of psychology during their graduate and undergraduate training. Students learn how to think critically about psychology by studying the field’s mistakes and successes.

The history of psychology also shows how it has evolved as a result of modern culture, politics and economics. It provides perspective, context, and humility, and helps us understand how the psychology profession has developed in the larger cultural context.

Understanding the past gives us a better understanding of the world, including all cultures and nature. People can deal with conflict better by learning the causes and effects of historical events. Knowing the environmental history can enhance mankind’s health. Our future generations can gain valuable insight through a better understanding of history, even if human behavior is unpredictable at times. Time and place are not all there is to history. History offers us an opportunity to question humanity’s biggest question — “Why?”

The origins of psychology and philosophy

Psychology and philosophy have a lot in common, as the study of psychology is derived from philosophy. Empirical methods can be used to examine philosophical questions, and philosophical studies have therefore influenced the study of sensation, perception, intelligence, and memory in psychology.

As a result, each field comes up with different solutions. Even though they study the same things, they think differently. Philosophers and psychologists often come to different conclusions, even when using the same theories. Because of this, some professionals in each field see themselves as rivals.

‘Psychology’ is a Greek word meaning ‘psyche’ and ‘logos’. This translates to ‘soul’ and ‘study’. Therefore, psychology means studying the soul. A simple way to think about psychology is that it is the science that studies human behavior and the mind.

This explains what is going on in our ‘black box’ and how it affects the way we respond, considering the stimulus. As well as understanding how people receive and interpret information, psychology tries to get to the bottom of how they think.

Philosophical terms refer to the love of wisdom derived from the Greek words ‘philo’ and ‘sophia’. A philosopher’s goal is to solve real-life problems.

Physiology also played a role in the development of psychology. The study of physiological psychology is concerned with how the physical functions of the body (e.g. the nervous system, the brain functions, elements of neuroscience, etc.) relate to our learned and instinctive thoughts and behaviors. This is a fascinating field that was first addressed formally in the 1800s, although its roots go back a lot further.

Psychology becomes its own separate discipline

Psychology is a relatively young science with its experimental roots in the 19th century, compared, for example, to human physiology, which dates much earlier. As mentioned, anyone interested in exploring issues related to the mind generally did so in a philosophical context prior to the 19th century. Wilhelm Wundt was one of the founders of psychology as a science and academic discipline that was distinct from philosophy.

The goal of psychology, according to Wundt, is to identify the components of consciousness and to understand how they combine to produce the conscious experience.

Wundt examined the human mind as objectively as possible, making it like other natural phenomena. To achieve scientifically observable (repeatable) experiences of the mind, Wundt’s introspection used only very specific conditions.

The emergence of different psychological schools of thought

  • Structuralism

The first major school of psychology was founded by a student of Wundt’s, Edward B. Titchener. Through introspection, subjects were trained to analyze their reactions and responses to sensations and perceptions.

Structuralism, developed in 1898, often emphasized scientific research, but its methods are unreliable, limited, and rely on subjectivity. Structuralism pretty much died when Titchener died, in 1927.

  • Functionalism

In the mid to late 1800s, psychology was booming in America. Harvard’s psychology department, which was tied to the philosophy department at its inception, was founded by philosopher and psychologist William James. According to an essay James wrote in 1892, psychology was not a distinct discipline.

The first half of James’ career was spent doing laboratory research on sensation and perception. The James-Lange theory of emotion was developed based on the belief in the connection between mind and body. It says emotions are a result of physiological changes as a response to external stimuli. A functionalist perspective on psychology, developed by James, was inspired by evolutionary theory, which looked for causal relationships between internal and external states.

  • Psychoanalysis

The focus of early psychology was the conscious human experience. Psychology changed dramatically when Sigmund Freud proposed a theory of personality by emphasizing the unconscious mind.

As a treatment, a theory, and an investigation tool, psychoanalysis does it all. In psychoanalysis, Freud used these three aspects iteratively to advance our understanding of human behavior. Freud pioneered the idea that humans are primarily animals driven by instincts that go through universal developmental (psychosexual) stages controlled by family and social factors.

He did not believe humanity was God’s highest creation, contrary to the prevailing belief at the time. Humanity is supposedly rational and mostly governed by reason, but Freud challenged that notion, pointing out that it is actually a war between the ‘civilized’ self and unacceptable and thus repressed aggressive and sexual impulses.

  • Behaviorism

A new school of thought called behaviorism dominated psychology in the early 20th century. The behaviorist theory rejected both the conscious and unconscious mind, a major change from previous perspectives. Behaviorists approached psychology as a science by focusing solely on behaviors that could be observed, which was more grounded in fact.

A Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov is credited with the earliest work on behaviorism. Through his research on dogs’ digestive systems, Pavlov discovered classical conditioning, which proposed that behaviors can be learned with conditioned associations.

In Pavlov’s experiments, he showed that natural stimuli and environmental stimuli could be associated.

The impact of behaviorism was huge, and it dominated for the next 50 years. With operant conditioning, psychologist B.F. Skinner demonstrated how punishment and reinforcement affect behavior.

Despite behaviorism faded in popularity, the fundamental beliefs of behavioral psychology continue to be widely applied today.

For example, behavior modification, behavior analysis, and token economies are all based on the principle of behaviorism.

  • Humanistic psychology

During the second half of the 20th century, humanistic psychology emerged as an alternative to psychoanalysis and behaviorism. This school of thought places a lot of emphasis on consciousness.

The humanistic psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers were all about personal growth. Self-actualization is what they believed in. Maslow and Rogers’ theories have greatly influenced our understanding of the self. Everyone wants to be the best version of themselves, so they emphasized free will and self-determination.

  • Cognitive psychology

The cognitive revolution started in psychology during the 1950s and 1960s. Psychology evolved into cognitive psychology as psychoanalysis and behaviorism ceased to be relevant. Even though psychologists were still interested in observable behavior, they also cared about the mind.

Research has continued to focus on things like memory, decision-making, intelligence, problem-solving, language, and perception since then. Researchers can now study the inner workings of the human brain more closely with tools like PET scans and MRIs.

  • Psychology’s continued growth 

Since psychology’s beginnings in Wundt’s lab, the field has seen exponential growth and change. But that does not signify the end of the story.

There have been new theories introduced to psychology since 1960. From biological influences on behavior to social and cultural factors, psychology research explores many facets of the human experience.

Nowadays, most psychologists do not belong to one school of thought. Rather, they usually focus on one or two areas, often influenced by a variety of theories. As a result of this holistic approach, psychology has been shaped by new ideas and theories.

What is a bachelor’s degree in psychology?

Bachelor’s degrees in psychology (BA/BS) are earned by students who have satisfied all the requirements for graduation at an accredited college or university. In most cases, it takes four years to get a BA in psychology, but it can take more or less time if the college allows. Generally, it takes 3–5 years to finish a degree. The psychology major is for students who want to know more about the human mind, emotions and behaviors. Several people use the bachelor’s degree to go on to graduate school in psychology or other fields, while others use it to enter the workforce in fields that involve lots of human interaction.

What can you do with a bachelor of psychology?

A psychology program studies the psychology of human behavior. It teaches people how to think critically, apply research methods, communicate verbally and in writing, solve problems, and apply psychology to a variety of situations.

Those who major in psychology have skills they can apply to business, government, education and healthcare. Among the most common roles psychology graduates pursue are:

  • Human resources specialist

The HR department handles employee relations, training and benefits. They help recruit, screen, interview, and hire new employees, and guide existing employees through all HR-related policies and procedures.

The professionals in this role create and manage benefit plans, process the payroll and keep employment records up to date. They also make sure every HR function complies with federal, state and local regulations. A bachelor’s degree is required for HR specialists, and psychology coursework is incredibly helpful.

  • Medical and health services manager

The role of medical and health services managers is to coordinate, plan, and direct healthcare services. It could be managing the whole facility, a specific clinical area, a department, or one or more physicians’ practices. Their job is to make sure the facility is compliant with all laws and regulations and to improve efficiency and quality of service.

A range of professionals work together in the healthcare setting, including medical and health services managers. Patients, medical providers, and insurance agents may all work with them. It is not uncommon for candidates in this field to have prior experience in healthcare. There might be a need for a master’s degree depending on the role. Then again, psychology can also help you start honing the skills you need.

  • Social worker

In some ways, social work and psychology are similar. In their everyday lives, social workers help people solve and cope with problems. They can help you with everything from adoption to terminal illness. Social workers can help clients cope with change and challenges in their lives, as well as respond to crisis situations like child abuse.

It is common for them to advocate on behalf of their clients at the local, state, and national levels. To improve their clients’ well-being, they might research, refer, and push for community resources like food stamps, childcare and healthcare. With a bachelor’s degree, social workers are often able to develop programs, services, and policies with organizations, and policymakers. If you have a bachelor’s degree in something other than social work, like psychology, employers may expect you to do more training and education.

  • Correctional treatment specialist

Often called case managers or counselors, correctional treatment specialists advise and develop rehabilitation plans for probationers and parolees. Psychological tests and questionnaires may be used to evaluate inmates. As well as helping develop release plans, correctional treatment specialists facilitate education and training programs to help people get better jobs.

Correctional treatment specialists usually write the case reports that parole boards review when inmates are eligible for release. Each parolee’s progress will then be documented in a detailed written report by these professionals. They can also help inmates get counseling, mental health treatment, housing, and jobs when they are released.

Usually, candidates for this field must pass competency exams, drug tests and background checks. In order to become a correctional treatment specialist, you will also need a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

  • Mental health counselor

Among the conditions mental health counselors treat are anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress and suicidal thoughts. Clients may also receive relationship counseling as well as emotional support.

A mental health counselor can work with an individual, a couple, a family or a group. Others specialize in older people, college students or children. Additionally, these professionals need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, plus supervised clinical experience.

Top reasons to study psychology

  • Gain insight into human behavior

It is common for people to study psychology in order to understand themselves or those around them better. Learn about the many factors that affect human behavior with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from CCCK Online. Helping others in this way can make you more empathetic (even when they are not being their most lovable selves). You can use this insight in education, persuasion, conflict resolution, and negotiation, too.

  • Have access to many career pathways

Getting a psychology degree can lead to many different jobs. There are some that specialize in research, such as digging deeper into human behavior and the mind, while others are focused on applying research to clinical settings, businesses, etc.

An undergraduate degree in psychology can lead to careers in counseling, research, social work, human resources, marketing, workforce development and education. Psychology bachelor’s degree holders can become advertising agents, career counselors, case managers, human resources specialists, lab assistants, market researchers, rehabilitation specialists and substance abuse counselors.

  • Make a difference in people’s lives

Helping others is often what motivates psychology students. With a psychology degree, you can change someone’s life for the better. You can assist people in overcoming the effects of trauma, dealing with mental illnesses, facing a mental health crisis, and achieving personal goals as a practitioner in this field. You can do research that helps educators better understand how their students learn or advance treatments for illnesses or diseases that affect mental health.

  • Further your career

Clinical mental health counselors and school psychologists, for example, typically require a master’s degree and certification or a professional license to practice. You will also need a doctorate if you want to work in psychology-related fields (such as a psychiatrist or college professor).

You can pursue a graduate degree in psychology after earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Not only will this help further your career, it will also allow you to discover and explore areas that interest you.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree will provide you with a great foundation of knowledge that will be invaluable as you progress to master’s and doctorate programs. You may need to take certain courses as an undergraduate for psychology-related graduate programs, and a psychology bachelor’s degree can ensure you already have those prerequisites.

The great field of psychology

The discipline of psychology has come a long way, and for good reason. It is a very interesting field to study, especially for people who enjoy learning about the human mind. There are lots of career options for psychology majors.

After discovering what you can do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you may be ready to choose your next step.

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