Basic Psychology, History Of Psychology

B.F. Skinner

Burrhus Frederic “B.F.” Skinner was a psychologist and social philosopher considered to be a pioneer in the field of behaviorism. He founded a separate school of psychology known as “radical behaviorism” which differed considerably from the other schools of psychology. He believed that living beings tend to repeat the actions which they believe give them favourable results. He called this the principle of reinforcement. He was an intelligent, creative, and independent minded individual who often found himself surrounded by controversy due to the nature of his works. He was of the view that free will was an illusion and vehemently denied that humans possessed any freedom or dignity. He was also an inventor who is credited to have invented the operant conditioning chamber which is used to study behaviour conditioning. He designed the air crib, a temperature and humidity controlled crib for taking care of babies. This proved to be his most controversial invention and he was heavily criticized for inflicting cruelty upon small babies. A prolific writer, he authored 180 articles and more than 20 books, the best known of which are ‘Walden Two’ and ‘Beyond Freedom and Dignity’. Throughout his life he had served as a professor in various colleges and left a profound impact on in the field of education.


B.F Skinner’s life in a nutshell

  • 1904 – Skinner was born in Pennsylvania to a lawyer father William and his wife Grace. He had a comfortable childhood and loved to invent things. He became an atheist at a young age.

  • 1926 – He dreamed of becoming a writer and attended Hamilton College in New York with this goal in mind. However, he could not fit in at the college due to his intellectual attitude. He completed his B.A. in English literature in 1926.

    He tried writing a novel after his graduation but was soon disillusioned with his literary skills. A chance encounter with John B. Watson’s ‘Behaviorism’ inspired him to shift his focus to the study of psychology.

  • 1931 – He received his PhD from the Harvard University in 1931 and served as a researcher till 1936.

  • 1936 – He married Yvonne Blue in 1936. The couple had two daughters, Julie and Deborah. His daughter Julie is an author and educator.

  • 1938 – While he was at Harvard he began working on building the operant conditioning chamber. Also known as the Skinner box, it is an apparatus used to study operant conditioning and classical conditioning in animals.

  • 1943 – In 1943, B.F. Skinner  invented the “baby tender” at the request of his wife.

  • 1948 – He wrote a work of fiction, ‘Walden Two’, a utopian novel in 1948. It was a controversial book as Skinner rejected the concepts of free will, spirit, and soul. He stated that human behavior is determined by genetic and environmental variables and not by free will.

  • 1957 – He published his book ‘Verbal Behavior’ in which he analyzed human behavior through the use of language, linguistics and speech. It was a purely theoretical work that was backed by little experimental research.

  • 1958 – He designed the teaching machine, a device to facilitate learning for a broad range of students. The machine could administer a curriculum of programmed instruction, provide students with questions and reward each correct answer in order to motivate them.

  • 1971 – His very famous book ‘Beyond Freedom and Dignity’ was released in 1971. In this work he promoted his own philosophy of science and what he called cultural engineering. The book became a New York Times bestseller.

  • 1990 – He was diagnosed with leukemia in 1989 and died of the disease in 1990.


Basic Psychology, History Of Psychology

Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development

Freud believed that the nature of the conflicts among the id, ego, and superego change over time as a person grows from child to adult. Specifically, he maintained that these conflicts progress through a series of five basic stages, each with a different focus: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. He called his idea the psychosexual theory of development, with each psychosexual stage directly related to a different physical center of pleasure.

Oral(0-1.5 years)

  •  the child seeks pleasure from the mouth (e.g., sucking)
  • During this stage the need for tasting and sucking becomes prominent in producing pleasure.

 Anal(1.5-3 years)

  •  the child seeks pleasure from the anus (e.g., withholding and expelling feces).
  •  Parents stress toilet training and bowel control during this time period.

Phallic(3 to 5 or 6 years)

  • the child seeks pleasure from the penis or clitoris (e.g., masturbation).
  • Children tend to develop characteristics of the same-sex parent during this stage.

Latent(5 or 6 to puberty)

  • the child has little or no sexual motivation.
  • Thus, children are able to develop social skills, and find comfort through peer and family interaction.

Genital(puberty to adult)

  • the child seeks pleasure from the penis or vagina (e.g., sexual intercourse; ).
  • The onset of puberty reflects a strong interest from one person to another of the opposite sex.


Across these five stages, the child is presented with different conflicts between their biological drives (id) and their social and moral conscience (superego) because their biological pleasure-seeking urges focus on different areas of the body (what Freud called “erogenous zones”). The successful completion of each stage lead’s to a healthy personality as an adult. If, however, a conflict remains unresolved at any particular stage, the individual might remain fixated or stuck at that particular point of development. A fixation can involve an over dependence or obsession with something related to that phase of development. For example, a person with an “oral fixation” is believed to be stuck at the oral stage of development. Signs of an oral fixation might include an excessive reliance on oral behaviors such as smoking, biting fingernails, or eating.


 Freud’s most controversial yet enduring concepts

Oedipus complex

The Oedipal complex, also known as the Oedipus complex, is a term used by Sigmund Freud in his theory of psychosexual stages of development to describe a child’s feelings of desire for his or her opposite-sex parent and jealousy and anger toward his or her same-sex parent. Essentially, a boy feels that he is competing with his father for possession of his mother, while a girl feels that she is competing with her mother for her father’s affections. According to Freud, children view their same-sex parent as a rival for the opposite-sex parent’s attentions and affections.


Freud first proposed the concept of the Oedipal complex in his 1899 book The Interpretation of Dreams, although he did not formally begin using the term Oedipus complex until the year 1910. The concept became increasingly important as he continued to develop his concept of psychosexual development.Freud named the complex after the character in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex who accidentally kills his father and marries his mother. In the Greek myth, Oedipus is abandoned at birth and thus does not know who his parents are. It is only after he had killed his father and married his mother that he learns their true identities.

Electra Complex

The analogous stage for girls is known as the Electra complex in which girls feel desire for their fathers and jealousy of their mothers. The term Electra complex was introduced by Carl Jung to describe how this complex manifests in girls. Freud, however, believed that the term Oedipus complex referred to both boys and girls, although he believed that each sex experiences it differently.

Freud also suggested that when girls discover that they do not have a penis, they develop penis envy and resentment toward their mothers for “sending her into the world so insufficiently equipped.” Eventually, this resentment gives way to identification with her mother and the process of internalizing the attributes and characteristics of her same-sex parent.It was Freud’s views of female sexuality that were perhaps his most heavily criticized. The psychoanalyst Karen Horney refuted Freud’s concept of penis envy and instead suggested that men experience womb envy due to their inability to bear children.

Freud himself admitted that his understanding of women was perhaps less than fully realized. “We know less about the sexual life of little girls than on boys,” he explained. “But we need not feel ashamed of this distinction. After all, the sexual life of adult women is a ‘dark continent’ for psychology.”


Basic Psychology, History Of Psychology

Freudian Theory : The Basic Structure of Personality

The famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed that behavior and personality were derived from the constant and unique interaction of conflicting psychological forces that operate at three different levels of awareness: the preconscious, the conscious, and the unconscious. He believed that each of these parts of the mind played an important role in influencing behavior.

Freud likened these three levels of mind to an iceberg. The top of the iceberg that you can see above the water represents the conscious mind. The part of the iceberg that is submerged below the water but is still visible is the preconscious. The bulk of the iceberg that lies unseen beneath the waterline represents the unconscious.

2795946-the-conscious-and-unconscious-mind-5b180a1c303713003637fa48 (1).png

  • The preconscious consists of anything that could potentially be brought into the conscious mind.The preconscious also acts as something of a guard, controlling the information that is allowed to enter into conscious awareness.
  • The conscious mind contains all of the thoughts, memories, feelings, and wishes of which we are aware at any given moment. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally. A part of this includes our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness.
  • The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences. The unconscious can include repressed feelings, hidden memories, habits, thoughts, desires, and reactions.

If the conscious mind represents the tip of the iceberg, it is the unconscious mind that makes up the massive bulk of the iceberg that lies invisible and unseen below the surface of the water. Memories, thoughts, feelings, and information that is too painful, embarrassing, shameful, or distressing for conscious awareness is stored in the enormous reservoir that makes up the unconscious mind.While this information is not consciously accessible, Freud still believed that its influence could play a powerful role in conscious behavior and well-being. He linked psychological distress to unresolved feelings of conflict that were outside of awareness, and many of the therapeutic techniques he utilized focused on bringing unconscious urges, feelings, and memories into conscious awareness so that they could then be dealt with effectively. Techniques such as free association and dream analysis are centered on bringing unconscious influences to light. Freudian slips, or accidental slips of the tongue, are sometimes thought of as being a sign of unconscious thoughts and feeling bubbling up to the surface of awareness.

According to Sigmund Freud, human personality is complex and has more than a single component. In his famous psychoanalytic theory of personality, personality is composed of three elements. These three elements of personality—known as the id, the ego, and the superego—work together to create complex human behaviors.Each component not only adds its own unique contribution to personality, but all three elements interact in ways that have a powerful influence on each individual. Each of these three elements of personality emerges at different points in life.


  • The Id – The id, the most primitive of the three structures, is concerned with instant gratification of basic physical needs and urges. It operates entirely unconsciously (outside of conscious thought). For example, if your id walked past a stranger eating ice cream, it would most likely take the ice cream for itself. It doesn’t know, or care, that it is rude to take something belonging to someone else; it would care only that you wanted the ice cream.
  • The Superego – The superego is concerned with social rules and morals—similar to what many people call their ” conscience ” or their “moral compass.” It develops as a child learns what their culture considers right and wrong. If your superego walked past the same stranger, it would not take their ice cream because it would know that that would be rude. However, if both your id and your superego were involved, and your id was strong enough to override your superego’s concern, you would still take the ice cream, but afterward you would most likely feel guilt and shame over your actions.
  • The Ego – In contrast to the instinctual id and the moral superego, the ego is the rational, pragmatic part of our personality. It is less primitive than the id and is partly conscious and partly unconscious. It’s what Freud considered to be the “self,” and its job is to balance the demands of the id and superego in the practical context of reality. So, if you walked past the stranger with ice cream one more time, your ego would mediate the conflict between your id (“I want that ice cream right now”) and superego (“It’s wrong to take someone else’s ice cream”) and decide to go buy your own ice cream. While this may mean you have to wait 10 more minutes, which would frustrate your id, your ego decides to make that sacrifice as part of the compromise– satisfying your desire for ice cream while also avoiding an unpleasant social situation and potential feelings of shame.


Defense Mechanisms

Freud believed these three pieces of the mind are in constant conflict, as the primary goal is different for each piece. Sometimes, when the conflict is too much for a person to handle, his or her ego may engage in one or many defense mechanisms to protect the individual.These defense mechanisms include:

  • Repression: an unconscious mechanism in which the ego pushes disturbing or threatening thoughts out of consciousness.
  • Denial: the ego blocks upsetting or overwhelming experiences from awareness, causing the individual to refuse to acknowledge or believe what is happening.
  • Projection: the ego’s attempt to solve discomfort by attributing the individual’s unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and motives to another person.
  • Displacement: a mechanism by which the individual can satisfy an impulse by acting on a substitute object or person in a socially unacceptable way (e.g., releasing frustration directed toward your boss on your spouse instead).
  • Regression: a defense mechanism in which the individual moves backward in development in order to cope with stress (e.g., an overwhelmed adult acting like a child).
  • Sublimation: similar to displacement, this defense mechanism involves satisfying an impulse by acting on a substitute, but in a socially acceptable way (e.g., channeling energy into work or a constructive hobby; McLeod, 2013).
Basic Psychology, History Of Psychology

Sigmund Freud – The Father of Psychoanalysis

A renowned psychologist, physiologist and great thinker during the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud is referred to as the father of psychoanalysis. He formulated several theories throughout his lifetime including the concepts of infantile sexuality, repression and the unconscious mind. Freud also explored on the structure of the mind, and developed a therapeutic framework that intends to understand and treat disturbing mental issues. Freud’s aim was to establish a ‘scientific psychology’ and his wish was to achieve this by applying to psychology the same principles of causality as were at that time considered valid in physics and chemistry. With the scope of his studies and impact of his theories on the modern world’s concept of psychoanalysis, it is evident that much of these principles are rooted from the original works of Freud, although his theories have often become the subject of controversy among scholars.


Freud was the most influential intellectual legislator of his age. His creation of psychoanalysis was at once a theory of the human psyche, a therapy for the relief of its ills, and an optic for the interpretation of culture and society. Despite repeated criticisms, attempted refutations, and qualifications of Freud’s work, its spell remained powerful well after his death and in fields far removed from psychology as it is narrowly defined.

Freud’s life in a nutshell

800px-AmaliaFreud1856-Sigismund (later changed to Sigmund) Freud was born on 6 May 1856 in Freiberg,Moravia (now Pribor in the Czech Republic). His father was a merchant. The family moved to Leipzig and then settled in Vienna, where Freud was educated. Freud’s family were Jewish but he was himself non-practising.

1873-Freud began to study medicine at the University of Vienna. After graduating, he worked at the Vienna General Hospital. He collaborated with Josef Breuer in treating hysteria by the recall of painful experiences under hypnosis.

47230751.jpg1885-Freud went to Paris as a student of the neurologist Jean Charcot. On his return to Vienna the following year, Freud set up in private practice, specialising in nervous and brain disorders. The same year he married Martha Bernays, with whom he had six children.

1897-Freud developed the theory that humans have an unconscious in which sexual and aggressive impulses are in perpetual conflict for supremacy with the defences against them. In 1897,he began an intensive analysis of himself.

1900-his major work ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ was published in which Freud    analysed dreams in terms of unconscious desires and experiences.

1902-Freud was appointed as Professor of Neuropathology at the University of Vienna, a post he held until 1938.

1910-Although the medical establishment disagreed with many of his theories, a group of pupils and followers began to gather around Freud. In 1910, the International Psychoanalytic Association was founded with Carl Jung, a close associate of Freud’s, as the president. Jung later broke with Freud and developed his own theories.

1923After World War One, Freud spent less time in clinical observation and concentrated on the application of his theories to history, art, literature and anthropology. In 1923, he published ‘The Ego and the Id’, which suggested a new structural model of the mind, divided into the ‘id, the ‘ego’ and the ‘superego’.

1933-the Nazis publicly burnt a number of Freud’s books.

1938-shortly after the Nazis annexed Austria, Freud left Vienna for London with his wife and daughter Anna.

1923-Freud had been diagnosed with cancer of the jaw in 1923, and underwent more than 30 operations.

1939He died of cancer on 23 September 1939.

Basic Psychology, History Of Psychology

Sailing Back To The History Of Psychology!

Early Psychologists

2769553173_538470d894_z-229x300.jpgThe earliest psychologists that we know about are the Greek philosophers Plato (428–347 BC) and Aristotle (384–322 BC). These philosophers asked many of the same questions that today’s psychologists ask; for instance, they questioned the distinction between nature and nurture and the existence of free will. In terms of the former, Plato argued on the nature side, believing that certain kinds of knowledge are innate or inborn, whereas Aristotle was more on the nurture side, believing that each child is born as an “empty slate” (in Latin a tabula rasa) and that knowledge is primarily acquired through learning and experience.


Psychology Emerges as a Separate Discipline

wilhelm-wundt.jpgDuring the mid-1800s, a German physiologist named Wilhelm Wundt was using scientific research methods to investigate reaction times.His book published in 1874, Principles of Physiological Psychology, outlined many of the major connections between the science of physiology and the study of human thought and behavior. Wundt viewed psychology as the study of human consciousness and sought to apply experimental methods to studying internal mental processes.He later opened the world’s first psychology lab in 1879 at the University of Leipzig. This event is generally considered the official start of psychology as a separate and distinct scientific discipline. Wundt is often regarded as the father of psychology.

Structuralism Becomes Psychology’s First School of Thought

_vtu62DZ_400x400.jpgStructuralism is considered to be the first school of thought in psychology. It involved breaking down and analyzing the mind into the smallest possible parts. Structuralist psychology is most often associated with Wilhelm Wundt, who was famous for founding the very first lab devoted to experimental psychology and is generally considered the father of modern psychology.Was Wundt really the founder of this early school of thought? While Wundt is often listed as the founder of structuralism, he never actually used the term. Instead, Wundt referred to his ideas as voluntarism. It was his student, Edward B. Titchener, who invented the term structuralism.

The Functionalism of William James

Willam_james.jpgWilliam James emerged as one of the major American psychologists during this period and publishing his classic textbook, The Principles of Psychology, established him as the father of American psychology. The focus of functionalism was about how behavior actually works to help people live in their environment. Functionalists utilized methods such as direct observation to study the human mind and behavior. Both of these early schools of thought emphasized human consciousness, but their conceptions of it were significantly different. While the structuralists sought to break down mental processes into their smallest parts, the functionalists believed that consciousness existed as a more continuous and changing process.

The Rise of Behaviorism

 Behaviorism was a major change from previous theoretical perspectives, rejecting the emphasis on both the conscious and unconscious mind. Instead, behaviorism strove to make psychology a more scientific discipline by focusing purely on observable behavior.

220px-Ivan_Pavlov_NLM3Behaviorism had its earliest start with the work of a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov’s research on the digestive systems of dogs led to his discovery of the classical conditioning process, which proposed that behaviors could be learned via conditioned associations. Pavlov demonstrated that this learning process could be used to make an association between an environmental stimulus and a naturally occurring stimulus.

An American psychologist named John B. Watson soon became one of the strongest
220px-John_Broadus_Watson.JPGadvocates of behaviorism. Watson later went on to offer a definition in his classic book Behaviorism (1924), writing:”Behaviorism…holds that the subject matter of human psychology  is the behavior of the human being. Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. “The impact of behaviorism was enormous, and this school of thought continued to dominate for the next 50 years.


220px-B.F._Skinner_at_Harvard_circa_1950.jpgPsychologist B.F.Skinner furthered the behaviorist perspective with his concept of operant conditioning, which demonstrated the effect of punishment and reinforcement on behavior.Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.

The Emergence of Psychoanalysis

sigmund-freud.jpgUp to this point, early psychology stressed conscious human experience. An Austrian physician named Sigmund Freud changed the face of psychology in a dramatic way, proposing a theory of personality that emphasized the importance of the unconscious mind. In his book The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud detailed how these unconscious thoughts and impulses are expressed, often through slips of the tongue (known as “Freudian slips”) and dreams. According to Freud, psychological disorders are the result of these unconscious conflicts becoming extreme or unbalanced. The psychoanalytic theory proposed by Sigmund Freud had a tremendous impact on 20th-century thought, influencing the mental health field as well as other areas including art, literature, and popular culture. While many of his ideas are viewed with skepticism today, his influence on psychology is undeniable.


Gestalt Psychology

The word Gestalt roughly translates to “whole;” a major emphasis of Gestalt psychology deals with the fact that although a sensory experience can be broken down into individual parts, how those parts relate to each other as a whole is often what the individual responds to in perception. For example, a song may be made up of individual notes played by different instruments, but the real nature of the song is perceived in the combinations of these notes as they form the melody, rhythm, and harmony. In many ways, this particular perspective would have directly contradicted Wundt’s ideas of structuralism

Cognitive Psychology

During the 1950s and 1960s, a movement known as the cognitive revolution began to take hold in psychology. During this time, cognitive psychology began to replace psychoanalysis and behaviorism as the dominant approach to the study of psychology. Psychologists were still interested in looking at observable behaviors, but they were also concerned with what was going on inside the mind. Since that time, cognitive psychology has remained a dominant area of psychology as researchers continue to study things such as perception, memory, decision-making, problem-solving, intelligence, and language. The introduction of brain imaging tools such as MRI and PET scans have helped improve the ability of researchers to more closely study the inner workings of the human brain.

Humanistic Psychology

220px-Carlrogers.jpgWhile the first half of the twentieth-century was dominated by psychoanalysis and behaviorism, a new school of thought known as humanistic psychology emerged during the second half of the century. American psychologist .Humanistic psychology developed as a response to psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Humanistic psychology instead focused on individual free will, personal growth and the concept of self-actualization.Carl Rogers is often considered to be one of the founders of this school of thought. While psychoanalysts looked at unconscious impulses and behaviorists focused on environmental causes, Rogers believed strongly in the power of free will and self-determination.


220px-Abraham_Maslow.jpg Psychologist Abraham Maslow also contributed to humanistic psychology with his famous hierarchy of needs theory of human motivation.This theory suggested that people were motivated by increasingly complex needs. Once the most basic needs are fulfilled, people then become motivated to pursue higher level needs.

Psychology Continues to Grow

As you have seen in this brief overview of psychology’s history, this discipline has seen dramatic growth and change since its official beginnings in Wundt’s lab. The story certainly does not end here. Psychology has continued to evolve since 1960 and new ideas and perspectives have been introduced. Recent research in psychology looks at many aspects of the human experience, from the biological influences on behavior to the impact of social and cultural factors.


Basic Psychology, History Of Psychology

Digging Deep Into Psychology !

Psychology is always misunderstood  as the study of mind as it was the earliest definition for psychology .When  we go through this definition of psychology  we all often have a doubt that what is mind and where is it situated ? The mind is defined as the sum of the cognitive abilities that enable consciousness, perception, memory, thinking, imagination and judgment. It may also be defined as the conscious and unconscious mental activity of a person.

The mind, is invisible. But also somehow is inherently tied to our existence.

And now when the handle of the time goes around science have redefined psychology as the scientific study of human behavior and mental process .Here “behavior” means the way in which one acts or conducts oneself and this ” behavior” in psychology is mainly divided into two-Overt behavior and Covert behavior . Overt behavior can be defined as observable behavior or responses depicted in the forms of actions. Example: Sleeping , walking etc. Covert behavior can be defined as unobservable behavior which leads to certain actions.  Examples of these covert behaviors are; perceiving, remembering, reasoning, thinking, creating and dreaming among many more. This also can be termed as Mental process.


The Greek word psychology evolved as


Here “psyche” means  ‘Soul’  and  “logos” means ‘Study’. Psychologists study people by using scientific method. The goals of this scientific method include:

  • Describe
  • Predict
  • Understand
  • Influence

Some words to Ponder:

  • PSYCHOLOGIST : Psychologists have completed a bachelor’s degree and then continued in graduate training in psychology (the study of human development, learning, and behavior), and may have specialized in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems.
  • PSYCHIATRIST : Psychiatrists have a degree in medicine like your family physician, followed by specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems.
  • COUNSELOR : Counselors may have a range of backgrounds, and may have master’s or doctoral level degrees from counseling programs. However, individuals may otherwise refer to themselves as a “therapist” or “counselor”, but may or may not have training in the assessment or treatment of mental health issues.
  • CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST : A clinical psychologist is a mental health professional with highly specialized training in the diagnosis and psychological treatment of mental, behavioral and emotional illnesses, including obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD).

Fields of Psychology

Behavioral Neuroscience
Clinical Psychology
Cognitive Psychology
Developmental Disabilities
Developmental Psychology
Forensic Psychology
Health Psychology
Educational and School Psychology