January 18 , 2011
PSY100- Lecture 2
History of Psychology
- The science of psychology has come a very long way over the past 1000
o Ex. Most of human history, debate raged as to where consciousness
resided…the heart, the brain, the mind, the spirits?
- Science has always been contextualized in a larger set of
o Ex. Theological/religious barriers impeded the progress of physiological
sciences( and therefore psychology)
Direct study of human body was forbidden
Doctrines regarding human exemptionalism (therefore,
impossible to learn about human biology through animal
The Rise of Mechanism
- Descartes : 1600s
o An extremely, intense, unbalanced driven personality.
o Proposed a systematic account of the body as a machine; physiological
processes described in terms of mechanistic interactions controlled by
hydraulics (fluids) and mechanics (levers) slide
- Mind-Body Dualism
o However what set humans apart from animals was the MIND, which
was a non-physical but able (somehow….) to interact with the body.
o Set the mind apart from the body (Descartes)
o How do you get the material realm to contact the immaterial realm?
o This splitting of the mind and body still plagues us. We either have to
accept the body (brain) is the mind, in which case humans are just
(soulless) animals. Ex, bio-gunk, or we have to figure out how it is that
a more-than-physical mind could exist, what is substrate is, and how it
could interact with the physical body.
o How does the soul communicate with the body?
- Much of the rest of the history of psychology can be described as a struggle
to answer questions that emerge from this dualism.
o Ex. Is the Mind simply, a complicated. But deterministic machine or do
we have free will? Can we do anything creative, or are we merely
o We want to believe that we have this inner-spark.
o How can we study the mind scientifically? How does it work? What are
the connections between mind and body? Can we learn to control the
mind and use it more effectively?
- How to Study an Immaterial Mind?
o The turning point that lead to a scientific study of mind really came
from studies of physiology, using reaction times to measure nerve
o People started realizing you can study nervous system process via
objective measure such as time. o If consciousness is an extension of the nervous system, maybe we can
- Wilhelm Wundt
o Physiologist, extremely curious and careful experimentalist, thinkers,
driven, lock on to a problem to figure it out, didn’t live a normal life.
o Wondered whether two stimuli that struck sense at same time would
be perceived at the same moment (see and hear clapping hands – how
does that work? Can I simultaneously experience this at the same
moment at the same time?)
o Noticed that the pendulum was on its way down when Wundt heard
o Came to the conclusion that the pendulum is not in contact when he
heard the bell
Where, when, period of pendulum etc.
o Carefully calculated the distance traveled by the pendulum and the
time as 1/10 of a second
o Reasoned that it took humans 1/10 of a second to reorient their
- Mental processes can be studied scientifically!
o Possibly the biggest influence on subsequent psychology was Darwin’s
theory of evolution
o Mentally productive
o Built on previous ideas of evolution (vs. creationism theories): Erasmus
o Interestingly, Darwin’s ideas were influenced by the geological debate
on “uniformitalirms” slide
o Incredibly curious and observant (Darwin)
o On Beagle voyage, collected countless speciments, many from species
never before know, and he generated a small library of his own
o Wondered, why do animals do the things they do? What was the
function of their behaviours?
o Ex. A marine iguana “ I threw one several times as far as