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Psychology   >   Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology

Before Wundt

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Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology

In this course, Mr Ian Fairholm (University of Bath) explores the history of psychology and its evolution from philosophical beginnings to modern science. In the first lecture, we think about the evolution of psychology as a philosophical entity, as it develops prior to Wundt opening the first psychology laboratory in 1879. In the second lecture, we explore the scientific practices enabled by the technological developments of the 19th century, which provided the basis for the early psychological theory of structuralism. In the third lecture, we think about functionalism, a key development in psychology supported by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Next, we bring to light early psychology as we know it today, in the form of behaviourism. In the fifth and final lecture, we work through three key perspectives which developed on from behaviourism: humanistic psychology, cognitive psychology, and social learning theory.

Before Wundt

In this lecture, we think about Wilhelm Wundt as the founder of psychology as a science in 1879, focusing in particular on: (i) the prehistory to this, including the use of the term ‘psychology’ by David Hartley to describe a theory of the human mind in 1749, and the widespread discussion of psychology topics in ancient civilisations across the globe; (ii) a long-standing debate called the mind-body problem, which aims to conclude on whether the mind and the body are distinct; (iii) Descartes, introduced as an early thinker on the concept of consciousness, distinguishing animals from humans based on their perceived lack of consciousness; (iv) one of Descartes’s theories, centred around the human mind being immaterial, leaving the unanswered question of how it interacts with the body; (v) the philosophical concept of materialism as a contrasting theory, proposing that the mind and the body are the same, advocated by Thomas Hobbes; (vi) the idea of empiricism, proposed by John Locke as a method of collecting data and forming theories in scientific practice.


Mind-Body Dualism – In the philosophy of mind, mind-body dualism denotes either that mental processes are non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct.

Materialism – A form of philosophical monism which considers matter to be the fundamental substance in nature. Therefore, all things, including mental states and consciousness, are the result of material interactions.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Fairholm, I. (2022, January 05). Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology - Before Wundt [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Fairholm, I. "Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology – Before Wundt." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 07 Jan 2022,

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Mr Ian Fairholm

Mr Ian Fairholm

Bath University