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Introduction and Definitions of Psychology

Main Contributors to Psychology

The word Psychology was derived from two Greek words, ‘Psyche’ and ‘Logos’. Psyche means soul and Logos means discourse or science. 

1. Psychology is the Study of Soul:

About 2000 years ago the literal meaning of the term Psychology was given as soul. As the concept of soul was purely abstract and metaphysical in nature, this definition was vague hence it was discarded. 

2. Psychology is the Study of Mind:

Later on the term soul was replaced as mind by Plato and it was defined as Psychology is the study of mind”. This definition was continued or appreciated up to the last century but it was discarded later, on the basis that the term mind was also equally vague and metaphysical in nature.

3. Psychology is the Science of Study of Conscious Experience:

After the rejection of above two definitions, William Wundth the founder of the Psychology Laboratory in 1879, has defined Psychology as “The science of study of conscious experience”. This definition was more tangible than above two, but it does not fully express all that is implied in the term psychology. Eg. Psychology does not confine its study to only conscious mental process but it also studies unconscious process such as dreams, hallucinations, delusions, phobias and other mental aberrations.

4. Psychology is the Study of Objective Behavior by Subjective Experience:

Another psychologist who belongs to School of Introspections has defined Psychology as “The study of objective behavior by subjective experience”. According to this definition, the individual who is confronted with a particular situation will have a better experience of it and hence he can understand and predict the experience of another person who is subjected to similar or the same situation. Eg. If a person has experienced the danger of electric shock, he can understand and predict the experience of another person. Though this definition appears to be reasonable, it is limited in its application, because the experience of different individuals who are exposed to the same situation might not be the same. It may differ either in the degree or kind or in both. Hence this definition was also rejected.

5. Psychology Should Improve the Knowledge of Human Nature:

According to Mc. Doughall the founder of Hormic School, the subject matter of Psychology should be such that “It should render or improve our knowledge of human nature more exactly and systematically. So that we may control ourselves more wisely and influence our men more effectively”. Even this definition had its own limitations as it refers to only human beings and not animals.

6. Psychology is the Science of Behavior:

Another psychologist has defined Psychology as “The science of behavior”. Though the term behavior is used by layman in a somewhat narrower sense, in Psychology it includes not only motor behavior such as walking, running, eating, talking etc. But it also includes the cognitive activities like perceiving, remembering, learning etc. in addition, it also includes motives which determine direct and overt behavior. In other words this definition covers both the external activities and the internal experiences, along with psychological activities such as thinking, reasoning, etc. Though this definition fairly acceptable, in reality it is not a complete one as it does not cover animal behavior.

7. Psychology is the Science of Activities of an Individual:

After a long gap from the above definition Woodworth and Marquis have defined Psychology as “The science of activities of an individual”. In the context the term activities has a broad sense. It includes motor activities like walking, speaking etc. Cognitive activities like perceiving, remembering, thinking, etc. And emotional activities like laughing, crying, sadness, jealousy etc. These activities may appear to be passive yet they are activities for they depend upon the life of the organism. Though this definition seems to be more comprehensive it is narrow because it does not include the behavior of animals.

8. Psychology is the Science of Experience and Behavior:

Munn has defined Psychology as “The science of experience and behavior”. Experience is internal, hence it can be understood only by the individual who lives through that, where as behavior is overt and objective and hence it is observable and verifiable by others.

All these definitions have contributed to the subject matter of Psychology in their own way. Noting down all the advantages and limitations Psychology can be defined as the science of study of the cognitive and affective behaviors of men and animals which are conscious or unconscious.

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