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The emergence of psychology laboratories

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From previous writings we have learned that the very first psychology lab was founded by a German doctor by the name of Wilhelm Wundt. Psychology is a fairly new field as compared to ancient fields such as medicine and philosophy. Psychology actually began as the combination of these two fields. It was a way of combining science and philosophy. Hence today we have research psychology (experimental psychology) which is the science component and clinical psychology (client oriented) which derived from philosophy. Of course both of these fields are steeped in logic based on research and clinical findings.

However, even earlier William James established the first teaching lab at Harvard University in 1875. James was a prolific writer and wrote many of the earliest books on psychology; some of which he was proud of and others he was not. He wrote the Principles of Psychology in 1890.

History records Wilhelm Wundt as the first doctor and psychologist to set up an experimental laboratory. He established his lab at the University of Leipzig in 1879; even though James had a psychology lab four years before.

Wundt because known as the father of experimental psychology. Wundt took the psychology from the philosophy and brought it into the world of science. The reason that Wundt was accredited with the first lab in psychology was because it was actually a science lab. The science component of psychology was valued more than the philosophical component in those days. Like James Wundt was also a prolific writer.

Wundt studied religious beliefs, mental disorders and located some damaged areas of the brain. He also studied identity values and abnormal behavior. He founded the first journal of experimental psychology in 1881. The popular concept of introspection or digging deep inside to find out what makes us tick was developed by Wundt two centuries ago. Of course two centuries later many of his theories have been challenged or modified.

James and Wundt’s student, G. Stanley Hall set up the first psychology laboratory in the USA in 1883 at John Hopkins University. Hall is also important as a forerunner for the field of education. He is known as the father of the child study movement. Hall is known for the theory of recapitulation. He linked education together with genetic psychology. He believed that humans go through stages of physical and psychological development. He was one of the first to understand that mind and body are linked together. His theory was rudimentary at best but it did put forth the concept of maturation.

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