5 Men Who Developed the Field of Psychology
- Sigmund Freud
- Carl Jung
- William James
- Ivan Pavlov
- Alfred Adler
Whether you build a career in it, major in it, or just walk around being an average human, psychology is a huge part of your life every single day. Psychology is the study of the mind and all of its infinite functions. Having a basic understanding of psychology helps us be our best selves and relate most effectively with others. Here is an introduction to five of the “Founding Fathers” of Psychology.
Related resource: Ranking Top 40 Doctoral Programs in Clinical Psychology
Doctor Sigmund Freud probably thought of himself as the original Founding Father of Psychology, and many other people would agree. His is a name that most people have at least heard once or twice before ever stumbling into their first introduction to psychology course. He actually began his career as a biologist and physiologist, but he was one of the first documented scientists to manifest his intense curiosity for the human mind and the observable behaviors it produces. His approach to psychology was deep, and frequent analysis of people’s past traumas, connecting these experiences with present problematic behaviors and assisting patients in resolving said traumas to eliminate said behavioral responses.
Doctor Carl Jung was a student, turned colleague, turned competitor of Sigmund Freud. Jung was just as interested as Freud in the influence human subconscious and unconscious processes on observable behaviors. However, Jung branched out into what he termed the collective unconscious. He focused less on a deep dive into an individual’s past and more on the invisible connections between all people and the universe as a whole. He believed that we are all striving for individuation within this collective system, and the ability to use both our conscious and unconscious minds.
Doctor William James is best known for two contributions to the field of psychology. First, he pioneered the focus of psychology to include emotions as well as thoughts and behaviors. He conceptualized emotion as a secondary reaction to our physiological reactions to various stimuli. While modern researchers have since discovered that this is true only some of the time, this theory was revolutionary for James’s time. Second, James was the first Founding Father to bring psychology to the United States through his studies and work at Harvard University.
It is debatable whether or not Doctor Ivan Pavlov should be considered a Founding Father of Psychology because he was purely a biologist. Nevertheless, his discoveries in animal behaviorism laid a foundation for consequential work in human behaviorism that never would have existed otherwise. Specifically, Pavlov discovered the roles of rewards and punishments on behaviors, a concept foreign to none of us. From parenting and managing a classroom, to gambling and purchasing that tenth cup of coffee in order to earn a free one on a punch card, our society is driven by consequences. The New York Times offers an insightful account of the modern human equivalents we have become to the dogs that Pavlov studied so many years ago.
Alfred Adler is more like a lovable grandfather of psychology. He came along and challenged psychologists to dive deeper than ever into the emotional processes of being human. His original theory focused mainly on the need to feel desired and appreciated by others. This led him to conduct ground-breaking studies on social interactions and the pursuit of happiness and emotional fulfillment. His goal was to help people rid themselves of insecurities in order to make room for their successes.
These five gentlemen are only a handful of the intelligent and driven individuals who have shaped the field of psychology over the years. However, these Founding Fathers are dubbed so because they laid the groundwork upon which we have built what we now understand about the human mind and dynamic process through which it shapes our individual and shared experiences. The more we know about the world they created, the more we know about ourselves.