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China, Psychology in

  1. Yufang Yang

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0175

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Yang, Y. 2010. China, Psychology in. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

Modern Chinese psychology was founded in the early years of the twentieth century. The Chinese reformer and educator Yuanpei Cai studied in Wilhelm Wundt's Leipzig laboratory between the years 1908 and 1911, returned to China, and became President of Peking University in 1917. In the same year, Daqi Chen, with Cai's support, established the first psychological laboratory in China. This marked the beginning of modern Chinese psychology. In the ensuing years many departments of psychology were established in various universities in China. The Chinese Psychological Society was founded in 1921, and in 1922 the first journal, Psychology, was published. The Institute of Psychology under Academia Sinica was established in 1929. The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 caused a major setback to progress of psychology until the end of World War II.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Chinese psychology was reconstructed after the model in the Soviet Union. A new Institute of Psychology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences was established in 1951. Educational reform and industrial development in the early days of the People's Republic promoted the progress of educational and industrial psychology. Developmental psychology was a major field of basic research to understand the teaching and learning processes. In the early 1960s, Chinese psychologists, as in the West, also took ideas from cybernetics, information theory, and computer science in their study of mental processes, while at the same time they conducted research in the fields of industrial and military applications. Some research contributions from China reached a level comparable to international standards at that time. The Chinese Psychological Society also expanded to include 24 provincial organizations with a total of 1,056 members. With the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, psychology was proclaimed a pseudoscience, and the development of psychology came to a halt for almost 10 years.

With the end of the Cultural Revolution and the launching of China's reform and opening-up policy, psychology was rehabilitated and formally recognized as a scientific discipline. Since 1980, Chinese psychology witnessed a rapid and steady development. The first Department of Psychology in Peking University was established in 1978, and departments of psychology and schools of psychology have now been established in almost 200 universities across the country.

1 Research and Application

  1. Top of page
  2. Research and Application
  3. Education and Training
  4. Organizations
  5. Challenge and Prospects
  6. References

The fields of study of Chinese psychology cover almost all branches of modern psychology. The following are recent developments in several fields of study.

1.1 Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

In this field, psychologists have made contributions in perception, attention, memory, thinking, emotion, and language. Two national level laboratories, called State Key Laboratories, in China were established in this field in 2005. One of these laboratories, the Lab of Brain and Cognitive Science, mainly studies the cognitive processes and neurological bases of visual perception. Another laboratory is the Lab of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, which is dedicated to issues related to learning and teaching. In the coming years we expect to see further support from the Chinese government in this field.

1.2 Developmental and Educational Psychology

In this field, psychologists have studied various aspects of human development, including cognition, language, and social behavior, not only for average children but for the mentally retarded and gifted children as well. The theory of mind is another topic of study. Additionally, problems raised in educational reform and practice, such as learning and teaching, as well as intelligence and creativity, have attracted the attention of educational psychologists.

1.3 Biopsychology

Biopsychologists are concerned with how the brain generates behavior, and conversely, how behavior modulates the functions of the brain and body. Early studies in biopsychology in China were conducted under the name of physiological psychology and comparative psychology, and a wide range of studies have been carried out in this field. The current major research areas in animal and human behavior are behavioral and physiological studies of stress; depression and immunity; memory and learning; and drug addiction.

1.4 Psychotherapy and Psychological Counseling

Clinical psychologists conduct their research and practice at four levels: (1) general practice, (2) mental hospitals, (3) universities and schools, and (4) the community level. In the process of social-economic reform and in recent natural disasters, psychologists are playing an increasingly important role in helping people who have mental health problems. The Chinese clinician's methodological approach is under the influence of both Western therapeutic theories and Chinese traditional medicine. Its therapeutic orientations include (1) directive orientation, using didactic and instructional methods in the therapeutic process; (2) integrative orientation, analyzing the causes of mental problems and disorders from holistic and integrative points of view in accordance with traditional Chinese philosophy; and (3) natural orientation, following the Chinese traditional principle that encourages a person to “acclimate the natural laws” in therapeutic practice.

1.5 Economic Psychology

The field of economic psychology is mostly concerned with the human and social phenomena in business enterprises from behavioral perspectives. As an emergent discipline, the topics of study in this field consist of behavioral decision making, human factors in economic and financial interactions, methodological issues relating to experimental observation, and survey research strategies used to better understand the social and economic behavior of the workforce, and how they affect the market and society at large. Moving beyond the traditional topics of risk perception, Bayesian reasoning, consumer behavior, social dilemmas, and group decision making, Chinese psychologists are involved in the emerging fields of neuroeconomics, the study of human and social cognitive bias study, and the study of overall economic changes in a country.

1.6 Forensic Psychology

In this field, topics of study include the causes leading to criminal acts, the classification of crimes, and theories of criminal acts. Some psychologists have studied the psychological formation of witness testimony and laid out the principles and methods of evidence collection. Other researchers study psychological principles in the judicial review system and the process of psychological correction in prisons.

2 Education and Training

  1. Top of page
  2. Research and Application
  3. Education and Training
  4. Organizations
  5. Challenge and Prospects
  6. References

Education and training in psychology are being carried out in universities, research institutions, correspondence schools, vocational schools, and continuing education systems. The number of students majoring in psychology has increased dramatically in recent years; in 2007, the total enrollment for undergraduate students in psychology reached 43,976 with another 6,430 studying for a master's degree and another 929 students studying for the PhD degrees. Correspondence schools and continuing education institutions offer psychology courses to people who wish to update their knowledge or obtain higher education certificates, such as an MBA. Vocational schools train young students and adults for licenses in psychology. All these schools have contributed to expanding the training of psychologists and psychological practitioners to meet the needs of society.

3 Organizations

  1. Top of page
  2. Research and Application
  3. Education and Training
  4. Organizations
  5. Challenge and Prospects
  6. References

The Chinese Psychological Society (CPS), which is under the Chinese Association of Science and Technology, is a national organization for Chinese psychologists. It has more than 7,000 members, and currently publishes two journals: Acta Psychologica Sinica and Psychological Science. All provinces and autonomous regions, including Tibet, have their own local psychological societies, which are affiliated with CPS. In addition to CPS there are three other psychology organizations: the Chinese Associations of Mental Health (12,000 members), the Chinese Society of Social Psychology (2,000 members), and the Chinese Ergonomic Society (500 members). CPS became a national member of the International Union of Psychological Science in 1981. In 2004, the Chinese Psychological Society hosted the 28th International Congress of Psychology in Beijing.

4 Challenge and Prospects

  1. Top of page
  2. Research and Application
  3. Education and Training
  4. Organizations
  5. Challenge and Prospects
  6. References

The developments of Chinese psychology in the last century has paved the way for its future development both as a science and as a profession. With the economic boom taking place in China, the rapid social and economic transitions in a modern society produce both challenges and problems for psychological science. The fields most readily affected are population, education, mental health, social stability, and the solution of conflicts between a global culture and China's traditional culture. Recently, the Chinese government called for building a harmonious society; this policy has made the development of human well-being a major task for psychologists. These challenges have also provided psychology with new opportunities for its development and opened up a broad scope for its utilization. The coming years will see an increasing number of young Chinese psychologists and many new achievements in psychological science. As evidenced by China's modernization process, Chinese psychologists will incorporate traditions and culture, thus making distinctive Chinese contributions to world psychology in the twenty-first century.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Research and Application
  3. Education and Training
  4. Organizations
  5. Challenge and Prospects
  6. References
  • Chinese Psychological Society. (2008). Report on Advances in Psychology (2006–2007). Beijing: Chinese Science and Technology Press.
  • Yufang Yang (2004). Advances in Psychology in China. In M. J. Stevens and D. Wedding (Eds.), Handbook of International Psychology (2nd ed.). (pp.179192). New York: Hove, Taylor, & Brunner-Routledge, Francis Group.