1 Psychology as a Science

History of Psychology

  1. Alfred H. Fuchs PhD1,
  2. Rand B. Evans PhD2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop201003

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Fuchs, A. H. and Evans, R. B. 2012. Psychology as a Science. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 1:1.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Psychology, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, USA

  2. 2

    East Carolina University, Department of Psychology, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


A scientific psychology emerged from the intellectual awakenings of the Reformation of the 16th century and of the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. The methods of the science of that era emphasized observation, classification of phenomena, and induction; in the 19th century, psychologists adapted laboratory experiments to the study of mind. The laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt, founded in 1879 at the University of Leipzig, symbolized the new psychology. Experimental methods of physiology and psychophysics were employed to pursue traditional philosophical questions about mental life. Early laboratory experiments measured the time course of mental operations, sensory thresholds, the span of attention, and, in time, more complex cognitive processes. Introspection under controlled laboratory conditions replaced philosophical introspection of conscious experience, but its importance waned as the emphasis shifted to more measurable aspects of behavior. Psychologists came to embrace a wider range of normal and abnormal mental and behavioral phenomena in adults, children, and animals. Over time, the definition of the psychological experiment, the methods appropriate to it, and the statistical treatment of data changed to meet evolving conceptions of scientific psychology and the diverse subject matter that contemporary psychology came to encompass. Technological advances, such as the computer and neural-imaging techniques, have influenced the possibilities of research and have helped to advance research in cognition, neuroscience, and the rapidly developing field of cognitive neuroscience.


  • experimental psychology;
  • systems of psychology;
  • Ramism;
  • introspection;
  • British empiricism;
  • associationism