Introduction to Psychology: Key Psychologists and Theories

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud explored the human mind more thoroughly than any other who became before him. And His is known as the Father of Psychology.

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His contribution to psychology are big. In 20th century, Sigmund Freud is the one of the most influential people. Besides his contribution to psychology, people are also influenced on his art and literature and even the way they bring out their children.

Words like neurotic, denial, Freudian Slip, libido, anal(personality) and cathartic that used by people now’s a day was introduced by Sigmund Freud.

Besides that , Sigmund Freud also known as Father of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a treating method for mental illness and. Besides, psychoanalysis can also known as a theory to get know of human behaviour. During the process of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud encourage his client to sit on his couch and talk something related to their symptoms and what was in their in their mind.

The Case of Anna O

Bertha Pappenheim as known as Anna O. Sigmund Freud has met his turning point in this cases of Anna O. Psychology today is also influenced by the case of Anna O. Anna is a people who suffered from hysteria. A person who suffered from hysteria will exhibits paralysis, convulse, hallucinate and loss of speech without apparent physical causes. Josef Breuer the doctor of Anna and also the friend of Sigmund Freud, the one who succeed in treating anna by helping her to recall her memories of traumatic events. Josef has discussed this case with Freud and out of these discussion came of germ of an idea that Freud was to pursue to his life. In [Studies in Hysteria, 1895 Freud] proposed that physical symptoms are often the surface manifestations of deeply repressed conflicts. Freud has advancing on explanation of a particular illness and also proposing a revolutionary new theory of human psyche itself. This theory shows a ‘bit by bit’ as a result of Freud’s clinical investigations and it led him to propose that there were at least 3 levels to the mind.

The Psyche

Freud (1923) later developed a more structural model of the mind comprising the entities id, ego and superego (what Freud called “the psychic apparatus”). These are hypothetical conceptualizations of important mental functions.

The id operated as unconscious level according to pleasure level. These id contains two biological instincts or dives. And Freud called it as Eros and Thanatos.

Eros, or life instinct, helps the individual to survive; it directs life-sustaining activities such as respiration, eating and sex (Freud, 1925). In contrast, Thanatos or death instinct, is viewed as a set of destructive forces present in all human beings (Freud, 1920).

Dream Analysis

(Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams) considered dreams to be the ‘royal road to the unconscious’ as it is in dreams that the ego’s defenses are lowered so that some of the repressed material comes through to awareness, albeit in distorted form.

Dream Analysis involves the manifest content into trustful content. Understand the step various distorting will helps to understand the latent meaning of dream.

Condensation is a process of combination of two or more idea/images into one. A dream about a car might be condensation of worries about the security of car. When we transform something or someone we really concern about to someone else is where Displacement take place. For example, there are a patient of Freud who hated Freud’s sister in law and always used to refer to her as a dog and this patient dreamed of killing a dog. Sigmund Freud interpreting this as represent the wish of killing of his sister in law.

When the unconscious mind strings together wish-fulfilling images in a logical order of events further obscuring the latent content will causes Second Elaboration.

WILLIAM JAMES (1842-1910)

William James, one of the famous contributor for us in psychology. He born in January 11, 1842 in New York City. His father , Henry James Sr who is very interested in philosophy and theology eager to provide a good study environment to his children. William James and his brothers had gone to Europe frequently. William James and his brother had attended a lot of famous school and immersed with culture and art. At the end William James became one of the important psychologist. While his brother Henry James became on of the famous author. Before William James started his study in Harvard, he told his father what he actually interested in. In the earlier state William wanted to be a painter. After he persisted his father, Henry promised his son to study painting. However, William James gave up his ambition to became a painter after studying few years with the artist William Morris Hunt and started his new life in Harvard with Chemistry. Suffering from a lot of stress, he continued his study in France and Germany.William James had a new friend, name Hermann von Helmholtz who focused on illusion.This was the time where William James became gradually interested in psychology. William James got his M.D. from Harvard and started teaching psychology at Harvard. In 1890 William James had his first book which is ‘The Principle Of Psychology’ followed by ‘Will To Believe’ and ‘Pragmatism’. (James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Henry Holt and Co.; James, W. (1902))

William James had came out with some theory like Functionalism and James-Lange Theory of Emotion. He believed that the mind has the function of helping us adapt to the environment and human behavior was influenced by the evolution. Human acquire their behavior distinguish them from others species. This approach is called functionalism and is focus on adaptive purpose. For example, Darwin’s finches illustrated the interaction between genes and adaptation to the environment. The different species originated from common genes but their beak change in time for adaption in different places and different food supply. Another theory is James-Lange Theory of Emotion. William James had a same thinking as Carl Georg Lange. Carl Georg Lange (December 4, 1834 – May 29, 1900) was a Danish physician who made contributions to the fields of neurology,psychiatry, and psychology. At the same time , Carl Lange was also writting about emotion similar to William James. Based on this theory, an external stimulus cause psychological effect. Our reaction based on how we interpret those physical reactions.

For examaple, when we see a lion suddenly appear in front of us, our heart bit will increase and we will breath faster, then we will start being affraid.

Introduction of Wilhelm Wundt

Wilhelm Wundt, 1832-1920. Wundt is credited with making psychology an independent science, separate from philosophy. Wundt original training was in medicine, but he became deeply interested in psychology. In his laboratory, Wundt investigated how sensations, images, and feelings combine to build personal experience.

Wilhelm Wundt is commonly identified as the father of psychology. It is because Wundt’s formation of the world’s first experimental psychology lab is noted as the official head of psychology as a clearly perceptible science. Wundt take psychology from philosophy and biology to make it a field of study.

Wilhelm Wundt granted a degree in medicine from the University of Heidelberg. In 1864, Wundt became an associate professor and independent tutor at the University of Heidelberg, and was promoted in 1871.

Wundt had published the Principles of Physiological Psychology (1874), which help to establish experimental procedures psychological research. Wundt founded what is considered to be the first psychology laboratory in Leipzig, Germany in 1879. He used the technique known as introspection to probe the perceptual processed of his experimental subjects.His approach was called structuralism as he focused on the elements or structure of mental processes.


Structuralism refers to a theory of consciousness. Structuralism describes the structures that compose the mind. Wundt believed that psychology was the science of intentional experience and professional observers could precisely describe thoughts, feelings, and emotions through introspection.

Contributions to Psychology:

Wilhelm Wundt is known for establish the first psychology lab in Liepzig (Germany) generally titled as the beginning of psychology as a field of social science divide from philosophy and physiology. In addition, Wundt had published the psychology journal Philosophical Studies.

Wundt had also his students who become successful psychologists. For example, Edward Titchener, Hugo Munsterberg, G. Stanley Hall, James McKeen Cattell, Charles Spearman, Charles Judd.

Contributions to psychology

Margaret Washburn was the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in psychology, in 1894. Over the next 15 years many woman followed her pioneering lead. Nowadays, more than half of the members of the APA are woman and nearly 75 percent of college graduates in psychology have been women. Obviously, psychology has become fully open to both men and women (Hyde, 2004).

Being a psychologist, Washburn published in the areas of perception and imagery. She also developed a motor theory of consciousness, and she is still best known for her work in comparative psychology, (Goodwin, 2008, p. 200). The book The Animal Mind which was published in 1908 focused on research that used scientific data. This work was focused on the cognitive processes of perception, attention, and consciousness, as the behaviors of various species exhibited, (Goodwin, 2008). This book later became a textbook on comparative psychology. Now it is still in circulation.

In 1916 Margaret wrote her another book, Movement and mental imagery. This book focused on movement, existing as the ultimate fact of science, and mental imagery, the world of imaginary objects, (Washburn, 1916). In the introduction to the book Movement and Mental imagery Washburn writes “ movements which an animal makes are belong to the world of external observation; they have direction, they have velocity and they are complex movements. An investigator like Professor Loeb can entertain the confident hope that science will someday be able to show their relations to the movements of lifeless things,” (Washburn, 1916, para.4). She wowed an all men’s Wittenberg seminar with her theory on dualistic motor functioning in 1927. Recognition was being received by her from the science circles that draw women out previously. This positive outlook in science was a contribution to help her became the president of the American Psychological Association (1922). She was the second woman to hold this title. Later she was appointed a membership in the National Academy of Science, again in 1931. She was also the second woman to do so.

So the conclusion is, Margaret Floy Washburn was truly a dynamo of psychology. She loved science and the study of the mind with such a passion. This passion made her to accomplish much in her life span. Her career lasted from 1894-1937. Financial status and skin color of Margaret allowed her in doors of experimental psychological word mainly shut to women and people of color. Margaret died from stroke in Poughkeepsie, New York, on October 29, 1939. The psychological world is indebted to her hard work, her dedication, and her contributions to psychology. She is a good contributor of psychology. She will continue to inspire women and men interested in the science of psychology.

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