ORIGINS OF SCIENTIFIC psychology
Historical accounts of the development of scientific-psychology place the origins of the discipline in Germany at about the middle of the nineteenth century. The ferment produced by British and continental philosophies of mind and the advances of research in sensory physiology provided the immediate context for the beginning of the new psychology. The pursuit of knowledge about mind and its processes has a history that is embedded in the history of philosophy. The late-eighteenth-century declaration that a true scientific study of the mind was not possible posed a challenge that was answered in the nineteenth century when the possibility of a scientific study of mind emerged within philosophy by the adoption of the experimental methods employed to study the physiology of the senses. The synergy of these nineteenth century developments gave impetus to the “new psychology” whose history embodies continued efforts to develop and maintain psychology as a scientific discipline and to extend the methods of science to an ever-widening field of inquiry within the discipline.
The Philosophical Context
Christian Wolff (1679–1754) ﬁrst popularized the term psychology to designate the study of mind. Wolff divided the discipline between empirical and rational psychology. The data of mind that resulted from observing ourselves and others constituted empirical psychology; rational psychology referred to the interpretation of the data of empirical psychology through the use of reason and logic. These psychologies were characterized as using knowledge acquired through experience which Wolff called empirical psychology or using knowledge that the mind possesses independent of experience which Wolf referred to as rational psychology.
Immanuel Kant, a prominent psychologist in the 18th century, denied the validity of any rational psychology because, he argued, rational mental processes must be activated by mental content derived from experience;...