How did psychology evolve into a science?

How did psychology evolve into a science?

Origin & Evolution of Psychology

The science of Psychology has its roots in philosophy and religion. During the Age of Enlightenment Psychology began to distinguish itself from religion and philosophy. This differentiation with Psychology from religion and philosophy corresponds with the use of the scientific method and the growth of many sciences (Goodwin, 2008).

Psychology was rooted in examinations of the body and researchers started theorizing about the connections between the mind and body. Early researchers would create theories focused on showing connections between how the body moved and acted and how this action corresponded with the brain and nerves (Goodwin, 2008). As more researchers studied the connections between the mind and body, connections began being applied to behavior. This would slowly distinguish the field of psychology from anatomy and other fields (Goodwin, 2008).

The evolution of Psychology would lead to subfields study. These subfields would become the dominant fields study in Psychology including psychodynamics, behaviorism, and cognitive psychology (Goodwin, 2008). These schools offered independent views of how the mind and body worked. While each view offers a comprehensive view of human psychology none of them are fully complete.


Psychodynamics is a field of psychology which interprets human behavior and thinking based on internal relationships of separate areas of the mind. This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud and is one of the earliest theories of psychology which provides a means for understanding how and why humans behave as they do (Goodwin, 2008). Within this theory the mind is considered to be composed of three different areas known as the ID, Ego, Superego (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Each area of the mind performs a different function such as the ID being the primal emotional thinking while the Superego is the heightened controlling rational portion of the mind (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). These areas of the mind work together to create behavior and thought processes.


Behaviorism is another primary area of study in psychology which attempts to explain behavior through environmental forces (Goodwin, 2008). Behaviorism is founded in the idea that all human behavior is caused through what is known as classical and operant conditioning. Conditioning is a form of learning that occurs when a human is exposed to stimuli such as flame and learns to associate flame with danger or being injured (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the field of psychology which attempts to explaining behavior in terms of the mind being more like a computer. This theory of the mind emerged as the field of computer technology began to emerge (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). According to Cognitive Psychology the mind creates knowledge based on experience which it applies to other experience or knowledge (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).

Each of these theories provides a view of psychology that attempts to explain behavior and thought processes from different points of view. Each of these views takes into account different aspects of human behavior and touches on the concept of nature vs nurture. Nature vs nurture is the debate over how much thought and human behavior is driven either by environmental forces or by genetics or nature (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Since the inception of these theories this argument has been redefined:

…all behavior is the product of interactions among three factors: (1) the organism’s genetic endowment, which is a product of its evolution; (2) its experience; and (3) its perception of the current situation (Pinel, 2011).

Within this framework, nature and nurture are inseparable forces and therefore the idea of each being distinct or causal by themselves is no longer a valid theory. In this light, the all theories of psychology must take into account the idea that environment and genetics are inseparable. As such, the evolution of psychology continues to expand into more robust theories of human cognition and behavior that are multifactorial and multidiscipline.


Goodwin, C. J. (2008). A history of modern psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Pinel, J. P. (2011). Biopsychology, Eighth Edition. Boston, Mass: Allyn & Bacon. Pearson Education, Inc.

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Triola Vincent. Mon, Apr 05, 2021. How did psychology evolve into a science? Retrieved from

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