History of Psychology

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by Belen Micklas            

During my time at Southwestern University, I have been able to be enrolled in many wonderful classes. Each course has been extremely unique and worthwhile. In the course entitled, Popularizing Science, we study the history of science and how many aspects of it have progressed greatly. We learn just how important science is to society as well as the past, present, and future. The goal of this class is to learn about how it affects the world. Southwestern University is just one of the many unique places where history changes constantly. Countless people have seen Southwestern’s growth throughout the years which allows for much research to be done. Due to the Special Collections department in the library, historians have been able to keep very valuable items in tack. These items include old article clippings, lectures, clothing, and even course catalogs from the beginning of the school's establishment. Many of the following sources are from Special Collections as well as scholarly articles and books. The goal of this paper is to display how I as a student can display the changing concepts of psychology by showing past items and explaining the significance of their change throughout the decades at Southwestern University.

Throughout the past weeks, I have been able to collect many different forms of data and historical records about Southwestern University. The focus of my research has been the progression of the psychology department throughout the decades. My passion for this comes from the fact that I intend to major in psychology. Psychology has always been a subject of interest. As many people have learned, psychology can be applied in mostly any situation, which truly makes it one of the most diverse subjects. There are many concepts and theories that can be implemented in daily life. This is so essential that Southwestern University decided to introduce it as a major and minor. During the mid-1900s, Southwestern created the first psychology course [1]. In the beginning, it was slowly implemented into the education department. Some of the classes that involved psychology include “principles of education”, “school management”, “educational psychology” and “educational sociology”. This knowledge is found from a Southwestern University course catalog. During that time the professor of psychology was Oscar A. Ullrich.[2] Due to the fact that those were the beginning classes the full implementation of psychology was brief yet impactful. The

The class “Principles of Education” in the mid-1900s at Southwestern University, hoped to discuss the psychological, administrative, and social phases of education. By implementing psychology into this class they were able to see the different ways of handling situations that come regularly in schools. Because there is such a diverse amount of ages in school, it is key to learn how to deal with certain situations within that age group. Another class mentioned was “School Management”, which focused on the discussion of the responsibilities and problems involved in the management of schools and how they are treated. This also goes along the lines of how important psychology is. Secondly, “Educational Sociology” was a course of interest because this class discusses the training of social efficiency and the gradual changes in the demands made upon school due to present social conditions and the principal lines of thought pursued. Finally, the educational psychology class is split into two parts. An introductory course in psychology was the beginning and their students would study lecture readings and have plenty of discussions with Professor Davidson. As for part two in educational psychology, topics discussed were the original laws of learning, individual differences, and the relation to education. Two of the texts that they read were Thorndike's “Educational Psychology'' and Colvin’s “The Learning Process”. All of these courses were explained in the Southwestern University catalog in Special Collections.

Furthermore, I was fortunate enough to find a test from a psychology test entitled “Psychology 331” from Special Collections.[3] This test was really helpful because he gave me an insight into the types of questions that teachers would ask the students as well as the different levels that the students were expected to know about psychology. Here we are able to see the most relevant topics that the psychology department is teaching Southwestern students. This test was given in a way that a student must answer a question as true false but they also implemented basic knowledge questions as well as more psychological questions. This allowed for a good sense of variety as well as implementing the key values of the psychology course. An example of a true or false question is “the bee knows by instinct how to construct the honeycomb”. The next question is “the psychologist objects to you regarding flight from danger as belonging to an instinct of self-preservation because it is illogical to regard it so“. The diverse examples allow students to not just consider psychological terms or methods that were taught in class but apply them to real-life situations that they may or may not know. There are countless more tests with these same ideas. To explain this more, an example of another question on a different psychology exam was “mixing blue and yellow pigments gives green”. If anyone has ever taken an art class, they would know that the same is true but if you had not taken a psychology class before this the next question will be challenging. It states “Taste shows more sensory adaptation and smell”. In psychology for an introductory class, you learn a lot about the senses. I know because I took an introduction to psychology last semester. A test example includes a question such as “Why is depth perception critical to a person”? It is good to see how the test from the mid-1900s to now has changed but yet say the same. We are still learning the key elements of psychology but implementing it into our tests and quizzes in different ways.

 In the United States in the 1970s, the beginnings of development psychology came into light.[4] This subfield of psychology focuses on explaining growth through the lifespan. It includes thinking, feeling, and behavior change. One of the many reasons it grew was because of Robert Hinde's publication of “Biological Bases of Human Social Behavior”, a text in etiological-oriented developmental psychology. At Southwestern during the mid-70s, a lecture came entitled “Behavior Modification in Public Schools Clinic Settings”. This lecture took place on March 30, 1974. This particular lecture was brought here because of its importance in understanding the development of children in public school clinic settings. There are many instances where it is difficult to find a direct problem with a person, but with the helpful methods of developmental psychology, people can get a helpful insight as to how to control a rough situation. College is still a time where adolescents are growing and developing. By having this lecture come, specialists can direct the specific advice for the age range at Southwestern. 

Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and mental processes. This existed in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greek.[5] In the beginning, it was a branch of philosophy but eventually was broken down into an independent branch in the late 1800s. Psychology has been able to be diversified into many different subjects. For example, a business person could use psychology with human resources. The key values and concepts of psychology would help greatly in dealing with certain situations in a work environment.

Today at Southwestern there are many different psychology groups on campus. There is psychology tutoring, a psychology club where you get together and do research, as well as a bunch of different research labs and activities that even non-majors can participate in. Those are just a few of the many different ways that knowledge is being communicated at Southwestern. By coming up with events, spreading  awareness, and allowing specialists to come to campus to discuss certain topics with students, it is beneficial to everyone. All events that come to Southwestern to the psychology program are wonderful and allow anyone to visit whether it’s non-majors and even the public. Science will continue to grow and develop and it is key that people stay up-to-date with things because it could help us in the future in ways that we could not imagine today. The branch of psychology at Southwestern University continues to do such things and as students, it is important to implement ourselves in the opportunities given to us.

Honor Code: “I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not.”

Belen Micklas


  1. “In Search of Psychology.” From Soul to Mind: The Emergence of Psychology, from Erasmus Darwin to William James, by Edward S. Reed, Yale University Press, 1997, pp. 1–21. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bjtm.4. Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.
  2. Greenfield, Patricia M. “The Changing Psychology of Culture From 1800 Through 2000.” Psychological Science, vol. 24, no. 9, 2013, pp. 1722–1731. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23484672. Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.
  3. Oscar A. Ullrich, Psychology Department, Faculty, Special Collections
  4. Course Catalog, early 1900’s, Psychology Department, Special Collections
  5. Psychology 331, True or False Test, Page 2 and 7, Psychology Department, Special Collections

[1] Psychology 331, True or False Test, Page 2 and 7, Psychology Department, Special Collections

[2] Oscar A. Ullrich, Psychology Department, Faculty, Special Collections

[3] Psychology 331, True or False Test, Page 2 and 7, Psychology Department, Special Collections

[4] Greenfield, Patricia M. “The Changing Psychology of Culture From 1800 Through 2000.” Psychological Science

[5] “In Search of Psychology.” From Soul to Mind: The Emergence of Psychology, from Erasmus Darwin to William James