Research Topic

History of Psychology as a Scientific Discipline

About this Research Topic

The scientific study of human psychology is between 100 and 150 years old, but has spawned numerous subdisciplines and was critical in the creation of interdisciplinary areas of inquiry, such as cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience. Psychology and the psychological research has become a fixture in people’s mindset, from making decisions at governmental or business level to understanding the best approaches to education and gaining life satisfaction.

This research topic will collate a volume of articles that address the history of psychology as a scientific discipline as viewed from methodological and cultural perspectives. We invite contributors to submit authoritative articles on aspects of:

The history of the scientific method in psychological science.

Psychology is a unique discipline in that its topic of inquiry is the individual and its interactions with the internal and external environment. Each psychological subdiscipline has developed a specific language and methodology for conducting research. These methods are reflective of what is constituted a valid dependent measure to address the theoretical construct under investigation. How did the method or methods evolve over time? Is there such a thing as the scientific method in psychology or is it better described as a toolbox with different methods?

The genesis and evolution of psychology in different cultures and in particular with the backdrop of any pre-existing philosophical climate.

Western philosophy and the way the mind-body problem was presented and discussed paved the way for a particular perspective to the investigation of psychology. Given the fundamental differences among global philosophies and religious belief systems, the emergence and evolution of psychology as a scientific discipline will have had its own idiosyncratic trajectory depending on the geographical region or dominating views on the psyche. How is the study of psychology influenced by geographical region, both in the past and current? What was the impact of cross-region communication or travel of key defining moments in the local history of psychology?

The perceived dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Early on in the genesis of Western psychology, introspection was seen as the only method to directly observe psychological processes. Yet, undergraduates are regularly taught that introspection is a nonscientific method, as it is subjective and not independently verifiable. As qualitative interpretative analyses typically deal with data on subjective experiences, the qualitative analytic approach is labelled as nonscientific by some in favour of the indirect quantitative method of neural recordings. Where did this dichotomy come from and is this a global phenomenon or merely a Western mindset? How did the early work on introspectionism evolve in more sophisticated qualitative methods we know today?

Philosophy of Psychological Science.

Many philosophers of science use examples from physics, chemistry and biology to construct their argument. This includes the famous correspondence principle which is firmly articulated around theories from physics. How is Psychological Science influenced by social aspects of the science, both through collaboration and opposition? Is the evolution of psychological theory comparable to theoretical evolutions in domains such as physics and chemistry? Is there truly a single discipline that can be called Psychological Science?

Apart from these higher level areas, we are also interested in the contributions entitled “The history and philosophy of X”, “The history of the scientific study of Y”, where X is a particular psychological subdiscipline (e.g., mathematical psychology) and Y a certain research area (e.g., human memory, emotion).

Finally, researchers may be aware of some interesting trivia about why a certain country is strong in a particular area or what the reason is that topic Z is only researched in this particular way. These trivia do not lend themselves for a full article. However, we are happy to collate these (acknowledging the contributor) and add them to the Research Topic.


Keywords: Psychological Science, History of Psychology, Psychological Method


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The scientific study of human psychology is between 100 and 150 years old, but has spawned numerous subdisciplines and was critical in the creation of interdisciplinary areas of inquiry, such as cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience. Psychology and the psychological research has become a fixture in people’s mindset, from making decisions at governmental or business level to understanding the best approaches to education and gaining life satisfaction.

This research topic will collate a volume of articles that address the history of psychology as a scientific discipline as viewed from methodological and cultural perspectives. We invite contributors to submit authoritative articles on aspects of:

The history of the scientific method in psychological science.

Psychology is a unique discipline in that its topic of inquiry is the individual and its interactions with the internal and external environment. Each psychological subdiscipline has developed a specific language and methodology for conducting research. These methods are reflective of what is constituted a valid dependent measure to address the theoretical construct under investigation. How did the method or methods evolve over time? Is there such a thing as the scientific method in psychology or is it better described as a toolbox with different methods?

The genesis and evolution of psychology in different cultures and in particular with the backdrop of any pre-existing philosophical climate.

Western philosophy and the way the mind-body problem was presented and discussed paved the way for a particular perspective to the investigation of psychology. Given the fundamental differences among global philosophies and religious belief systems, the emergence and evolution of psychology as a scientific discipline will have had its own idiosyncratic trajectory depending on the geographical region or dominating views on the psyche. How is the study of psychology influenced by geographical region, both in the past and current? What was the impact of cross-region communication or travel of key defining moments in the local history of psychology?

The perceived dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Early on in the genesis of Western psychology, introspection was seen as the only method to directly observe psychological processes. Yet, undergraduates are regularly taught that introspection is a nonscientific method, as it is subjective and not independently verifiable. As qualitative interpretative analyses typically deal with data on subjective experiences, the qualitative analytic approach is labelled as nonscientific by some in favour of the indirect quantitative method of neural recordings. Where did this dichotomy come from and is this a global phenomenon or merely a Western mindset? How did the early work on introspectionism evolve in more sophisticated qualitative methods we know today?

Philosophy of Psychological Science.

Many philosophers of science use examples from physics, chemistry and biology to construct their argument. This includes the famous correspondence principle which is firmly articulated around theories from physics. How is Psychological Science influenced by social aspects of the science, both through collaboration and opposition? Is the evolution of psychological theory comparable to theoretical evolutions in domains such as physics and chemistry? Is there truly a single discipline that can be called Psychological Science?

Apart from these higher level areas, we are also interested in the contributions entitled “The history and philosophy of X”, “The history of the scientific study of Y”, where X is a particular psychological subdiscipline (e.g., mathematical psychology) and Y a certain research area (e.g., human memory, emotion).

Finally, researchers may be aware of some interesting trivia about why a certain country is strong in a particular area or what the reason is that topic Z is only researched in this particular way. These trivia do not lend themselves for a full article. However, we are happy to collate these (acknowledging the contributor) and add them to the Research Topic.


Keywords: Psychological Science, History of Psychology, Psychological Method


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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01 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 June 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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