It won’t be incorrect to state that a human being is a complex specie at so many levels but mostly due to the fact that we are an intelligent specie having the ability to think and make decisions. Many believe what keeps us going is our sound bodily health, while it might be true the role of our mental health in our well-being shouldn’t be underestimated and neglected. To study human mind and learn its many mysterious, an academic discipline came into being called psychology. This field of science is dedicated to studying human behavior and mental processes. A person possessing a doctorate in psychology is called a psychologist in the most limited sense of the term. He is endowed with the responsibility to evaluate, diagnose, treat and study mental processes.
The true essence of psychology like human mind can’t be captured merely through definitions and its scope. Its diversity is so vast it can only be approached through its historical perspective. In particular psychology can be explored by taking a look at some of the most ingenious minds in this field. Each thinker brought novelty and distinct voice to this area of science. A report published in 2002, Review of General Psychology, enlisted the names of some of the leading and most powerful psychologists of all time. These psychologists made incredible discoveries about human behavior and provided insightful information.
One of the most eminent and formidable Austrian psychologists was Sigmund Freud (1856) known for his uncanny methods and observations. He was the first qualified doctor of medicine and founding father of psychoanalysis. It was a clinical method applied for treating the patient of psychopathology through dialogue between the patient and the professional. Freud’s name is closely associated to psychology, it almost appears to be synonymous given his contribution to the field. He maintained that most mental illnesses are embedded in physical health issues and external factors like culture play a significant role in this regard as well. He is credited for exploring and expanding our knowledge of clinical psychology, abnormal psychology, personality and human development.
Another chief figure in the field of psychology was a Russian physiologist and psychologist, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849). He is recognized for his Classical Conditioning Theory which demonstrate how a subject can be conditioned to perform certain tasks after several trials. He contributed to the Transmarginal Inhibition theory and Behaviour Modification. He received his education from St Petersburg and was primarily a physiologist. Pavlovian conditioning method is still found relevant in this age to treat phobias among other mental conditions.
One American psychologist who left a profound imprint on psychology was Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904), also known as B. F. Skinner. His name is associated with behaviourism theory which he presented and called it ‘Radical Behaviourism’. According to him, the notion that an individual possesses free will is merely an illusion. He was a strong proponent of conditioning because he believed that all human actions are based on a pattern followed by favourable or unpleasant stimuli which leads to conditioning. His theory was an echo of Pavlovian conditioning but it was slightly more developed. Besides Operant Conditioning, Skinner was also recognized for Cumulative Recorder.
A Swiss clinical psychologist, Jean Piaget (1896), was best known for his valuable contribution in child development. Besides, he was a genetic epistemologist as well. His work in the development of the theory of cognitive development is indispensable to modern psychology which deals with several intellectual development stages of a childhood. Before him no one brought to light the fact that there are crucial points of difference between the way children perceive the world and adults do. Cognitive development theory led to the emergence of subfield within psychology and this step revolutionized the domain of education as well. Piaget pioneered another remarkable theory that states that people construct their own reality based on their knowledge and interaction of experiences with their idea. This theory is commonly known as Constructivist Theory.
American psychologist known for laying the foundation of humanistic approach to psychology, Carl Rogers (1902) was an illustrious figure in the field of psychology. He is credited for immensely contributing to both psychology and education with his psychotherapy. His renowned and influential ‘Rogerian Therapy’ also reflects the humanitarian side of him. William James was another such multifaceted American psychologist (1842). In addition to being a psychologist he was a trained physician and a philosopher as well. He is also credited for formally introducing psychology as an independent course in academic studies of America for the first time. Hence, he is often referred to as the father of American psychology. He wrote a lengthy treatise, entitled The Principles of Psychology, on the subject establishing and cementing psychology’s position as a science. His other areas of expertise were pragmatism and functionalism. Moreover, he was the brother of the celebrated American author Henry James and Alice James.
Developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson (1902) was an influential figure in the area of psychosocial development of homo-sapiens. He was an American psychologist with German roots. Erikson is also recognized for coining the now famous phrase ‘identity crisis.’ Unlike other psychologists, his primary focus was not associating childhood development with one’s identity. Instead, the focal point of his observation was the social influences and how they shape one’s personality. His theory show a clear-cut shift from nature to nurture as a fundamental developmental factor of human personality.
Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (1896) was an illustrious and leading twentieth century Russian psychologist. He is primarily recognized for presenting a sociocultural theory. He was a contemporary to many pre-eminent psychologists including Freud, Pavlov, Piaget and Skinner. Surprisingly enough he was recognized posthumously for his work, unlike his contemporaries who achieved fame and success in their lifetimes. Historians believe that was because most of his work composed in Russian remained inaccessible to the mainstream journals and scientific societies until late twentieth century it was translated. Vygotsky saw social interaction of children as a crucial factor in their learning. He acknowledged the essential role of culture that enormously influences the learning process as well. Guided learning, imitation and collaborative learning are some of the fundamental aspects of the theory that Vygotsky presented.
Aforementioned psychologists are some of the most noteworthy and celebrated figures in the history for their valuable contribution to the field of psychology. There work is indispensable to understanding human behavior and to treat some of the most traumatic and distressing mental illnesses.