Topics in the History of Psychology - Vol. 1

Topics in the History of Psychology - Vol. 1

Topics in the History of Psychology - Vol. 1

Topics in the History of Psychology - Vol. 1

Excerpt

In writing the history of any field of inquiry, there are two important decisions to make: where in time to begin and where to end. At one end of the time scale, speculations about psychological processes go back to classical Greek philosophy and beyond. For centuries thereafter, the treatment of psychological subject matter remained largely in the domain of other disciplines, especially philosophy, where it became inextricably interwoven with epistemology. The chapters of this book tend to glance only briefly at these philosophical antecedents, to review the basic concepts and principles that early investigators were to take for granted. They tend then to move to the end of the last century when the systematic study of psychological processes began.

At the other end of the time scale, every subfield of psychology has been undergoing extremely rapid growth and change, especially during the last two decades. Before that, there had been a fairly gradual evolution of experimental methods, theoretical concepts, and empirical issues. More recently, however, the dominant trends in the field have changed significantly as new approaches gained ascendency. These developments were accompanied by an explosive spurt in new research. Even when the substantive problems remained the same, they were often reformulated, described in a new language, and attacked by new methods. How the old concepts and methods relate to the new is a topic of continuing debate, and sometimes controversy.

A great deal of what has been happening in the most recent years is still too new and controversial to be placed in historical perspective. As Boring wrote, "It is a nice question as to when the past becomes history, as to how old it needs to be before a first stable perspective of it can be limned" (1942, p. iii). The editors invited the contributors to these volumes to end their coverage at a point in time when their respective fields seemed to have been characterized by co-

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