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Prescientific Psychology: Research Proposal Term Paper

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Updated: Apr 28th, 2021

Nowadays, the history of psychology is being studied to enhance students’ understanding of the subject (Barnes & Greer, 2014). However, research in the field has been growing less popular in the past few years (Barnes & Greer, 2014; Pettit & Davidson, 2014). As a reflection of scientists’ attempts to evaluate and recognize the connection between history and psychology, I intend to write a term paper on one of the topics to be found at their intersection: prescientific psychology.

It is believed that scientific psychology was born in 1879 with the establishment of a psychology laboratory by Wilheim Wundt (Myers, 2011, p. 3). However, even before that date, human beings were interested in self-understanding. The first scientific (or near-scientific) experiment was carried out in Egypt in the seventh century BC by King Psamtik, who hoped to identify the most ancient civilization by preventing two children from hearing human speech and waiting for them to recreate the first language in the world (Hunt, 2009).

Naturally, the experiment was based on the wrong assumption of the innate knowledge of the human language, but the fact that the king came up with a hypothesis and a way to test it shows that attempts at developing the science of psychology had been made long before the nineteenth century.

The idea of prescientific psychology implies that people have always tried to learn more about our inner workings. Ancient Greece is probably most famous for its philosophers who attempted to answer numerous questions, seeking to learn about the workings of the mind, body, knowledge, memory, and other psychology-related topics. For example, Socrates and Plato used their logic to find answers, and promoted the idea of innate knowledge and remembering.

Aristotle, on the other hand, was more interested in evidence, which makes him a forerunner of modern scientists and the scientific method (Myers, 2011). As a result, he was opposed to the notion of knowledge being remembered; instead, he considered it to be the aggregation of our experience. There were many other notable contributors, including Protagoras and Democritus with their ideas of perception, and Hippocrates with his study of mental dysfunction (Hunt, 2009).

The Middle Ages might be described as the Dark Ages for psychology, and the discoveries of the time were not especially numerous. However, between the 16th century, marked by the creation of the term “psychology,” and the 18th century, when the term was redefined to suit its new scientific focus, psychology was advanced by insightful, inquisitive people like Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, and John Locke (Vidal & Brown, 2011). From these examples, we can see that the study of prescientific psychology is an avenue for demonstrating its roots and explaining the processes involved in the development of this science.

A better understanding is one of the reasons for the study of the history of sciences. Historiography is a means of reviewing, appreciating, and reconsidering the landmarks of a scientific discipline (Wertz, 2014). The historiography shows the patterns of the discipline’s development and allows unifying the fragmented achievements into a whole (Danziger, 2013). Some might argue that prescientific psychology does not exactly belong to the history of science. There appears to be a debate over the question. For example, Wertz (2014) in carrying out a study of qualitative inquiry in the history of psychology does not consider the prescientific stage and does not search for the roots of the scientific method in it. Robinson (2013), on the other hand, vehemently advocates for the study of the roots of psychology as a part of its historiography.

Danziger (2013) endeavors to find a balance, distinguishing between the history of psychology and the historiography in psychology, indicating that the former should dwell on the history of the science while the latter describes the history of events related to psychology. My study of prescientific psychology can provide me with an insight into the reasons behind these stances, that I might form my opinion on the issue, which would enhance my understanding of different views of the term and related concepts.


Barnes, M. E., & Greer, S. (2014). Does the future have a history of psychology? A report on teaching, research, and faculty positions in canadian universities. History of Psychology, 17(2), 159-169. Web.

Danziger, K. (2013). Psychology and its history. Theory & Psychology, 23(6), 829-839. Web.

Hunt, M. (2009). The story of psychology. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Myers, D. (2011). Myers’ psychology for AP. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Pettit, M. & Davidson, I. (2014). Can the history of psychology have an impact? Theory & Psychology, 24(5), 709-716. Web.

Robinson, D. (2013). Historiography in psychology: A note on ignorance. Theory & Psychology, 23(6), 819-828. Web.

Vidal, F. & Brown, S. (2011). The sciences of the soul. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Wertz, F. J. (2014). Qualitative inquiry in the history of psychology. Qualitative Psychology, 1(1), 4-16. Web.

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