History and Philosophy of Modern Psychology

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PSYC 3308
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course examines the development of modern psychology from its founding to the present. Attention will be paid to the work of philosophers, physiologists, and physicists of the 17th to 19th centuries who influenced the beginnings of psychology in the late 19th century. The growth of psychology will be traced from its early focus on the study of sensation and human conscious experience, through the proliferation of schools, up to today’s diverse and complex discipline.
Course Content
  1. The Study of the History of Psychology
    • Overview
    • Evolution of psychology: the ancient world to the present
    • Schools of thought: important landmarks
    • Major issues in psychology (mind/body, nature/nurture)
  2. Philosophical Influences on Psychology
    • The beginnings of modern science.  Rene Descartes: the mind/body issue
    • British empiricism and associationism.  Knowledge through experience: John Locke, George            Berkeley, David Hume, David Hartley, James Mill
    • Contributions of empiricism
  3. Physiological Influence on Psychology
    • Development of early physiology
    • The beginnings of experimental psychology: Helmholtz, Weber, Fechner
    • The formal founding of the new science
  4. The New Psychology
    • Wilhelm Wundt
      • The nature of conscious experience
      • The method of introspection
      • The elements of experience
      • Research topics at Leipzig
    • Other early psychologists: Ebbinghaus, Muller, Brentano, Stumpf, Kulpa  
  5. Structuralism
    • Titchener
      • The content of conscious experience
      • The method of study: introspection
      • Elements of consciousness
    • The fate of structuralism
      • Criticisms and contributions
  6. Functionalism
    • Antecedent Influences
      • Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton
      • Animal psychology
    • American Pioneers
      • Spencer, James, Hall, Cattell
    • Formal Development
      • The Chicago School
      • Dewey, Angell, Carr
      • Columbia University
      • R. S. Woodsworth
    • Criticisms and contributions of functionalism
  7. Behaviourism
    • Antecedent Influences
      • Animal psychology
      • Thorndike, Pavlov, Bekhterev
    • The Influence of Functionalism
      • Forming the bridge between structuralism and behaviour
    • The Founding of Behaviourism
      • John B. Watson
      • Methods
      • Subject matter
      • Criticism and contributions of Watsonian behaviourism
  8. Gestalt Psychology
    • Antecedent influences
    • Founding of Gestalt psychology: Wertheimer, Koffka, Kohler
      • Principles of perceptual organization
      • Principles of learning and isomorphism
      • The mentality of apes
      • Kurt Lewin
    • Contributions
  9. Psychoanalysis
    • Antecedent influences
      • Early theories of the unconscious
    • Sigmund Freud
      • Therapy
      • Research
      • Theory of personality
      • Stages of development
    • Criticisms and contributions
    • Dissenters and Descendants
      • Jung, Adler, Horney, Allport, Murray, Erikson
  10. Recent Development in Psychology
    • Applied psychology
      • Psychology testing
      • Industrial/organizational psychology
      • Clinical psychology
    • Women in the history of psychology
      • Hollingsworth, Washburn, Calkins, Zeigarnik, Anna Freud, Horney
    • Humanistic psychology: The third force
      • Maslow, Rogers
      • Humanistic psychotherapies
    • The cognitive movement in psychology
      • Influence of the Zeitgeist
      • Role of computers and artificial intelligence


Learning Activities

The course will involve a number of instructional methods, such as the following:


  1. Lectures, audio visual presentations and demonstrations.
  2. Structured student presentations.
  3. Small group discussion on assigned topics.


Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be in accordance with Douglas College and Psychology Department Policy.  Evaluations will be based on the course objectives.  Specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Five quizzes 50%
Term paper 20%
Oral presentation 5%
Seminar attendance and participation 5%
Final exam 20%
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:


  1. List the major influential figures in the history of modern psychology and describe their contributions to the development of psychology.
  2. Discuss the philosophical and scientific origins of research methodology and theoretical formulations in  contemporary psychology and critically analyze the underlying assumptions.
  3. Explain how present day psychology became such a diverse and complex discipline.  List the major perspectives that exist in psychology today and analyze their philosophical and historical origins.
  4. List, discuss and critically analyze major issues in psychology (eg. The mind/body issue, free will/determinism, nature/nurture, objectivity/subjectivity) and explain how past and present psychologists have dealt with these issues.
  5. Discuss the relative merits of the personalistic and naturalistic (or Zeitgeist) approaches to the study of history and more specifically the history of psychology.
  6. Describe the major schools that have evolved in the history of psychology, name their main leader of proponents and discuss the criticisms and contributions to psychology of each school.
  7. Demonstrate an ability to research a relevant topic in the history of psychology and organize and present the information in a systematic and coherent manner.


Textbook Materials

Textbook(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

Benjamin, L.T., Jr. (2009). A history of psychology: Original sources and contemporary research (5th Ed.). Oxford, England:






No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PSYC 3308
Camosun College (CAMO) CAMO PSYC 210 (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU PSYC 303 (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PSYC 2413 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PSYC 2XX (3) & SFU PSYC 308 (0)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PSYC 3240 (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PSYC 409 (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO PSYO 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PSYC 2XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PSYC 408 (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PSYC 210 (1.5)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023