History, Philosophy and Systems of Psychology

Spring 2014


Dr. Linda M. Woolf

Office Hours:

  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. or email for an appointment.

  • 301 WH, Behavioral and Social Sciences Department.

  • Phone 246-6970 or 246-7062


Course Description:

A perusal of the various journals in psychology or an examination of any psychology conference schedule seems to suggest that psychology is a highly disjointed discipline. However, psychology is unified through its historical traditions and systems of thought. In this course, we will explore the roots of modern psychological thought and methodology. We will trace these roots from their origins in philosophy and the natural sciences through the early schools of psychology and on into its current form. In addition to learning about the major schools and systems of psychology (e. g., Functionalism, Structuralism, Gestalt, etc.), we will explore how cultural and political forces shaped the development of various psychological theories. We will also examine the lives and works of the men and women whose work created psychology's foundation. Through these explorations we will discover the common threads and patterns interwoven into the broad tapestry of psychology.

Course Objectives:

  1. Objective: To develop a basic understanding of the various processes of scientific development and change (e.g. paradigmatic theory, world hypotheses, Zeitgeist)

  2. Objective: To become familiar with the chronological history of ideas which has contributed to the field of psychology.

  3. Objective: To examine the historical context including political and cultural contexts within which the development of psychology as a discipline has taken place.

  4. Objective: To be able to place current psychological thought within that historical development and context.

  5. Objective: To recognize the role of women and people of color in the history of psychology, both as researchers and as subjects of research.

  6. Objective: To learn about the major figures and schools of thought in psychology's history.

  7. Objective: To be aware of the current changes occurring within psychology as a discipline and the history of some of the more recent subdisciplines within psychology.

  8. Objective: To critically evaluate and examine an individual or concept related to the history of psychology in more depth.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Outcome: Students will be able to discuss and contrast the various theories related to the manner in which changes occurs in the history of science (e.g. paradigmatic theory, world hypotheses, Zeitgeist)

  2. Outcome: Students will be able to outline and classify the history of major schools of psychology.

  3. Outcome: Students will be able to discuss and assess the historical context including political and cultural contexts within which the development of psychology as a discipline has taken place.

  4. Outcome: Students will be able identify and explain the place of current psychological thought within historical development and context.

  5. Outcome: Students will be able to discuss and interpret the role of women and people of color in the history of psychology, both as researchers and as subjects of research.

  6. Outcome: Students will be able to identify and compare the the major figures in psychology's history.

  7. Outcome: Students will become aware of the current changes occurring within psychology as a discipline and the history of some of the more recent subdisciplines within psychology. Students will be able to discuss and evaluate in depth the history of a single subdiscipline within the field of psychology.

  8. Outcome: Students will be able to present, in written format, and critically evaluate/examine an individual or concept related to the history of psychology in more depth.

Class Meetings:

The class will meet on Thursdays from 5:30 - 9:30. Attendance is expected as material will be presented that is not in the book.

Attendance Policy: As History, Philosophy, and Systems of Psychology is a required course and due to the concentrated nature of eight week format, students are expected to attend all classes and for the full class time. Students who miss more than two weeks of class (the whole class or part of class) will receive a failing grade for the course. Note that arriving 15 minutes late for class or leaving 15 minutes early will be counted as an absence for the week.

Incoming Competency:

All students should have completed 9 hours of psychology and should be capable of integrating and evaluating information, critical thinking, and writing at the 3000 level.

Course Requirements:

Three exams, a term paper, and a small group project.

All grades will be assigned on a scale of 0 - 100 with:

90 - 100A-,ASuperior Work
80 - 89B-,B,B+Good Work
70 - 79C-,C,C+Satisfactory Work
60 - 69D,D+Passing, but less than Satisfactory (not passing for the major)
Less than 60FFailing

Percent of Grade:

Term Paper15%
Group Project5%
Class Participation/Discussion5%

Examinations: Examination format will include multiple choice, short answer, matching, and essay. They will cover material presented in lecture, readings, and discussion. Three examinations will be given. Each exam will constitute 25% of your final grade.

POLICY STATEMENTS: All exams must be taken on the date scheduled except in case of an emergency. In case of the above, the instructor must be notified in advance that a test is going to be missed. No make-up exams will be provided if you fail to notify and discuss your situation with the instructor. No extra credit work will be made available to make-up for a poor test grade.

Term Paper: Students will be required to write a term paper of 7-10 pages (approximately 2300 to 3000 words). The purpose of the paper is to provide you, the student, with an opportunity to explore an another area within the history and systems of psychology, in depth. You may, for example, you might want to explore a particular concept in the history of psychology or review the works of a key figure. You must include at least 5 references. Your references must be from PRIMARY SOURCES and NOT others' works on the topic or individual. A half page abstract (description of your paper with references) is due by April 5 via email - woolflm@webster.edu. The final paper is due April 26, 2014.

Note: No papers will be accepted concerning Freud, Skinner, or any other theorist that is highly known or a current psychologist. The goal is for you to learn more about individuals or ideas that are important within the history of psychology but are less familiar to you.

Any paper concerning an individual or topic related to women in the history of psychology may be considered for inclusion on the Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society web site.

All papers must be submitted electronically in Word format to woolflm@webster.edu

All papers must be typed, double-spaced, have 1 inch margins and in APA format. If you are in doubt as to what this means, see me for details.


Group Presentation: Individuals will be assigned to groups during the third week of class. Each group will be responsible for presenting the history of one of the subfields of psychology to the class during the final week of class. Some of the subfields that individuals might want to consider include but are not limited to:

Students are not limited by these suggestions but all group topics must be approved by the instructor. Major fields of study are not acceptable for a group presentation (e.g., developmental psychology or experimental psychology). Each member of the group must provide an outline and references (in APA format) to the class. Note that each member of the group will be graded individually. There can be no more than three people in a group! Also, be aware that discussing the current research or individuals in a sub-field will not fulfill the requirements of this assignment. You must focus on the history of the subdiscipline.

Extra Credit Opportunity! For 10 points each (10 is the maximum points possible for a single report but may be lower depending on the quality of the report), you may listen to a History of Psychology podcast and write a report about the podcast (3 podcast maximum - although if you do not like the points received on a podcast report, you may complete an additional podcast to replace the report with the lower grade). You need to include:

Podcasts can be found at http://www.yorku.ca/christo/podcasts/. These can also be downloaded through iTunes - just search podcasts for the This Week in the History of Psychology (Christopher Green).

Podcast reports may be submitted at any point in the semester until April 24. Absolutely NO reports will be accepted following that deadline. Keep this deadline in mind and don't wait until the last minute. Absolutely no extensions will be granted regardless of the legitimacy of the problem that may arise (e.g., computer crashes, power outages, illness, etc.). All papers must be submitted electronically in Word format to woolflm@webster.edu

Policy Statements:

Use of Electronic Devices in the Classroom: Please respect others in the class by turning off all cell phones before entering the room. Text messaging during class is not acceptable. Laptops may be used in class but are only to be utilized for class related activities (e.g., taking notes). If it becomes apparent you are using the computer for non-class activities (e.g., checking your email, Facebook, playing games) then you may be asked to turn off your computer and refrain from bringing it into class in the future. Laptop use is restricted to the back or sides of the classroom so that other students are not distracted during lecture.

Plagiarism (attempting to pass off the work of another as one's own) is not acceptable. Plagiarism includes copying all or part of another's writings (even a single sentence), inappropriate paraphrasing, using another student's paper as your own, submitting a paper for more than one class. All papers will be submitted to the university's plagiarism database for review. Plagiarism, either intentional or unintentional, will result in a grade of 0 for that assignment but also may be turned over to the appropriate university source for disciplinary action and a grade of F for the course. In addition, cheating on exams will also result in the same fate.

Here are some Web sites that will help you avoid the problem of plagiarism particularly plagiarism resulting from paraphrasing too closely to the original source. -

It should be noted that, as is common in many university courses, little time will be spent lecturing on topics adequately addressed by the text. Students are expected to arrive at class meetings having already read the material assigned, and to ask questions to clarify any areas that remain unclear. While every attempt will be made to explain or expand upon particularly difficult areas, the primary purpose of classroom lecture is to enhance, rather than to duplicate, the textbook material.

Late withdraws from this class will not be approved by the instructor except in cases of emergency discussed with the instructor. No late withdraws will be approved on the basis of poor class performance.

This syllabus is subject to change at the instructor's discretion. All changes concerning course requirements will be provided in writing. Changes concerning exam dates may be made at the instructor's discretion and communicated verbally to the class.

It is understood that remaining in this course (not dropping or withdrawing from this course) constitutes an agreement to abide by the terms outlined in this syllabus and an acceptance of the requirements outlined in this document. No grade of Incomplete will be issued for this course.

Additional Web Resources!

Course Outline

The schedule below provides a general guideline to the semester and is flexible based on any need for additional discussion of a particular topic.

Optional Web resources are provided as a starting point for those who want to learn more about specific topics or theories discussed in class.

WeekTopic and Readings
Week One Introduction to the class
The study of the history of psychology
Philosophical influences
Physiological influences


  • Chapters 1 - 3

Optional Annotated Readings:

  • Chapters 1 - 4; 26

Additional Web Resources:

Week TwoWundt and German Psychology


  • Chapter 4 & 5

Optional Annotated Readings:

  • Chapters 5 - 6

Additional Web Resources:

Week ThreeExam I (Chapters 1 - 5)

American Pioneers
Structuralism and Functionalism


  • Chapter 6 & 7

Optional Annotated Readings:

  • Chapters 9 - 12

Additional Web Resources:

Week FourFunctionalism's Legacy -- Applied Psychology

Name that Functionalist!!


  • Chapter 8 & 9

Optional Annotated Readings:

  • Chapters 13 - 16; 25; 27 - 30

Additional Web Resources:

Week Five Exam II (Chapters 6 - 9)



  • Chapter 10 & 11

Optional Annotated Readings:

  • Chapters 7 - 8; 17 - 20

Additional Web Resources:

Week SixMental Illness and Treatment


  • Chapter 12

Optional Annotated Readings:

  • Chapters 21 - 24

Additional Web Resources:

Week SevenPsychology's Practitioners
Psychological Science in the Post War Era

Dead Behaviorists and Psychoanalysts come to dinner!


  • Chapter 13 & 14

Optional Annotated Readings:

  • Chapters 31 - 32; 35 - 36

Additional Web Resources:

Week Eight Exam III (Chapters 10 - 15)

Class Presentations

To Linda M. Woolf's Web page