Where does Psychology come from?

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: Where does the study of psychology come from?

Answer: The earliest origins of psychology are in the writings of the ancient Greek philosophers, particularly Aristotle. They wrote about the nature of life. Aristotle used the word “psyche” to refer to the essence of life. This word is translated from the Greek word meaning “mind,” but is closely linked in meaning to the word “breath.”

The word “psychology” comes from the combination of words “psyche” and “logos,” which means “the study of.” Combined, they refer to “the study of the mind.” Aristotle believed that in addition to thinking about things, one must observe the thing being studied—look at it, listen to it, touch it. A modern addition to this concept, when studying human beings, has been to ask the person what he or she is doing and why.

A more modern definition of psychology is “the science of behavior and mental processes.” Psychology is a science because psychologists attempt to understand people through careful, controlled observation and experiments. Psychologists are interested in all human behavior—all of a person’s overt actions. And the science or study of mental processes refers to thoughts, emotions, feelings, and motives. (Even though these cannot all be measured.)

The goals of psychology are to describe (a problem, a phenomenon, a need), to predict (future behavior), to understand behavior (and create theories to explain why), and to influence behavior (develop ways to influence change).

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]