Who is considered the "Father of Psychology"? This question does not necessarily have a cut-and-dry answer since many individuals have contributed to the inception, rise and evolution of modern day psychology. We'll take a closer look at single individual who is most often cited as well as other individuals who are also considered fathers of psychology.
The Father of Modern Psychology
Wilhelm Wundt is the man most commonly identified as the father of psychology. Why Wundt? Other people such as Hermann von Helmholtz, Gustav Fechner and ErnstWeber were involved in early scientific psychology research, so why are they not credited as father of psychology?
Because Wundt's formation of the world's first experimental psychology lab is usually noted at the official start of psychology as a separate and distinct science. By establishing a lab that utilized scientific methods to study the human mind and behavior, Wundt took psychology from a mixture of philosophy and biology and made it a unique field of study.
In addition to making psychology a separate science, Wundt also had a number of students who went to become influential psychologists themselves. Edward B. Titchener was responsible for establishing the school of thought known as structuralism, James McKeen Cattell became the first professor of psychology in the United States and G. Stanley Hall established the first experimental psychology lab in the U.S.
Other Thinkers Also Considered "Fathers of Psychology"
A number of other influential thinkers can also claim to be "Fathers of Psychology" in some way or another. The following are just a few of these individuals who are noted in specific areas of psychology:
- William James: The Father of American Psychology; he helped establish psychology in the U.S. and his book, The Principles of Psychology, became an instant classic.
- Sigmund Freud: The Father of Psychoanalysis; his theories and work established psychoanalysis as a major school of thought in psychology.
- Hugo Münsterberg: The Father of Applied Psychology; he was an early pioneer of several applied areas including clinical, forensic and industrial-organizational psychology.
- John Bowlby: The Father of Attachment Theory; he developed the theory of attachment.
- Kurt Lewin: The Father of Social Psychology; his work pioneered the use of scientific methods to study social behavior.
- Edward Thorndike: The Father of Modern Educational Psychology; his research on the learning process helped establish the foundation for educational psychology.
- Jean Piaget: The Father of Developmental Psychology; his theory of cognitive development revolutionized how research thought about children's intellectual growth.
- Ulric Neisser: The Father of Modern Cognitive Psychology; the cognitive movement in psychology received a major boost from the publication of his 1967 book, Cognitive Psychology.
- Lightner Witmer: The Father of Modern Clinical Psychology; he founded the world's first journal devoted to clinical psychology, The Psychological Clinic, in 1907.
- Gordon Allport: The Father of Personality Psychology; he was one of the first psychologists to study personality.
Obviously, not everyone is going to agree with these generalized titles. A few people might suggest that Freud is the father of psychology, since he is perhaps one of its most "known" figures. Others might suggest that Aristotle is the true father of psychology, since he is responsible for the theoretical and philosophical framework that contributed to psychology's earliest beginnings. Still others might argue that those earliest researchers such as Helmholtz and Fechner deserve credit as the founders of psychology.
No matter which side of the argument you are on, one thing that is easy to agree on is that all of these individuals had an important influence on the growth and development of psychology. While the theories of each individual are not necessarily as influential today, all of these psychologists were important in their own time and had a major impact on how psychology evolved into what it is today.