Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context. Psychology had many early influencers, with each voice bringing a unique perspective to the field. The following psychologists played important roles in psychology’s history and made important contributions to the understanding of human behavior.
B. F. Skinner
B.F. Skinner was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. Skinner developed behavior analysis, the philosophy of that science he called radical behaviorism, and founded a school of experimental research psychology—the experimental analysis of behavior. His theories are still used extensively today, including behavior modification and token economies. Skinner is remembered for his concepts of operant conditioning and schedules of reinforcement.
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget's theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology". His theory of cognitive development had a profound influence on psychology, especially the understanding of children's intellectual growth.
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. His work supported the belief that not all mental illnesses have physiological causes and he also offered evidence that cultural differences have an impact on psychology and behavior. His work and writings contributed to our understanding of personality, clinical psychology, human development, and abnormal psychology.
Albert Bandura is a Canadian-American psychologist whose work is considered part of the cognitive revolution in psychology that began in the late 1960s. His social learning theory stressed the importance of observational learning, imitation, and modeling. To learn about his famous bobo doll experiment click here.
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in classical conditioning, which influenced the rise of behaviorism in psychology. His experimental methods helped move psychology away from introspection and subjective assessments to objective measurement of behavior. To learn more about his famous dog experiment click here.
Carl Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach (or client-centered approach) to psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research. He placed emphasis on human potential, which had an enormous influence on both psychology and education.
Erik Erikson was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychological development of human beings. His stage theory of psychosocial development helped create interest and research on human development through the lifespan. He expanded psychoanalytic theory by exploring development throughout life, including events of childhood, adulthood, and old age.
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