Nicholas J. Wade

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Psychology: Global Perspectives

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195366556
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology


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The impact of Scotland on psychology was expressed before the discipline was notionally founded in the late 19th century. Scottish medicine and philosophy provided ideas that were to have widespread currency within the emerging psychology. On the one hand, the practice and teaching of medicine in the 18th century placed emphasis on the nervous system and its operations in determining normal and abnormal behavior. The links between brain and behavior were strengthened by medical research in the 19th century. On the other hand, the common sense approach to the philosophy of mind focused attention on the special senses and their relation to behavior. Alexander Bain (1818–1903) adopted the physiological tradition but rejected the dominant Scottish faculty psychology in favor of associationism. Despite these early yearnings, psychology was slow to develop institutionally in the 20th century. The features that distinguished Scottish medicine and philosophy have long since disappeared, but those features have influenced the ways in which contemporary psychology is practiced.

Keywords: Senses; medicine; optics; common sense philosophy; phrenology

Article.  24464 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology

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