“And what would your super-power be?”

Asked one of my primary school teachers in one of the activity classes, and left me dumbfounded. While my classmates jumped with ideas, of flying-in-a-cape, burn-the-city-down, fight-with-full-might sort of answers, I kept quiet. Until many years later, when I had my  first ever  crush, I just  desperately wanted to know what’s running in his mind! And there, I finally had the answer, the super-power I always wanted- To read and understand minds. Can there BE a power more stronger than that!

The field of ‘analysing mind’ or psychology has prevailed for centuries, in some form or the other. We have all tried to hypnotise a friend with a discarded crystal ball, or have tried interpreting our bizarre dreams and draw connections of it in our ‘Conscious life’.

While these innocent ‘psychologi-cal exercises’ are fun, the development of Psychology as a discipline that we know today, has an intriguing history in itself.

Psychology, defined as the ‘the science of mind and behaviour’, has its origin in the  early Greek Society. It was  a German physiologist, Wilhelm Wundt, with his benchmark book ‘Principles of Physiological Psychology’ in 1874, who gave the discipline a distinct direction for the world to explore. He even went on to acknowledge himself the first psychologist. AboutEducation cites, “Principles of Physiological Psychology, outlined many of the major connections between the science of physiology and the study of human thought and behaviour. He later opened the world’s first psychology lab in 1879 at the University of Leipzig. This event is generally considered the official start of psychology as a separate and distinct scientific discipline”

‘Structuralism’ Became Psychology’s First School of Thought – Proposed by Edward B. Titchener, one of Wundt’s most famous students, who believed, human consciousness could be disintegrated into into much smaller parts, which can be studied with deep introspection, but owing to its limitations. Structuralism soon paved way to The Functionalism of William James, during the mid-to late-1800s. William James with the publication of, The Principles of Psychology, established himself as the father of American psychology. Functionalists  emphasised on direct observation. While both of these early schools of thought were founded in human consciousness, their conceptions were significantly different. 20th century also saw the rise of the school of behaviourism, which was sort of an antithesis to the Freudian fixation of ‘unconscious’. ‘Behaviourism’ sought to analyse on basis of the behaviour and mannerism exhibited the person. Expectedly, the last three centuries have seen radical changes for this field, and it is still in a state of flux.

consultation-with-psychologist

And it is perhaps this intriguing aspect of studying, decoding, deciphering minds and behaviour that has continued to draw students towards itself. Over the years Psychology has built a very niche status for itself and is well seated amongst the ‘elite’ course courses in the most prestigious university of the country, like DU. It is unfortunately offered in very few colleges, with  most of them being girls colleges and cut-offs ranging from 95-99 percent.

But Psychology isn’t all-hype-no-substance either. Apart from its being deeply rewarding personally, it is a perfect way to gain an insightful and profound understanding of people around you. On the professional front, Psychology opens up a barrage of  fields. A psychology major can pick a specialization (in child care psychology, cognitive psychology, media psychology, Forensics etc.) or he/she could be a Counsellor, or work Drug and Alcohol Abuse rehabilitation, Education Support Worker, Family Housing Case Worker etc. Recent trends also highlight the role of a psychologist in the settings of a workplace, for redressal of several employee issues. So, worry not, opportunities are galore!

And you thought a crystal ball and hypnotic charm was all you needed to read minds!

Posted by Sushmita Sengupta

M.A. English Literature student. Delhi University. Seizing the day since August '94.

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