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PSY3120 History and Systems of Psychology

Semester 3, 2012 External Toowoomba
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Sciences
School or Department : Psychology
Version produced : 30 December 2013

Contents on this page


Examiner: Charlotte Brownlow
Moderator: Tony Machin


Pre-requisite: PSY1010 and PSY1020


In order to understand a discipline, it is necessary to gain some insight into its historical origins. In the case of Psychology, the forces that shaped the development of the discipline can be traced back to the Ancient Greek philosophers. By studying the exchanges among these ancient scholars and the subsequent development and extension of their ideas by later thinkers, we begin to perceive the rich philosophical traditions that underpin our discipline. We also begin to appreciate the key role played by the development of scientific method in the eventual emergence of psychology from its parent discipline of philosophy and continue to consider the effect that psychology has on everyday life in more contemporary contexts.


This course focuses on the development of scientific thought from the Greek philosophers through to the end of the 19th Century when Psychology formally emerged as a separate discipline with its own subject matter and accepted methodologies. The course will engage with key debates within psychology and consider postmodernism and other recent challenges to science and the logical positivist tradition in Western psychology. In tracing this historical development, the course emphasises the role played by key individuals in the introduction of new ideas and methods. It also draws attention to the often unrecognized influence of geographical and sociopolitical contexts on what are considered to be acceptable accounts of psychological functioning. Students approaching the end of their undergraduate course in Psychology will be surprised to see very early versions of what are now influential and empirically supported psychological theories, and be able to consider the importance of socio-historical locations of knowledge in the shaping of our psychological understandings of phenomena.


On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. engage with the various perspectives in the study of the history of psychology;
  2. understand the different methodological approaches which continue to influence thinking in psychology;
  3. describe the role of the Greeks in the development of science and psychology;
  4. critically consider the role of psychology as a science;
  5. identify the precursors to the scientific revolution that emerged during the Renaissance;
  6. describe the changes in the development of science and psychology during 18th Century Europe;
  7. evaluate the effect of Darwinian thought on the development of psychology;
  8. evaluate Galton's contribution to individual differences psychology;
  9. describe the contribution of the German school of Psychology;
  10. examples of the influence of German and North American schools of thought on contemporary psychology;
  11. describe the theoretical underpinnings of modernism and postmodernism;
  12. speculate on possible future challenges to the science and practice of psychology.


Description Weighting(%)
1. Introduction: the influence of early thinkers 11.00
2. The rise of the scientific method and the establishment of psychology as an independent discipline 11.00
3. Developing the psychological scientific method: Behaviourism and Cognitive Psychology 11.00
4. Brain research and the mind-brain problem 11.00
5. The influence of psychology on everyday lives: Exploring the history of applied psychology 11.00
6. Is psychology a science? The power of the scientific method 11.00
7. Psychological methodologies: tensions between qualitative and quantitative approaches 11.00
8. Psychology and Society: The role of socio-political contexts 12.00
9. Bridging the gap to contemporary approaches within psychology 11.00

Text and materials required to be purchased or accessed

ALL textbooks and materials available to be purchased can be sourced from USQ's Online Bookshop (unless otherwise stated). (

Please contact us for alternative purchase options from USQ Bookshop. (

  • Brysbaert, M. And Rastle, K 2009, Historical and Conceptual Issues in Psychology, Pearson, London.

Reference materials

Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience.
  • Richards, G 2009, Putting psychology in its place. Critical historical perspectives, 3rd edn, Routledge, London.
  • Additional readings will be suggested each week via the StudyDesk in order to supplement the textbooks and enable students to extend their understanding of each topic.

Student workload requirements

Activity Hours
Directed Study 120.00
Examinations 2.00
Private Study 40.00

Assessment details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Notes
Essay based assessment 100 40 07 Jan 2013
CLOSED EXAMINATION 2 HOURS 100 60 End S3 (see note 1)

  1. Examination dates will be available during the semester. Please refer to the examination timetable when published.

Important assessment information

  1. Attendance requirements:
    It is the student's responsibility actively to study all course materials and to make regular use of the UConnect course discussion group, so as to be informed of all course academic and administrative actions and policies, and to maximize his/her chance of meeting the objectives of the course. Access to email, discussion groups and the internet is a departmental requirement. Students will be expected to open their university provided email accounts and to check them regularly for personal communication. Information sent this way will be regarded as being receivable. [Note, other accounts often have more limited sized mail boxes, are not accessible when the USQ external connection is down and may not always remain open throughout student's candidature].

  2. Requirements for students to complete each assessment item satisfactorily:
    To complete the assignment and examination satisfactorily, students must obtain at least 50% of the marks available for the assignment and examination.

  3. Penalties for late submission of required work:
    If students submit assignments after the due date without prior approval then a penalty of 5% of the total marks available for the assignment will apply for each working day late.

  4. Requirements for student to be awarded a passing grade in the course:
    To be assured of receiving a passing grade a student must achieve at least 50% of the available weighted marks for the summative assessment items.

  5. Method used to combine assessment results to attain final grade:
    The final grades for students will be assigned on the basis of the weighted aggregate of the marks (or grades) obtained for each of the summative assessment items in the course.

  6. Examination information:
    In a Closed Examination, candidates are allowed to bring only writing and drawing instruments into the examination.

  7. Examination period when Deferred/Supplementary examinations will be held:
    Supplementary examinations are NOT offered in this course. A request for a deferred examination may be considered by the Examiner in extenuating circumstances. If a deferred exam is granted, it will be held during the next examination period.

  8. University Student Policies:
    Students should read the USQ policies: Definitions, Assessment and Student Academic Misconduct to avoid actions which might contravene University policies and practices. These policies can be found at

Assessment notes

  1. APA style is the referencing system required in this course. Students should use APA style in their assignments to format details of the information sources they have cited in their work. The APA style to be used is defined by the USQ Library's referencing guide.