When you study medicine in Germany, lectures on the history and ethics of medicine are an integral part of your curriculum. Many universities have a separate Institute for the History and Ethics of Medicine with related chairs.

When you study psychology, some introductory lectures might or might not give a short overview of the field's history (e.g. a bit about Pawlow and Thorndike in a lecture on "Learning"), but a knowledge of the history of the discipline is not emphasized in the education of young academics. There is only one Institute for the History of Psychology in my country, and it is privately financed. History of psychology appears to be mostly a hobby of some professors.

How is the status of the teaching of the history of psychology in your country, and is there a published discussion or are official reasons given (for example during the discussions that precede the creation of nationwide examination regulations), why we don't need to institutionalize it?

Please don't post your opinion on the matter, but quote published sources. They can be in any language, if you briefly summarize the content in English.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a nice example of what might turn out to be a good 'list' question: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/36/21 Perhaps we should stick to different approaches per answer, listing all countries which follow a similar approach, adding possible exceptions? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 8:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well, I'm not simply interested in different practices, but more in the reasons for them. Why is history of a discipline thought important for students in one discipline or country, but not in another? How important is the understanding of the history of your own discipline for your practice or advancement of it? Academic self-reflection. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ +1 on this question - it would be very interesting to see the results of as @what calls - an 'academic self-reflection' $\endgroup$
    – user3554
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 16:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ May be of interest - tonks.disted.camosun.bc.ca/colloquia/cpa01.htm $\endgroup$
    – user3554
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 17:49

2 Answers 2


The American Psychological Association requires graduate programs to cover a range of core competencies, including "the breadth of scientific psychology, it's history and development, it's research methods, and its applications. To achieve this end, the students shall be exposed to the current body of knowledge in at least the following areas:...history and systems of psychology..." (APA Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology, http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/about/policies/guiding-principles.pdf). This applies to all APA accredited doctoral programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology. Many programs meet this requirement with a History and Systems course, which covers development of psychology as a field as well as different branches of psychological theory. However, some graduate programs may choose to meet the requirement by requiring students to complete an independent study on this topic.

The APA does not accredit master's or bachelor's programs, so there may be more diversity as to whether a history of psychology course is provided or required at that level. A 2010 APA Monitor article discusses this issue (Chamberlin, 2010). The reasons for teaching the history of psychology vary. At my undergraduate university a History and Systems course was a required course in your senior-year, as the program felt it not only provided a sound theoretical foundation but also served as an excellent review for the GRE Psychology subject test. A 2011 dissertation explored the content of history of psychology courses in APA accredited programs, and may provide additional information on the presence of the history of psychology in American education (Petzolt, 2011). The author noted that there are many reasons typically given for this APA requirement, including "the belief that the study of history is a way of unifying the different branches of the field, that it helps to ground current psychological research in tradition and theory, and that it establishes a framework from which all applications can be derived" (Petzolt, 2011).

Chamberlin, J. (2010). Don't know much about history. APA Monitor, 41(2), 44. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/02/history.aspx

Petzolt, N. M. (2011). Teaching the graduate course in the history of psychology in APA accredited programs. St. John's University (New York), 53 pages. UMI Proquest Publication number: 3445776.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't have any references to add in an answer of my own, so I'll just append my experience in USA as a comment here. I recall hearing some talk of a possible history of psychology seminar – I think my former graduate advisor is one of those with a hobby/professional interest in the topic – but I don't think it went anywhere. I think it was less popular as an idea than others the department had in mind at the time, so there was effectively no dedicated education in the history of psychology in my graduate program (nor was there any in my undergrad program as far as I recall). $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2014 at 19:06

The university of Oslo teaches a rather big part of the history of psychological research. I've completed it myself, so I know for sure. Do note that the subject also involves a lot more than just history.



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