Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Adrian C. Brock,
University College Dublin,


Textbooks on the history of psychology are almost as old as the discipline itself and yet the subject did not become an active area of research until the 1960’s. In spite of this development, the number of researchers in history of psychology continues to be very small and the area is still seen principally as a pedagogical subject. Only one university in the United States offers it as a graduate area of specialization and this is typical of the situation elsewhere. Thus courses in history of psychology are usually taught by non-specialists, often using textbooks that have been written by non-specialists. Many of these textbooks are based almost entirely on other textbooks and thus the same (often inaccurate) material is constantly being recycled.

This state of affairs would be unacceptable in any other branch of psychology. The idea of courses in cognitive, social or developmental psychology being taught by non-specialists, using textbooks by non-specialists who are not familiar with the current research, would be unthinkable. It is also common to offer basic and advanced courses in other branches of psychology and yet this standard is not applied to history of psychology either. Thus it is common to speak of “the history course” (my emphasis).

The paper will make the case for history of psychology being treated no differently from any other area of psychology; that is, an area in which the benefits of professional specialization are recognized, both in teaching and in the authorship of textbooks, an area in which courses are offered at basic and advanced levels, and, above all, an area in which pedagogy is informed by research. Only then will it be possible for recent developments, like the internationalization of the history of psychology, to have a significant impact on the pedagogical aspects of the field.

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