The history of psychology is filled with famous and inventive figures, significant discoveries and fascinating research — everything from Sigmund Freud and talk therapy to the birth (and demise) of dementia praecox to Phil Zimbardo’s prison experiment to Stanley Milgram and the shock heard around the world.
At first glance, these might seem like highly specific subjects only relevant to people in the psychology field. After all, who really needs to know about antiquated illnesses, decades-old experiments and psychology theories?
The History of Us
But what’s so powerful about the history of psychology is that it’s really the history of us. You and me.
“For more than a century, psychologists have tried to understand our thoughts, feelings and behaviors,” said Cathy Faye, Ph.D, the assistant director at the Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.
“Their findings capture who we are and who we have been historically. In this way, the history of psychology represents a rich record of how the human experience has changed over time.”
Psychology is the exploration of what it means to struggle, to persevere, to create, to be vulnerable, to connect with someone else, to be yourself, to be honest with yourself, to lead a happy, fulfilling life, to heal — among so many other human experiences.
Psychology is all around us, Faye said. “I think in general people don’t realize how very connected psychology is and has been to our everyday lives.” For instance, did you know that Wonder Woman, with her lasso of truth, was created by a psychologist who studied deception? Did you know that Kellogg’s cereals were created to provide a healthy vegetarian diet to help treat anxiety, depression and other problems?
Everything from how we drive to how we navigate parenthood is rooted in psychology’s past. Faye shared these additional examples: the dashboard design in our cars; the advice guidance counselors give; the way we discipline our kids; the personality and intelligence tests we take at work and school.
Enter the National Museum of Psychology
Psychology’s past is rich, vast, captivating and critical to preserve and honor. That’s where the National Museum of Psychology comes in. The Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help partially fund an expansion of the museum. A museum that would be the first of its kind. “The National Museum of Psychology will highlight very diverse kinds of psychology, showing what they are and where they came from,” Faye said.
She noted that the museum is based on two key questions: “What does it mean to be human? And how have we studied and defined the human experience over time?” Neither of which has a right or wrong answer.
“To me, understanding the human experience means understanding the rich and complex ways that we think, feel and act and how this is shaped by our environments and our genetics,” Faye said. “Being human means that we not only get the opportunity to experience this, but we also have the ability to reflect on that rich experience, study it and evaluate it.”
Exhibits at the National Museum of Psychology will feature such incredible artifacts as:
- Home movies of Sigmund Freud
- Apparatus from many of the most famous—and infamous—psychological studies in American history, including the Stanford Prison Experiment
- Actual correspondence from celebrated psychologists and historical figures, such as Albert Einstein, Houdini and Helen Keller
- 50,000 books, some dating to the 16th century.
Plus, the museum will be interactive. Visitors will be able to try out psychological tests, explore optical illusions and immerse themselves in well-known experiments, Faye said. “I think psychology helps people rethink their everyday experiences and these kind of interactive exhibits will really facilitate that.”
You Can Help — And Be a Part of History!
If you’re interested in learning more about this amazing project or would like to help the Center reach its goal, please visit the please visit the Nation Museum of Psychology’s Kickstarter page to donate today. The campaign ends May 13, 2016. Every contribution, big or small, counts — and will help to make history.
Image from the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.