The study of human physiology as a medical field originates in classical Greece, at the time of Hippocrates (late 5th century BC). Outside of Western tradition, early forms of physiology or anatomy can be reconstructed as having been present at around the same time in China, India and elsewhere. Hippocrates incorporated his belief system called the theory of humours, which consisted of four basic substance: earth, water, air and fire. Each substance is known for having a corresponding humour: black bile, phlegm, blood and yellow bile, respectively. Hippocrates also noted some emotional connections to the four humours, which Claudis Galenus would later expand on. The critical thinking of Aristotle and his emphasis on the relationship between structure and function marked the beginning of physiology in Ancient Greece. Like Hippocrates, Aristotle took to the humoral theory of disease, which also consisted of four primary qualities in life: hot, cold, wet and dry. Claudius Galenus (c. ~130–200 AD), known as Galen of Pergamum, was the first to use experiments to probe the functions of the body. Unlike Hippocrates, Galen argued that humoral imbalances can be located in specific organs, including the entire body. His modification of this theory better equipped doctors to make more precise diagnoses. Galen also played off of Hippocrates idea that emotions were also tied to the humours, and added the notion of temperaments: sanguine corresponds with blood; phlegmatic is tied to phlegm; yellow bile is connected to choleric; and black bile corresponds with melancholy. Galen also saw the human body consisting of three connected systems: the brain and nerves, which are responsible for thoughts and sensations; the heart and arteries, which give life; and the liver and veins, which can be attributed to nutrition and growth. Galen was also the founder of experimental physiology. And for the next 1,400 years, Galenic physiology was a powerful and influential tool in medicine.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The field of psychology is diverse and large — the American Psychological Association alone has divisions representing more than 54 separate topic areas. Tens of thousands of psychology papers are published every year in peer-reviewed journals. In 2015 alone, there were more than 2,000 meta-analyses papers (research that summarizes and examines other research) published in psychology’s PsycINFO research database.
Here are ten psychology articles published in the past year that I think were important or intriguing, and advanced the field of psychology significantly.
1. The Hoffman Report
While not a traditional psychology article, the Hoffman Report — formally titled the Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture — looked into the American Psychological Association’s (APA) efforts to ensure that psychologists could continue to consult in torture interrogations. The independent investigation into the efforts of the APA’s leadership led to the firing of a single staffer, the resignation of another, and the early retirement of two others.
Those named in the report led a vigorous rebuttal effort to tarnish the report’s investigation and findings. This report shed light on the inner machinations of the APA, the world’s largest professional association of psychologists (suffering in recent years from declining membership), and may be the spark that will make the organization more transparent than it has ever been (Hoffman Report, 2015).
2. Comprehensive Versus Usual Community Care for First-Episode Psychosis: 2-Year Outcomes From the NIMH RAISE Early Treatment Program
When most families are confronted with a family member who has a first episode of schizophrenia or psychosis, the usual course of treatment recommended is antipsychotic medication. This important longitudinal study demonstrated that focusing more on psychotherapy and family support results in better patient outcomes (Kane et al., 2015).
3. Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science
The scientists conducting this massive, multi-year project decided to look at whether they could reproduce 100 psychology studies conducted by a random set of researchers in 2008. Their findings were somewhat unexpected. Only 36 percent of the replications had statistically significant results — meaning that the researchers couldn’t find significance in the remaining 64 percent of studies. Only 47 percent had effect sizes in a comparable range, but they were typically 50 percent smaller than the original effect sizes (Open Science Collaboration, 2015).