The Missing History of Psychology

Photo by Business photo created by jcomp -

I like to think of myself as fairly good when it comes to inclusive practice, but the Black Lives Matter movement forced me to reflect on what I am doing beyond LGBTQ inclusivity and I came up short. In particular, I had to confront the fact that as the person who gives the history of psychology lecture to 1st years what I was giving them was largely the history of white Western men.

I am still in the process of updating my lecture but I also wanted to rework the essay to give students the opportunity to take a more critical look at the history of psychology that is usually presented in class and in their textbook.

Huge thanks to Chiara Horlin, Helena Paterson, and Wil Toivo from UofG Psychology for their input and advice on the questions and resources.

The full essay details are available below, but here’s the summary:

The history of psychology is often presented as a list of facts, figures, and names; a chronological timeline of the progression of our field and the notable events and people that have shaped what we know as psychology in the present day. Such timelines can give the impression that the history presented is objective and apolitical, that it is merely the account of one thing after another as it happened.

However, no history of any field could ever be complete - even in a relatively young field such as psychology, there’s simply too much to cover. What makes history subjective, political, and so often biased, lies in the facts, figures, and names we choose to include, and those we let fall by the wayside.

The broad topic of your essay is the missing history of psychology. Your task is to read Chapter 1 of the textbook (which is also on the essential reading list for RM lecture 2) and reflect on what isn’t covered. You will choose one question focused on one of the following topics:

  • Race
  • Gender identity and/or sexual orientation
  • Women in psychology
  • The replication crisis
  • Psychology and government policy

You are free to reuse, remix and adapt these this work without attribution, however, because even teaching-focused academics need to worry about impact, please let me know via e-mail or Twitter if you do!

The purpose of Open Educational Resources is to reduce unnecessary financial burden on students and to help share good practice. I make as many of my teaching materials open access as I can for these reasons, however, if you have found them helpful and are in a position to do so, please consider making a donation to Black British Professionals in STEM or Pride in STEM (currently by buying a badge).

Emily Nordmann
Emily Nordmann
Senior Lecturer in Psychology

I am a teaching-focused Senior lecturer and conduct research into the relationship between learning, student engagement, and technology.