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Saturday, April 12, 2014

History of Psychology in India

History of Psychology in India


 Psychology as an academic discipline made a new beginning in India in the first decade of this century. Calcutta University established the first Department of Psychology in 1915 under the leadership of Dr N.N. Sengupta, who had worked under Professor Hugo Munsterberg, a former student of Wundt. Due to the fact that Calcutta University became the first centre of psychological research and teaching in India, it was able to play a key role in the development of psychology in the country (Kundu & Chakrabati, 1979).


Before independence, psychological research in India was greatly influenced by the British universities. Most of the Indian psychologists during this time were trained abroad and they followed the western theories of psychology. This psychology, transplanted to India as part of the total imperialist domination by the West, came as a ready-made intellectual package in the first decade of the century (Nandy, 1974). In doing so it almost entirely challenged and to a greater extent replaced the intellectual traditions and indigenous systems that had existed for thousands of years – systems that contained elaborate theories about human nature, actions, personality and their relationships with the world. For instance, mentally ill patients in India were historically treated using various approaches such as herbal or ayurvedic medicines, yoga and music (Prasadarao & Sudhir, 2001). But with the advent of scientific (Western) psychology all these traditional and effective treatments were replaced with ‘scientific’ techniques.


Following the independence of India in 1947, there were many efforts from the part of government to integrate social science into science and technology research as part of the nation building programme. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a great promoter of psychology, encouraging students to go abroad to obtain their degrees under eminent psychology professors. He also invited and encouraged psychologists to research on certain issues in India.


Dr Girindra Shekar Bose, who succeeded Dr N.N. Sengupta at Calcutta University, was a medical practitioner who became a pioneer in psychoanalysis in India. In 1922 he established the Indian Psychoanalytical Society, affiliated to the international Psychoanalytic Association. The Indian Psychological Association appeared in 1925.The Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists (IACP) was started in 1968 (Prabhu, 1983). The Indian Psychological Association appeared in 1925.The Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists (IACP) was started in 1968 (Prabhu, 1983).


In the early days psychology was mainly applied in clinical settings, and courses focused on training clinical psychologists. With the growth in the discipline, counseling psychology became popular and was extensively used in different areas of counseling. The growth in the economy and industrial sector resulted in the use of psychology in industrial and organizational settings. Psychology has also been applied in military settings since independence. After independence the defense ministry emphasized the need to include psychologists on research and selection boards of armed forces to provide help and assistance and then they started doing it. Also in the fields of sports and health, psychology is widely used today and disciplines have emerged in all these areas.


Until the mid-1980s the public viewed psychology primarily as a remedy for abnormal behavior. But the popularity of psychology has increased a lot with its application in different and diverse areas such as education, organizations, defense, health, sports etc. According to the Association of Indian Universities, 51 of the 101 recognised universities were offering psychology by the end of 1975. By 1995 the number of universities had risen to 219 and those offering psychology at various levels had risen to 70 (Prasadarao & Sudhir, 2001). The period after the mid-1990s has seen an even sharper growth in the popularity of psychology. Psychology has been introduced in the curriculum of senior secondary schools.


Indian psychology has come a long way in the hundred years of its existence. Research in psychology is conducted in many universities and research establishments. It is not known how many colleges and universities offer psychology courses and how many psychologists are professionally active.  The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurociences, Bangalore is an institution of international repute for research in clinical psychology and training clinical psychologists. The Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi is another highly reputed institution carrying out research in clinical psychology.


Indian psychology in the twenty-first century shows that the initial emphasis on the replication of Western studies has given way to socially relevant research, and that there is a shift from experimental work (micro) toward understanding the psychological, social and cultural contexts (macro) using qualitative approaches. Academicians and researchers have started looking at problems in a more holistic manner and an eclectic approach is preferred today.



Kundu, R. & Chakrabati, P.H. (1979).From Leipzig to Calcutta. Calcutta:Department of    

Psychology,Calcutta University.


Nandy,A. (1974).The non-paradigmatic crisis in Indian psychology:Reflections on a recipient

culture science. Indian Journal of Psychology, 49, 1–20.


Prabhu, G.G. (1983). Clinical psychology – Then and now. Indian Journal of Clinical

Psychology, 10, 1–15.


Prasadarao, P.S.D.V. & Sudhir, P.M. (2001). Clinical psychology in India. Journal of Clinical

Psychology in Medical Settings, 8(1), 31–38.

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