This course aims to foster the knowledge of the historical development of the main themes, problems and theories on psychological processes. In partcular the course is aimed at a critical understanding of the evolution of naturalized conceptualizations of mind, from those elaborated by philosophy to those advanced by the scientific revolution onwards, up to experimental psychology and cognitive sciences and neuroscience in the 20th century. The evolution of the sciences of the mind will be discussed in its relationship with the history of philosophical ideas and other human sciences such as sociology and anthropology, in its close intertwining with the natural and biological sciences. At the same time the history of the sciences of mind will be situated in the context of concrete history, such as the material, economic and techological transofrmations.
Particular attention will be given to the examination of the evolution of the psychological models of explanation of cognitive and communication processes.
The course will also examine the history of the cultural and moral impact of developments of the sciences of the mind with particular regard to the applications of cognitive science and neuroscience technologies in the 20th century.
The course aims to achieve these learning outcomes:
1) an organic knowledge of the major research programs, concepts, and problems of the mind sciences, experimental psychology, and cognitive sciences;
2) the ability to contextualize, analyze, and critically interpret the ideas and models of explanation of the sciences of mind also in relation to other research disciplines, material history, culture, ethics, and technological evolution;
3) the historical and theoretical tools for understanding the transformations of psychological and scientific models of cognitive and communication processes.
4) the lexical and conceptual tools necessary to the study of the history of the sciences of the mind and for acquiring good analytical and argumentative skills in written and oral form.

The monographic part of the program this year aims to critically illustrate the history of: a) naturalized conceptions of emotions, the evolution of theories on the relationship between body/brain and emotions; b) the studies on the biological correlates of emotional processes; c) the relationships between cognitive processes, communication and emotions.
teacher profile | teaching materials


Institutional part on the general history of the sciences of the mind:
I) History of science and history of psychology 1. Why study the history of the sciences of the mind 2. Historiography of science: continuism and scientific revolutions 3. Normal science and paradigms 4. Historiography of psychology and neuroscience
II) The long philosophical past 1. The first psychological problems 2. The psychology of classical thought 3. Psychology from classical thought to Christianity 4. From the Arabs to the Renaissance 5. The change in the conception of man with Humanism and renaissance 6. Descartes 7. Rationalism and empiricism 8. From Descartes to the "idéologues" 9. The Kantian Interdiction
III) The birth of experimental psychology: from Helmholtz to Wundt 1. The birth of experimental psychology 2. Helmholtz: specific nervous energy and unconscious inference 3. The phenomenological innatism of Ewald Hering 4. Wilhelm Wundt and physiological psychology 5. Titchener and North American structuralism
IV) The reaction to Wundt in Europe and America 1. Brentano and the Brentanians 5. American functionalism, between evolutionism and pragmatism
V) The psychology of Gestalt 1. The beginnings 2. The laws of Gestalt 3. Isomorphism 4. The field model 5. Rise and diaspora
VI) The psychodynamic perspective and psychoanalysis 1. Introduction 2. From the organic conception to the psychodynamic conception of mental illness 3. Janet's theory 4. Psychoanalysis from Freud to the 50s 5. Jung's theory 6. Adler's theory 7. Themes of psychoanalysis of the late twentieth century and new themes 8. Phenomenological psychiatry 9. Personality theories 10. Integrated models between health and pathology of the mind
VII) The behaviorist perspective I. Introduction 2. American psychology at the beginning of the century: structuralism and functionalism 3. Behaviorism from Watson to the 50s 4. Skinner and the behaviorist utopia 5. Operationism in psychology 6. Personality, psychopathology and social learning in the behaviorist perspective
VIII) The cognitive perspective 1. Introduction 2. The study of cognitive processes: from the Würzburg school to Bartlett 3. The theories of intelligence 4. Theories of psychic development 5. Piaget's theory 6. Probabilistic and ecological theories of mental processes 7. Cognitivism 8. Cognitive science
IX) The historical-cultural perspective 1. Introduction 3. The historical-cultural theory of the mind from Vygotsky to the 60s 4. The theory of activity 5. Social constructionism. Cultural psychology
X) The biological and neuroscientific perspective 1. Introduction 2. Animal and comparative psychology. Ethology 3. Research on brain functions at the beginning of the twentieth century 4. Bechterev's reflexology 5. Pavlov's theory of higher nervous activity 6. Holistic theories of the functioning of the mind and brain in the early twentieth century 7. The neuroconnectionism of Hebb 8. Research on brain function and behavior: 1950-70 9. The theory of brain functional systems of Lurija 10. Cognitive, affective and social neuroscience.
XI) The contemporary debate 1. Crisis of theories or crisis of psychology 2. Empirical verification in psychology 3. Psychology of common sense and alternative psychology 4. The primacy of neuroscience 5. The discomfort of psychotherapy 6. Psychology and contemporary society.

monograph part:
Mind, body and biological evolution: between adaptations and diseases
This part will outline the history of evolutionary conceptions of the mind, the mind/body relationship, and evolutionary theories on the causes and processes of mental and psychosomatic diseases

Core Documentation

for the institutional part
Pike R. (2013). History of psychology: an introduction. Rome-Bari: Laterza (chapters: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5 paragraphs 5.1 and 5.5; 6).
Mecacci L. (2011). History of twentieth-century psychology. Rome-Bari: Laterza (chapters: 3; 4; 5; 6 paragraphs 1,3,4,5; 7; 8).

Reference Bibliography

Paolo Legrenzi (a cura di) Storia della psicologia, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2019 Riccardo Luccio, Dall'anima alla mente. Breve storia della psicologia, Laterza, Bari-Roma, 2014 Keith Oatley, Breve storia delle emozioni, Il mulino, Bologna, 2015 (chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7) Ian Plamper, Storia delle emozioni, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2018 (chapter 3) Stefano Canali, Regular emotions. Theories and methods for the development and enhancement of self-control, Carocci, Rome, 2021 Stefano Canali and Luca Pani, Emotions and disease. From biological evolution to the sunset of psychosomatic thought. Bruno Mondadori, 2003 (chapters: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7). for further information, scientific bibliography and other contents, please consult the professor's scientific blog: http://www.psicoattivo.com/ and the facebook page where there are partly different contents: https://www.facebook.com/psicoattivo

Type of delivery of the course

The course will see the alternation of lectures on the general history of the sciences of the mind from the conceptions of natural philosophy to the affective neurosciences of the twentieth century and lectures on the history of research on the relationship between body / brain and emotions from natural philosophy and eastern philosophies to contemporary neuroscience. The course includes lectures in which, however, the intervention of students will be constantly required, who will be asked to propose opinions, reformulations of the contents and questions. The lessons will include moments of writing on the contents discussed in order to encourage learning and the development of more punctual and effective written expression skills. During the course students will be asked to elaborate a short essay on a topic of their choice on the topics of the course. The contents of the essay must be presented in the classroom and through a poster. The quality of the short essay, the poster and its presentation will contribute to the exam score. A course blog will be activated. Students will be invited to publish posts. The posts will have to deal critically with the topics covered, take inspiration from them for reflections or original interpretations. The publication of the posts and their quality will contribute to the exam score. During the course students will be invited to carry out a small group research on a topic of the history of psychology.


Attendance is optional but is strongly recommended. Participating in classes will contribute significantly to the learning experience, to learn to learn. Active participation requires attendance for the entire course, taking part in the discussions that will accompany each lesson and making some original materials. Participating in lectures and discussions, preparing presentations, written materials to be discussed also online on the course website solicits and favors not only the assimilation of the course contents, but more generally the development of critical analysis skills, learning and effective communication. Participation in the course and the production of written materials will contribute to the evaluation during the exam.

Type of evaluation

Written exam with open questions and short answers and questions with multiple choice answers. Simulations of the exam and exam tests of some previous sessions are available on the moodle of the course A written thesis can be agreed with the teacher who could contribute to the determination of the exam grade Active participation in the lessons and the written or multimedia productions made during the course can also contribute to the final evaluation