Psychology originally had its earliest roots in philosophy and physiology. According to most psychology histories, it was the establishment of the very first experimental psychology lab that officially marked psychology's beginnings as a separate and distinct discipline. So when exactly was the first psychology lab formed and who was responsible for this important event in psychology history?
The World's First Psychology Lab
Wilhelm Wundt, a German doctor and psychologist, was responsible for creating the world's first experimental psychology lab. This lab was established in 1879 at the University of Leipzig in Germany. By creating an academic laboratory devoted to the study of experimental psychology, Wundt officially took psychology from a sub-discipline of philosophy and biology to a unique scientific discipline.
The First Psychology Lab in the U.S.
In 1883, Wundt's student G. Stanley Hall created the first experimental psychology lab in the United States at John Hopkins University.
Wundt, James and Hall: Who Was First?
It may surprise many to learn that neither Wundt nor Hall can exclusively lay claim to having the world's first lab or the first American lab. In 1875, a full four years before Wundt established his lab and eight years before Hall established his, Williams James formed a psychology lab at Harvard University.
So why is James not credited with creating the world's first laboratory, or at the very least, America's first lab? Because his lab was used for teaching demonstrations rather than experimentation and original research. For this reason, Wundt and Hall are generally credited with creating the first and second experimental psychology labs.
Boring, E.G, (1960). A History of Experimental Psychology 2nd Ed. Englewood-Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Bringmann, W G, Balance W. D., & Evans R. B. (1975). Wilhelm Wundt 1832-1920: A brief biographical sketch. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 11(3), 287–97.