New Tool For AU PSYC Students: History of Psychology Timeline

January 15, 2003

New Tool For AU PSYC Students: History of Psychology Timeline

The Athabasca University Psychology Centre website recently added the History of Psychology Timeline – an exciting new interface for the psychology department’s existing Glossary of Psychological Terms.

The Timeline (which can be accessed through
is based on data from the glossary, but uses an innovative graphical interface to display the terms and definitions in their historical context.

This site builds upon the already impressive Glossary, which was developed by Dr. David Polson of the University of Victoria, and Dr. Alan Le Boeuf, Dr. Simita Schwarzberg and Dr. Lyle K. Grant of Athabasca University. Within the glossary, students of psychology can browse over 1000 entries, ranging from Abelard, Peter (1079-142) to Zygote, and link between related terms for supporting information.

This glossary is far more useful than most, and approaches the format of a mini encyclopaedia by providing opportunities for learning far beyond any traditional glossary.

Not only does it offer definitions for most of the psychological terms that a student is likely to run across, but it also has entries for many of the prominent figures in the history of psychology; structures of the nervous system and brain; philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers who have influenced psychology; and a number of general scientific terms.

For each item the student will find a simple definition, background information [ranging from 1 – 5 paragraphs], suggestions for further reading, and web-linked cross-referencing with other glossary items. Brief, multiple-choice self tests are also included for each term.

This already excellent resource is enhanced by the new Timeline, which helps to place the glossary items into a historical context by allowing the student to view all of the entries in order of their first historical occurrence.

Students can also select individual items to display a colour-coded bar on the history line across the bottom, showing the time-frame in which the subject was alive or when the term was in popular use. The timeline runs from 600 BC to 2000 AD, and allows up to three items to be highlighted at once so that comparisons can be made. For example, beginning psychology students know that Wundt predated Freud, who predated Skinner, but selecting all three men on the timeline will not only provide background on the men and an overview of their respective theories, but the coloured bars on the timeline also demonstrate how close in history the three men lived, and during what time period their lives and work overlapped.

Anyone with access to the AU library can use the timeline and glossary, by entering their name and student ID number. The login process is identical to the one for using the AU library journal databases, and requires only some simple browser configuration and an active student status.

The AU Psychology Glossary and History of Psychology Timeline are very useful, informative and graphically exciting ways to learn about psychological terms. The small self-tests are great extras for those who want to brush up on terminology before a test. The psychology department at AU has always made great use of internet technology, and this new offering is in keeping with the high quality of learning tools offered by the psych staff.

With any luck, more faculties will catch on and begin offering similar tools for internet learning.

For another great AU produced learning tool, see this week’s A Bug In Your Ear for information about the Counselling Department’s How To Write a Term Paper tutorial site.