Category: Psychology

Wilhelm Wundt: The Problem of Psychology. 1897

This short excerpt from the beginning of Wundt’s Outlines of Psychology, 1897, discusses the starting point of the discipline of psychology as an empirical discipline. Wilhelm Wundt opened the Institute for Experimental Psychology at the University of Leipzig in Germany in 1879.  This was the first laboratory dedicated to psychological research, and its opening marks the beginning of modern psychology as a scientific discipline. Wundt is therefore seen as the father of experimental psychology. He separated psychology from philosophy by analyzing the workings of the mind in a more structured way, with the emphasis on objective measurement. He came from...

Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the study of the whole person. Humanistic psychologists look at human behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the person who acts, thinks, or experiences the world. They believe that an individual’s behavior cannot be separated from her feelings, her intentions, her self-image, or her history.  Overview Unlike the behaviorists, humanistic psychologists believe that humans are not just the product of their environment or their learning history. Humanistic psychologists study a person’s understanding of the meaning of life, and the experiences of growing, teaching, and...

Gordon Allport: Becoming (1955)

This is an extract from a short text by Gordon Allport (Becoming, 1955) subtitled: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality. In these passages, the human being is seen as characterized by a process of individuation (personal) and socialization (tribal). According to the vision of the human being held by Gordon Allport: “All his life. this human being will be attempting to reconcile these two modes of becoming, the tribal and the personal: the one that makes him into a mirror, the other that lights the lamp of the individuality within”. The Goal of Psychology The goal of psychology is...

Abraham Maslow: Toward a Psychology of Being. (1955-1957)

Abraham Maslow has become famous as a psychologist for his “hierarchy of needs.” He focuses more on the healthy personality, rather than on forms of psychopathology. He belongs to the tradition of existential-humanistic thinking in America. These extracts from texts written in the middle of the 20th century have not lost any of their insight and freshness. Deficiency motivation and growth motivation (1955) So far as motivational status is concerned, healthy people have sufficiently gratified their basic needs for safety, belongingness, love, respect and self-esteem so that they are motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization (defined as ongoing actualization of...

Stanley Milgram: Obedience to Authority (1974)

During the years 1960-1963 Stanley Milgram carried out some experiments on obedience while working in the Department of Psychology at Yale University. Years later, in 1972-1973, he was granted a Fellowship and, while living in Paris, he wrote a book about the results and reflections on those experiments that had already been presented in a shorter form in various scientific journals. The following text is an excerpt from chapter one and chapter 15, where he applies his experimental findings to a massacre in Vietnam (My Lai.) It was published in 1974 as “[easyazon_link identifier=”B01LWV0NY3″ locale=”US” tag=”mainacademicsite-20″]Obedience to Authority[/easyazon_link].” Milgram unmasks in...

Carl Rogers: Freedom to Learn (1969)

What happens when a creative and original psychologist like Carl Rogers writes down his ideas about learning? The following two excerpts are from his book: [easyazon_link identifier=”0024031216″ locale=”US” tag=”mainacademicsite-20″]Freedom to Learn[/easyazon_link], published in 1969. The contains basic ideas on learning from a humanistic perspective, taking the whole person into account. Personal Thoughts on Teaching and Learning (1952) I wish to present some very brief remarks, in the hope that if they bring forth any reaction from you, I may get some new light on my own ideas. My experience is that I cannot teach another person how to teach. To...

Rosenhan: On Being Sane In Insane Places

How do we know what constitutes “normality” or mental illness? Conventional wisdom suggests that specially trained professionals have the ability to make reasonably accurate diagnoses. In the research described below, however, David Rosenhan provides evidence to challenge this assumption. What is — or is not –“normal” may have much to do with the labels that are applied to people in particular settings. in 1973, Rosenhan conducted an experiment by sending eight pseudo-patients into psychiatric hospitals. Once admitted, they acted normal, but they were still treated as insane. He concludes that one cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals. The experiment got...

Psychology: 19th Century Timeline

  1801  Pinel writes text on Moral Therapy 1804  Immanuel Kant dies 1804  Napoleon crowns himself Emperor of France 1807  Hegel completes The Phenomenology of Spirit 1808  Reil coins term “psychiatry” 1810  Gall publishes the first volume of Anatomie et Physiologie du Systèm Nerveux 1811  Sir Charles Bell reports to associates at a dinner party the anatomical separation of sensory and motor function of spinal cord 1815  Napoleon surrenders at Waterloo; the Peace of Paris ends the Napoleonic Wars; the Congress of Vienna firms up the old European monarchies 1816  Johann Friedrich Herbart publishes Lehrbuch zur Psychologie. Herbart’s text introduces the concept of repression. 1819  Schopenhauer writes “The World as Will and Idea.” 1822  Francis Magendie publishes an article which postulates the separation...

Gestalt Psychology

WHAT IS GESTALT THEORY? Gestalt psychology (sometimes also “gestaltism”) is a theory of mind created by the Berlin School of Experimental Psychology in the first decades of the 20th century. The German word “Gestalt” means shape, or form. Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws that govern the human ability to acquire and maintain perceptions of meaning in a chaotic world. Gestalt psychologists believe that the mind actively shapes perceptions, and aims to form units, or “gestalts.” For example, when we hear a melody we can remember it, and recognize it even if it is not played at the same...

Kurt Koffka: Principles of Gestalt Psychology. (1935)

Koffka wrote this book in 1935; I am reproducing the first chapter here. Why Psychology? AN INTRODUCTORY QUESTION When I first conceived the plan of writing this book I guessed, though I did not know, how much effort it would cost to carry it out, and what demands it would put on a potential reader. And I doubted, not rhetorically but very honestly and sincerely, whether such labour on the part of the author and the reader was justified. I was not so much troubled by the idea of writing another book on psychology in addition to the many books...

Wolfgang Metzger: Can the subject create his world? (1974)

In talking to younger psychologists, one finds that many of them seem to believe that perception is something at the surface of the mind, a kind of borderline problem, and that preoccupation with it is obsolete. They look with disdain at every psychological problem that does not at least deal with personality, motivation, or social intercourse. But when discussing problems in which simple facts of stimulus and reaction play a role, as for example in behavior therapy, they prove that they would have done well to occupy themselves a little more with the fundamentals of perception.

Max Wertheimer: What is Gestalt Theory? (1924) 

Wertheimer tried to answer this question in a lecture given before the Kant Society in Berlin, on December 7, 1924. It was first published in German in 1925: “Über Gestalttheorie.” The translation is by Willis Ellis, and was published in his “Source Book of Gestalt Psychology.” New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co, 1938. Here is the text of Wertheimers lecture:  What is Gestalt theory and what does it intend? Gestalt theory was the outcome of concrete investigations in psychology, logic, and epistemology. The prevailing situation at the time of its origin may be briefly sketched as follows. We go from the world of everyday events to that...

Carl Rogers: Significant Aspects of Client-Centered Therapy. 1946

This lecture was first published in American Psychologist, 1, 415-422 Introduction In planning to address this group, I have considered and discarded several possible topics. I was tempted to describe the process of non-directive therapy and the counselor techniques and procedures which seem most useful in bringing about this process. But much of this material is now in writing. My own book on counseling and psychotherapy contains much of the basic material, and my recent more popular book on counseling with returning servicemen tends to supplement it. The philosophy of the client-centered approach and its application to work with children...

Maurice Merleau-Ponty: The Structure of Behavior. 1942

Source: The Structure of Behavior, published by Beacon Press, 1967. I am quoting some passages from the introduction and the conclusion. Introduction: The problem of the relations of consciousness and nature Our goal is to understand the relations of consciousness and nature: organic, psychological or even social. By nature we understand here a multiplicity of events external to each other and bound together by relations of causality. With respect to physical nature, critical thought brings a well-known solution to this problem: reflection reveals that physical analysis is ‘not a decomposition into real elements and that causality in its actual meaning...

Jean Piaget: Genetic Epistemology. 1968

Source: “Genetic Epistemology” is the title of a series of lectures delivered by Piaget at Columbia University in 1968. I am quoting the first lecture below. 1 GENETIC EPISTEMOLOGY attempts to explain knowledge, and in particular scientific knowledge, on the basis of its history, its sociogenesis, and especially the psychological origins of the notions and operations upon which it is based. These notions and operations are drawn in large part from common sense, so that their origins can shed light on their significance as knowledge of a somewhat higher level. But genetic epistemology also takes into account, wherever possible, formalisation...

John Dewey: The Ego as Cause. 1894

This short article by Dewey was first published in Philosophical Review, 3, 337-341. Pretty much all libertarians nowadays insist that their doctrine of freedom of will is quite distinct from the older theory of indifferent choice. They suggest that their opponents are quite out of date in devoting their attention to the latter doctrine, which, under present conditions, is wholly a man of straw; they profess themselves quite as devoted adherents of the doctrine of causation as are the determinists, holding that the sole difference is as to the nature of the cause involved in volition.[1] Now, in one sense,...

C.G. Jung: Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology. 1933

Source: Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 1933. Published by Routledge & Kegan Paul, translated by Cary Baynes. Reproduced here: Chapter IX, The Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology. IT was universally believed in the Middle Ages as well as in the Græco-Roman world that the soul is a substance. Indeed, mankind as a whole has held this belief from its earliest beginnings, and it was left for the second half of the nineteenth century to develop a “psychology without the soul”. [the German Seele = soul or psyche] Under the influence of scientific materialism, everything that could not be...

Thomas Szasz: The Myth of Mental Illness. 1960

This essay from 1960 was first published in American Psychologist, 15, 113-118. It questions the fundamental assumptions that are implicit in the idea of “mental health”, or “mental illness.” What do these constructs really mean, and why do we have them? Introduction My aim in this essay is to raise the question “Is there such a thing as mental illness?” and to argue that there is not. Since the notion of mental illness is extremely widely used nowadays, inquiry into the ways in which this term is employed would seem to be especially indicated.  Mental illness, of course, is not...

Wolfgang Köhler: Gestalt Psychology Today (1959)

This is a speech by the German psychologist Wolfgang Köhler. It was given at the 67th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 6, 1959. Wolfgang Köhler was at the time the president of the APA. He is today remembered as a proponent of Gestalt Psychology, which became popularized later through its psycho-therapeutic applications. The speech was first published in American Psychologist, 14, 727-734. “In 1949, the late Herbert Langfeld gave a lecture in Europe in which he described what appeared to him to be the major trends in American psychology. He also mentioned Gestalt...