Saturday, June 10, 2017


Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that is characterized by intense absorption with internal experience and a voluntary suspension of normal awareness. It is a trance that is induced by another person, often referred to as a hypnotist. It also involves high levels of suggestibility, which is believed to enable the hypnotist influence voluntary and involuntary behavior in the person who is in the hypnotic state.
There has always been an element of mystery and enigma associated with hypnotism. Hypnosis has often been talked about in ancient myths and folklore, and has been associated with magic spells, which a person uses to control the mind of others. It is this aspect of hypnosis that makes it a part of occultism, which also has made it a matter of skepticism.     
Hypnosis, used in its current form is associated with the Scottish surgeon James Braid. He gave the term neurohypnology and wrote a book on it in 1843. He was also known to be the first person to use the terms hypnotism and hypnotist. Neurohypnology was then shortened to the term hypnosis. Due the significance of Braid in the usage of hypnosis in its current form, he is often considered the first genuine hypnotherapist or the founder of hypnotherapy and the father of modern hypnosis.
Even though Braid is regarded as the first genuine hypnotherapist, the roots of hypnosis can be traced back to the 18th century German physician, Franz Mesmer. He later established himself in Vienna and then in Paris. Mesmer was a strong believer in the theory of animal magnetism. He theorized that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects and called it animal magnetism.
He believed that each individual or any other animate object has an invisible natural force or a magnetic force field. This magnetic force field influences the bodily functioning of the individual. For a healthy person, according to Mesmer, the force field is evenly distributed. But it is unevenly distributed for someone who is unhealthy.
Franz Anton Mesmer
Mesmer believed that he could use magnets (mineral magnetism) to evenly distribute the force field and thus cure the diseases of any person. After successfully using magnets to cure people, he began to use his own hands (animal magnetism) to cure them. Mesmer used to touch the body parts of his patients by magnets or his own hands and in doing so, he would cure his patients.
After being highly successful, Mesmer, in 1788, opened a clinic in Paris. He began to treat patients of hysteria, individually as well as in groups. He used the same techniques that he used in Vienna. His treatment involved patients of hysteria sitting in a darkened room, with soft music playing in the background. Mesmer, being dressed like wizard, then entered the room holding a stick in his hand that had a magnet attached to it. Mesmer used to mostly touch the effected part of the body of his patients by his hands, and sometimes by the stick with a magnet. Miraculously, the hysteria patients used to get cured by this. This led to Mesmer becoming very popular. His method of treatment came to be known as mesmerism.
Even though Mesmer became highly popular and his treatment was very effective, skeptics were not ready to believe him. After investigating the matter, they felt Mesmer’s method was unscientific and the treatment to be a mere imagination. Mesmer was considered to be a fraud and a charlatan, and was banned from practicing his method of treatment. Eventually, Mesmer faded away into obscurity.
Years later, further investigations into mesmerism revealed that instead of animal magnetism, Mesmer actually created a trance-like situation that also involved a lot of suggestibility. The induced trance made the patients of hysteria susceptible to suggestibility, which helped in the patients being cured. What Mesmer believed to be animal magnetism, was actually artificially created trance coupled with suggestibility. Later, modifications in mesmerism were made, eventually being known as hypnosis. Mesmer, thus, came to be known as the first person to use hypnosis, although it was not the kind of hypnosis that began to be used in modern times.
Marquis de Puysegur
One such person who made modifications in mesmerism was Marquis de Puysegur. He was a member of the Society for Harmony, a group that promoted animal magnetism. Puysegur discovered that artificially creating a peaceful, sleep-like scenario could induce trance in people. He named this situation as artificial somnambulism. He found this artificially induced sleep-like situation as an effective therapeutic technique.
Puysegur discovered that during this sleep-like situation, individuals are highly susceptible to suggestions. He found that people would follow instructions such as laughing, crying, or dancing. In the somnambulistic state, due to suggestibility, they believed that they could feel no pain, or they could feel sensation in parts of the body that are paralyzed. He also found that, people did not remember anything during the trance state, after they come out of it. In all, what Puysegur had found is almost what is known about hypnotism in today’s time.
Puysegur modified mesmerism and renamed it as artificial somnambulism, which was almost like the hypnotism practiced in today’s time. However, the person who gave hypnotism credibility and made it acceptable in the mainstream is the Scottish surgeon, James Braid.
James Braid
Braid was initially skeptical about any trance inducing or artificial sleep-like situation. He was highly intrigued by the possibilities, and after extensive investigation, which involved a lot of experimentation, he changed his views. He believed that a trance situation could be created, but not in the ways in which Mesmer used to do it.
Unlike Mesmer, Braid induced trance by asking individuals to focus their attention on illuminated objects like a candle flame or small mirrors that were held at different distances from the face. This prolonged concentration, according to Braid, caused physical exhaustion, which made them susceptible to suggestibility. Any resulting change in behavior was explained by suggestibility, and not by any kind of magnetic field, as was believed by Mesmer.
Braid, thus, gave a proper scientific explanation for the induced trance, which made it acceptable in the field of medicine. A key feature discovered by Braid is that people have greater sensory awareness during the induced trance, for instance a person displaying an extremely high ability in hearing as compared to normal consciousness. He also found that during the trance, autonomic bodily processes can be controlled to a great degree. These findings were important to further establish it in the medical field.
Braid named this induced trance situation as neurypnology (meaning nervous sleep), which was also the title of his book published in the year 1843. In the book he described 25 different cases in which he used neurypnology to treat varied conditions such as pain in the spinal cord, stroke, paralysis, headache, and sensory impairment. He later changed the name from neurypnology to neurohypnology (taken from Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep). This was later shortened to hypnosis.
The efforts of Braid made neurohypnology (later named as hypnosis) as a subject of scientific research and a valid clinical technique that can be used for treating various medical conditions. He thus, came to be known as the first genuine hypnotherapist. He defined neurohypnology as “a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature”.
Auguste-Ambroise Liebault
Braid might have given hypnosis credibility, but it became popular due to the developments that took place in France. The French physician Auguste Ambroise Liebeault was convinced about the effectiveness of hypnosis. Liebeault believed that all mental disorders, especially hysteria, can be treated by hypnosis. Very soon he successfully began treating many patients of hysteria and other disorders by hypnosis.
Liebeault began gaining a lot of popularity and his perspectives gradually began to develop into a school. In 1866, he established the suggestion-centered school of psychotherapy. Because Liebeault practiced near the city of Nancy, France, it came to known as the Nancy School. It was only during this time when the term hypnosis began to be used.
Hippolyte-Marie Bernheim
The Nancy School attracted many scholars and physicians. One of them was the physician Hippolyte-Marie Bernheim. At Nancy, Liebeault had been treating patients of hysteria successfully by simply hypnotizing them and telling them that their symptoms will be gone when they will be awakened. Bernheim was persuaded, and after that both of them began working as a team. Bernheim also became the spokesperson of the Nancy School.
Bernheim believed that everyone was susceptible to suggestibility, and that some are more susceptible than the others. According to Bernheim, the more susceptible to suggestibility the easier it is to hypnotize that person. This susceptibility to suggestibility and hypnosis, later, came to be known as the trait of hypnotiziability. In treating patients successfully with hypnosis, Liebeault and Bernheim together helped establish the idea that hysteria and other mental disorders have psychological causes.
During the same time, the famous French physician and neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot, was also using hypnosis on hysteria patients very successfully. Charcot was working at the La Salpêtrière hospital at Paris. He, however, differed in his views about hysteria and hypnosis. He believed hysteria to be a neurological disorder and hypnosis to be a clinical feature of it. Unlike Liebeault and Berheim, he did not think that everybody can be hypnotized or that hypnosis can be used to treat hysteria and other mental disorders.
Jean-Martin Charcot
Because Charcot believed hypnosis to be a clinical feature of hysteria, he felt that only hysterics can be hypnotized. He believed that hypnosis can be used to induce the symptoms of hysteria on hysterical patients, and thus used hypnosis only as a way of studying hysteria. He never felt of it to be as a treatment of hysteria. He was very efficient in hypnotizing patients, often demonstrating it for students.
The difference in perspective on the causes of hysteria and the usage of hypnosis between Charcot and his school of thought and the Nancy School led to a huge heated debate between the two. This is considered to be one of the earliest academic debates in psychology. Eventually, the Nancy school was triumphant over Charcot. The Nancy School, thus, became an important landmark in firmly establishing hypnosis as a method of treatment of mental disorders.
Even though Braid gave hypnosis scientific credibility and acceptance, and the Nancy school made it widely popular, over the years, hypnosis has always been associated with skepticism, uncertainty, and controversies. The heated debate on the use of hypnosis between Charcot and the Nancy School was just the beginning when it came to controversies associated with hypnosis.
One person who very openly claimed his reservations with hypnosis was Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and arguably the most well-known psychologist of the 20th century. Freud, early in his career, realized that many of his patients were actually suffering from hysteria. In 1885, he therefore, went to Charcot to study hypnosis.
After returning to Vienna, Freud found hypnosis to be not very effective. The reasons for this, according to Freud, were that everyone cannot be easily hypnotized, and that individuals deny what they have said or done in the hypnotic state. He also suggested that hypnosis may lead to the emergence of others problems.
The reasons for the ineffectiveness of hypnosis have been corroborated by researches done later on. Specifically, extensive research has been done on Freud’s claims of other problems coming into existence due to hypnosis.
A lot of research has been done on the concept of iatrogenesis. Iatrogensis refers to adverse effects or complications that may occur due to a medical treatment. It has also been found to be caused sometimes by psychotherapy.
A number of clinicians and researchers have claimed that dissociative identity disorder (DID), earlier known as multiple personality disorder is actually an iatrogenic condition. DID is a severe mental disorder in which an individual develops two or more relatively enduring identities or dissociated personalities. These identities occur in the individual alternately (that is why the identities are also referred as alters), displaying completely distinct behavior patterns, in which the individual is unable to recall anything that has taken place during the emergence any one of the alters.
The occurrence of DID has been very rare, which is what made clinicians feel that is an iatrogenic condition rather than a disorder. There has been compelling evidence that DID is caused by suggestion-based psychotherapy such as hypnosis or hypnotherapy.
The trance state during hypnosis makes individuals highly susceptible to suggestibility. In such a state, when the therapist asks some leading questions about another thought process or behavior pattern, it tends to induce DID. Such questions or instructions in a hypnotic state, which involves extremely high suggestibility, lead to the emergence of other alters.
Hypnosis is often used to discover presumed alters. The therapists sometimes try to reify the existence of alternate identities and thus, validating their existence. The patients’ constantly reifying and attending to alternate personalities adventitiously reinforces multiplicity.
Many studies have also shown that hypnotized patients show greater frequencies of alternate personalities as compared to non-hypnotized patients. Additionally, it has been found that therapists using hypnosis are more likely to diagnose patients with DID, which has been regarded to be as consistent with iatrogensis. Hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, therefore, has often been found to induce and facilitate the symptoms of DID.
Apart from facilitating the symptoms of DID, hypnosis has also been found to be one of the major causes of false memory syndrome. False memory syndrome is the condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered on the memory of a traumatic event that has not taken place and is objectively false. The person’s life in a way is guided by the memory of an event or events that have never taken place. The false memory is so deeply ingrained in the individual that it orients his/her entire personality and lifestyle, leading to disruption in adaptive behavior.
There have been a number of individuals who have reported of being sexually abused in their childhood, but investigation did not reveal any forensic evidences. Likewise, a lot of people have reported of having paranormal experiences, with further investigation showing that none of such things have ever happened. Despite these events and experiences not taking place in reality, these people strongly believed in the occurrence of these events.
Research shows that some people develop such kinds of strong beliefs after going through hypnotic therapy. Hypnotic therapy involves recovery of lost memories – memories that have been repressed (pushed into the unconscious that is beyond conscious awareness), due to being traumatic. The idea behind this is that once those lost traumatic memories are recovered, they will help the patient to overcome the psychological problems that he/she has been experiencing.
Clinicians claim that this recovery of lost memories during hypnosis is not accurate. Sometimes, inadvertently, the therapist might implant false memories within the patient. The high susceptibility to suggestibility makes the individual under hypnosis believe things that have never occurred in the life of the person.
It has been found that the therapist due to suggestibility leads the person to believe such things. In the hypnotic state the person often says certain things that may be in his/her subconscious; something that he/she might have read somewhere or something that might have occurred with someone else. The therapist reacts based on these responses, and due to high suggestibility influences the person to believe that those events have occurred in his/her life. This then becomes strongly ingrained into the memory of that individual, leading him/her to develop false memory syndrome.
Many of such paranormal experiences like alien abduction, reincarnation, or encountering ghosts have been found to be actually a result of false memory syndrome that has been caused by hypnotic therapy. Therefore, instead of treating an individual from existing problems, hypnosis may actually lead to the development of newer problems like DID and false memory syndrome.
Over the years, despite the contributions of Braid and later the Nancy School in giving it hypnosis scientific validity, it has still not got that credibility. The basic nature of hypnosis has not been able to dissociate it from occultism. Even though it has been used as a clinical method, both in terms of treatment and research, the idea of hypnosis is still strongly associated with the element of mystery and magic.
Apart from being a clinical method, hypnosis, has often been used for entertainment purposes. A trance being induced making a person follow all kinds of instructions draws good viewership. It has become a kind of magic show that people enjoy. Skeptics also have strong doubts about the very reality of hypnosis, often claiming it to be a make-believe act that has no truth in it. All these controversies and skepticism associated with hypnosis has made clinicians and experts not to consider it in mainstream psychology and psychotherapy.
The controversies associated with hypnosis certainly raise questions over its credibility. However, the significance of the discovery of hypnosis cannot be denied. It was the discovery of hypnosis that led to the idea that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The causes of mental disorders are broadly categorized as somatogenic and psychogenic – somatogenic are biological causes and psychogenic are psychological causes.
The origins of the psychogenic causes of mental disorders are linked with Franz Mesmer. It was Mesmer’s method of treatment, mesmerism, which later developed into hypnosis, that for the first time led to the belief that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The significance of hypnosis can be further exemplified in that it was this belief that made it possible to get rid of the superstitions associated with mental disorders, which was that all mental disorders are caused by being possessed by demons and ghosts.
Further, even though hypnosis has been plagued by alleged claims of ineffectiveness in terms of DID and false memory syndrome, in today’s time it has been found to very useful in the treatment of specific problems like anxiety, headaches, chronic pain, addictions, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This shows that hypnosis has not lost all of its credibility and is indeed effective with respect to some specific psychological problems.
Finally, hypnosis not yet completely being accepted as a part of mainstream psychology and still being associated with occultism has added to its intrigue, leading to a lot of curiosity. It has always been a subject of fascination. It may have its skeptics, but its skepticism has only increased its popularity among the masses and has made people wanting to know more about it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


The fifth part of series - Initially Not A Psychologist ...

Granville Stanley Hall

Granville Stanley Hall is regarded as one the most influential psychologists. He is the founder of the American Psychological Association (APA), one of the world’s largest academic bodies of psychology, and helped in establishing psychology as a profession.
Stanley Hall has compiled an outstanding record of firsts in psychology – in 1878, he received the first American doctoral degree in psychology; in 1879, he became the first American to study at Wilhelm Wundt’s laboratory; in 1883, he began the first legitimate psychology research laboratory in the United States; in 1887, he started the first English language journal of psychology (the American Journal of Psychology); in 1892, he organized the American Psychological Association (APA) and became its first president; and he is also known as one of the first applied psychologists.
Even though having such remarkable achievements in the field of psychology, Hall did not actually begin his career in psychology. He, initially, was not a psychologist.
Leading his life in uncertainties, Hall can be said to have begun his proper career as a teacher of English, French, and German literature at Antioch College, Ohio. He also served there as a librarian, choir leader, and preached in the chapel.
Earlier, Hall had joined the Union Theological Seminary, at New York City. He had little interest in being a pastor and left for Germany, where he studied philosophy, theology, physiology, and physics. He also spent a lot of time in theater. Till 1871, at the age of 27, Hall had no proper degree. It was during this time that he got into teaching at Antioch College.
The year 1874, perhaps, can be seen as a turning point in the career of Hall. He read the book, Principles of Physiological Psychology, written by Wilhelm Wundt, which got him interested in psychology. He then took leave from Antioch and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and became an English teacher at Harvard. He also began graduate studies and did his research in the medical school. In 1878, he completed his dissertation on space perception, and thus, became the first person to have a doctoral degree in psychology, in the United States.
After receiving his doctoral degree, Hall left for Berlin and then Leipzig, to be Wundt’s student. He studied under Wundt during the first year of the psychology laboratory at Leipzig. Even though he was Wundt’s student, he conducted his own research on physiology, and later had little influence of Wundt on him.
When he returned to USA, from Leipzig, he began to emphasize the application of psychology to education, making him one of the pioneers of the psychology of education or educational psychology. He repeatedly urged the authorities at the National Education Association (NEA), USA, to have the psychological study of children as a major component of teaching.
He then delivered a series of lectures on education at Harvard, which eventually led him to be appointed as professor at John Hopkins University, in 1882. In 1883, he established a laboratory, the first legitimate psychology research laboratory in USA. He called it the laboratory of psychophysiology, where he taught a number of students who went on to become significant contributors in psychology.
In 1887, Hall began the American Journal of Psychology, which is the first English language journal of psychology. In 1892, he invited a dozen of psychologists to plan the establishment of an organization, leading to the formation of the American Psychological Association (APA). He was elected as the president, thus making him the founder and first president of the world’s largest academic body of psychology.
Hall started a number of psychology journals, apart from the American Journal of Psychology. In 1891, he started the Pedagogical Seminary (later renamed as Journal of Genetic Psychology); in 1904, he began the Journal of Religious Psychology; in 1910, he began the Journal of Race Development (later known as the Journal of International Relations, which was later called Foreign Affairs); and in 1915, he started the Journal of Applied Psychology. The American Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Applied Psychology are important publications even today.
Stanley Hall can also be credited, to quite an extent, for the worldwide popularity of psychoanalysis. In 1909, he invited Sigmund Freud to deliver a series of lectures on psychoanalysis, at Clark University. The lectures were very well received, and Sigmund Freud was highly appreciated. This was the first time that the American audience was exposed to psychoanalysis. It helped in making psychoanalysis to be known outside Europe and played an important role in making it being accepted as an academic discipline. This also played a role in the rise of the field of clinical psychology.
In 1924, in the year of his death, Stanley Hall was re-elected as the president of the APA. He is only the second psychologist, apart from William James, to have a second term as the president of APA.
Hall has made a number of significant contributions to the field of psychology. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of educational psychology, and one of the major forerunners of applied psychology. He also emphasized the role of genetics and evolution in psychology. Additionally, he is one of the first users of the survey technique, which is still considered to be an important research method in psychology.
From leading a life full of uncertainties, to becoming a teacher of literature, then developing interest in psychology after reading Wundt's book Principles of Physiological Psychology, and then later founding the American Psychological Association, Granville Stanley Hall made a number of remarkable accomplishments in psychology, and become one of the most renowned psychologists ever.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Wundt is the founder of the new science of psychology. Associating experimentation with psychology, he established psychology as an independent academic discipline, separating it from philosophy and physiology. According to Wundt, psychology should be studied by defining psychological events in terms of variables and analysing them by the experimental method.
Wundt defined psychology as the analytic study of the generalized adult human mind through the method of introspection. For Wundt, the subject matter of psychology is the study of consciousness. Wundt believed that consciousness has many different parts, which can be studied by breaking it down into smaller components. Wundt’s approach was a major precursor to the first school of psychology called structuralism.
Psychology in today’s time is very different from Wundt’s approach. Over the years, psychology went through many changes due to the emergence of other schools of thought. These schools broadened the scope of psychology beyond the laboratory, studied a wide range of topics, apart from just conscious experiences, and also emphasized on the practical applications of psychology. Gradually, with the passing of time, Wundtian psychology faded away.
Despite Wundtian psychology having little relevance in today’s time, some aspects of it can be found in psychological perspectives that emerged much later. Certain ideas proposed by Wundt are found in a rather different form and context in other approaches to psychology that came into existence many years after Wundtian psychology, and are still very popular.
Unlike the British empiricists, Wundt did not believe that the mind works passively. Wundt focused on the self-organizing capacity of the mind. Due to this he referred to his system as voluntarism – a term derived from the word volition, which means the act or power of willing. Voluntarism is the power of the will to organize the content of the mind into higher mental processes. He emphasized on the process of actively organizing and synthesizing the elements of the mind.
The concept of the will was highly significant for Wundt. He suggested that the idea of will should be the central concept on the basis of which psychological issues should be understood.
According to Wundt, human beings can decide what is attended and thus what is perceived, that is, humans can exert their will in attending to and perceiving of objects. He further suggested that much of this will has a purpose; it is motivated. On the whole, through his approach of voluntarism, Wundt was emphasizing that humans have will, choice, and purpose.
Abraham Maslow
Decades later, another psychological perspective developed and gained popularity by emphasizing similar ideas. One of the basic themes of humanistic psychology, founded by Abraham Maslow, that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, many years after Wundt, is choice and free will.
Humanistic psychologists believe that behavior is not constrained by either current circumstances or past experience. The way individuals act is not simply a response to an immediate stimulus, nor determined solely by previous events. Human beings, instead, choose and decide how to behave based on their subjective assessment of a situation. They are also guided by purpose rather than being passive to external factors. This means that, according to humanistic psychologists, human beings have free will.
This emphasis on free will emphasized by humanistic psychologists is very similar to Wundt’s voluntarism. Wundt opposed the associationists view of the mind being passive and suggested that humans can exert choice and will while attending to and perceiving. In the same way, humanistic psychology opposed the deterministic viewpoint of psychoanalysis and behaviorism.
Humanistic psychologists suggested that instead of being determined by the unconscious or environmental factors, human beings, based on their subjective perceptions of the situation, have choice and free will, and are not passive.
Wundt’s voluntarism, however, was specifically with respect to perception, whereas humanistic psychology, emphasizing on free will, is more in terms of behavior in general. Nevertheless, there can be a striking similarity found between Wundtian psychology and humanistic psychology with respect to choice, will, and purpose.
Wundt used his approach of voluntarism to explain the organization of mental elements referred to as apperception. He suggested that perceptions have a unity or wholeness; the visual experience of individuals in the real world comprehends a whole, complete object and not as the elementary sensations and feelings that constitute it. It is this organization of mental elements that Wundt called apperception. Wundt believed that apperception is active and voluntary; it is under the individual’s control. He emphasized on the active role of attention.
According to Wundt, when elements are attended to, they are arranged and rearranged as per the individual’s will. Wundt called this phenomenon creative synthesis. He believed that creative synthesis is involved in all acts of perception.
Wundt suggested that the process of organizing mental elements into a whole is a creative synthesis, which creates new properties from the building up or combining of the elements. Apperception, thus, according to Wundt, is an active process. The mind acts on the elements or smaller components in a creative way to make up the whole.
This combining of elements into a whole by the individual’s will in a creative manner was also suggested years later, in the 1930s, by the psychoanalyst Alfred Adler – one of the pioneers of social psychoanalysis.
Alfred Adler
One of the most significant concepts of Adler is the creative self. By the concept of creative self, Adler suggested that each individual has the ability, the creative power to develop his/her own personality, in the way he/she wants to. The creative power of the self is something that intervenes between the stimuli acting upon and the person and the responses the person makes to these stimuli.
Adler suggested that individuals use the raw material of heredity and experience to construct their own personality. The individual uses the heredity and environment, together with the manner in which he/she experiences them as the bricks and mortar to build and develop overall personality. The architectural design reflects that person’s own style. How individual’s put those materials together to use is of major importance.
The concept of the creative self was developed by Adler to oppose the mechanistic viewpoint of construction of life. Adler opposed the idea that individuals acquire unique behavior patterns through a stimulus-response kind of learning, because it implies that people are passive recipients who cannot interpret or act upon their experiences.
The creative self, in contrast, implies that people, by actively constructing them out of their experiences and heredities, create their own personalities, resulting in uniqueness, completeness, and wholeness. The creative self enables the individual to act upon the facts of the world and transform these facts into a personality that is dynamic, unified, and uniquely stylized.
In the same manner, Wundt opposed idea of the mind being passive and suggested that apperception takes place by creative synthesis, which organizes the mental elements into something new, unique, and whole; the mind acts upon sensations and experiences creatively to make the whole.
Wundt and Adler, in a way, were suggesting a similar idea in a different context. Wundt was talking about organization of sensations and experiences and its interpretation leading to the comprehension of a whole object. Adler was talking about using heredity, environment, and experiences taken together in the construction of personality. Both emphasized the individual actively being involved in the transformation from raw materials towards wholeness and completeness.
Wundt, therefore, suggested ideas and concepts that years later were represented in aspects of psychoanalytic and humanistic perspectives. Wundtian psychology, which involved the study of consciousness by breaking it down into smaller sensory experiences in a laboratory setting, proposed certain ideas and concepts similar to perspectives that emerged much later, at a time when psychology had moved beyond only experimentation and just the study of consciousness.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


In the year 1879, Wilhelm Wundt established the first ever psychology laboratory to conduct his experiments, at the University of Leipzig, Germany. The laboratory became highly influential in the development of modern psychology. It led to the establishment of many other psychology laboratories at different places. The laboratories that followed in different parts of Germany as well as other countries were modelled on Wundt’s laboratory.
Wilhelm Wundt
Wundt’s laboratory, thus, led the establishment of many other psychology laboratories, which helped in further establishing psychology as a separate, independent discipline. Due to its immense influence in the development of modern psychology, the year in which Wundt established his laboratory is usually regarded the beginning of modern psychology. However, when looking deeper into the history of psychology, there are a few other events or incidents or landmarks that occurred before 1879, which may also be considered as the beginning of modern psychology.
William James
A few years before Wundt established his laboratory at Leipzig, in 1875/76, William James established his own psychology laboratory at Harvard, which refutes the claim of Wundt’s laboratory to be the first one. The laboratory by James, was however, established for teaching demonstrations and not for conducting experiments.
The laboratory by James is said to be the first psychology laboratory and thus, can be said to be the beginning of modern psychology. William James was, however, not very fond of experimentation in psychology, and considering that the beginning of modern psychology is associated with experimentation, which separated it from philosophy and gave it its own identity, Wundt’s laboratory in 1879 is seen to be a better mark for the beginning of modern psychology rather than the laboratory by James in 1875/76.
A couple of years before William James established his laboratory and six years before Wundt established his laboratory, the year 1873 is seen as a highly significant landmark in the development of modern psychology. Wundt published the first part of his book Grundzüge der Physiologischen Psychologie (Principles of Physiological Psychology) in 1873, the second part being published in 1874.
Through this book, Wundt had envisioned to establish the framework of psychology as an experimental science. This is what it eventually turned out to be. The book, Principles of Physiological Psychology is considered to be a masterpiece by Wundt. It firmly established psychology as an independent scientific discipline, which is about conducting experiments in a laboratory and that has its own problems and methods of experimentation. For many years, this book served as a storehouse of information for experimental psychologists.
In this sense, the year of the publication of Principles of Physiological Psychology can be strongly considered to be the actual beginning of psychology. In this book, Wundt precisely laid out the framework of psychology to be an experimental science. He gave his perspective of what psychology should be, and eventually it went on to establish the psychology that Wundt had envisioned, that is, a science involving experimentation.
The book, however, cannot be seen in isolation. The origins of the book can be traced to another landmark in the history of psychology. More than ten years before Wundt published the first part of Principles of Physiological Psychology, he began a psychology course, Psychology as a Natural Science, at the University of Heidelberg. This was the first ever formal offering of such a course in the world.
The lectures that Wundt delivered in this course led him to the writing of his book Principles of Physiological Psychology. The book was actually drawn out from the lectures that he delivered in his course. Psychology as a Natural Science was the first ever formal course in psychology. In his lectures, Wundt talked about his views of psychology, which culminated into a book that established psychology as an experimental science, something that he had envisioned.
The year 1862, the beginning of this course can then be said to be the actual beginning of modern psychology. The beginning of modern psychology, then instead of being the year 1879, when Wundt established his experimental psychology laboratory, perhaps, actually took place about seventeen years before.
Even though in his course Psychology As A Natural Science, Wundt gave lectures about his views on psychology, the foundations of that were being built much before the beginning of the course. Wundt had studied physiology for the one semester under the great physiologist, Johannes Muller. After that he completed his doctorate, and then in 1857, was appointed assistant to the physiologist, Hermann von Helmholtz.
Being completely involved in research in physiology, it was during this time that Wundt began to conceive his ideas of a new psychology, that is, psychology being an independent experimental scientific discipline. He first outlined his ideas in the book, Beitrage zur Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung (Contributions to the Theory of Sensory Perception), published in 1858, with different sections being published later.
In the book, Wundt described his own original experiments and described the methods that should be used in the new psychology that he had thought of. It was in this book that Wundt used the term experimental psychology for the first time.
This gives a very good reason to mark the beginning of modern psychology as 1858, the publication of the first section of the book Contributions to the Theory of Sensory Perception. Much before the establishment of first experimental laboratory of psychology, in 1879, the publication of the book Principles of Physiological Psychology, in 1873, and the beginning of the first course in psychology, Psychology As A Natural Science, it was in this book that Wundt expressed his views about psychology.
Apart from the many contributions by Wundt, which can be suggested as the beginning of modern psychology, there is another person whose name and work can be associated with the beginning of modern psychology. Gustav Theodor Fechner, a German physicist and philosopher, along with Wundt, is regarded as an early pioneer of experimental psychology.
Gustav Fechner
Fechner was the founder of psychophysics, the scientific study of the relation between stimulus and sensation. It is the investigation of how physical stimuli are related to sensation. In 1860, Fechner published his book, Elemente der Psychophysik (Elements of Psychophysics), describing methods to study the relation of physical stimuli with the contents of consciousness.
Fechner was basically suggesting experimental methods to investigate sensation. This was also the method being suggested by Wundt. The work and method of Wundt was very similar to what Fechner had been suggesting. In this sense, many consider 1860, the year of the publication of Elements of Psychophysics as the beginning of modern psychology. In fact, the books Contributions to the Theory of Sensory Perception by Wundt, and Elements of Psychophysics by Fechner are referred to be as the literary birth of modern psychology.
Like there are other landmarks, apart from the establishment of the first experimental psychology laboratory, in 1879, that can be considered to be the beginning of modern psychology, in the same way, there are other people than Wundt who are considered to be the founder of modern psychology.
Studying sensation with the method of experiments and being the author of the highly significant book Elements of Psychophysics, many suggest Fechner to be the true founder of modern psychology. Wundt himself considered Fechner’s book to be the first conquest in experimental psychology. Wundt’s student, Edward Bradford Titchener, even referred to Fechner as the founder of experimental psychology. All this makes Fechner to be a strong contender to the founder of modern psychology.
Hermann von Helmholtz
Another person, apart from Wundt, who can be considered the founder of modern psychology, is the physicist, physician, mathematician, and physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz. Helmholtz is regarded as a significant contributor to the development of modern psychology. He was very successful in his works of sensory physiology and visual perception.
Wundt assisted Helmholtz for 13 years at the University of Heidelberg. The sensory physiology of Helmholtz became the basis of the work of Wundt. Many suggest that had it not been for Helmholtz, Wundt would have not gone ahead with his ideas of the new psychology. In this regard, Helmholtz can be considered to be the founder of modern psychology, instead of Wundt.
Both Fechner and Helmholtz, even though being significant contributors to the new psychology, they never intended to develop a new science or establish psychology as a separate discipline from philosophy and physiology. Wundt, however, made great efforts to actually establish a new psychology that was experimental in nature.
Wundt made great strides in promoting and selling the idea of a scientific psychology, which is why he is always regarded as the true founder of modern psychology. Nevertheless, not ignoring the significant contributions of Helmholtz and Fechner, many suggest Helmholtz, Fechner, and Wundt together to be the founders of modern psychology.
The year 1879, when Wundt established the first experimental psychology laboratory at Leipzig, has always been suggested to be the beginning of modern psychology. A deeper look into the history of psychology, however, shows that there have been significant events or landmarks occurring before 1879 that could very well be considered as the beginning of modern psychology.
The years 1875, 1873, 1862, 1860, and 1858 are all highly significant in the development of psychology as a separate scientific discipline and can very well be regarded as the beginning of modern psychology. Likewise, there have been other contributors, apart from Wilhelm Wundt, who can be considered to be the founders of modern psychology.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


The next part of the series - Initially Not A Psychologist ...

Franz Brentano
Franz Brentano was a significant figure in modern psychology. At a time when the Wundtian approach was dominant, he began the movement called Act psychology that turned out to be a precursor to Gestalt psychology and humanistic psychology. He opposed the Wundtian approach and came closest to Wundt in terms of being influential, in the late nineteenth century. Brentano, however, did not begin his career in psychology; he was, initially, not a psychologist.
Brentano, at the age of sixteen, began studying for Catholic priesthood in Germany. He was also studying philosophy, and in 1862 he was awarded a doctorate at the University of Tübingen, Germany. The topic of dissertation was On the Manifold Meaning of Being According to Aristotle.  
In the next two years, Brentano, completed his studies in theology and was ordained as priest at Würzburg. After that he began teaching philosophy at the University of Würzburg, Germany. He gave lectures on the work of Aristotle, which was recognized as highly scholarly. He became known as an effective teacher, who had a lot of clarity in philosophy and mathematics.
During this time, Brentano started becoming a controversial figure because of his criticisms of the anti-intellectualism of the Church. This eventually led him to resign from his professorship and formally leave the Church.
In 1874, Brentano joined the University of Vienna as professor of philosophy. He spent his most productive years at Vienna. Some of his students were Carl Stumpf, a significant figure in German psychology; Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology; and Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis.
The most important and well known book of Brentano, Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt (Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint) was published in 1874. It would have been one of the first multivolume books about the scope and methodology of psychology, but he could not complete the later volumes.
Brentano began the movement called Act psychology. The central aspect of Act psychology is the inseparable interaction between the individual and the environment. Accordingly, psychological events are defined as phenomena, that is, events cannot be reduced to component elements without losing their identity.
With this respect, Brentano defined psychology as the science of psychic phenomena expressed as acts and processes. This perspective was different from psychology emphasizing on reductionism, consciousness, and associationism, which was dominant at that time, as reflected in the Wundtian approach.
In this sense, Brentano’s Act psychology opposed Wundt’s idea that psychology is the study of the content of conscious experience. According to Brentano, the subject matter of psychology should be mental activity. Act psychology questioned the Wundtian approach that mental processes involve contents or elements.
Brentano viewed consciousness as a unity expressed by acts. He felt that examining the contents or elements of consciousness, as in the Wundtian approach does not have psychological meaning because it destroys the essential unity of consciousness. In contrast, he believed that consciousness is a unity and that the product of consciousness (the acts and processes) are truly psychological.
Brentano also opposed Wundt in terms of not favoring the experimental method. Rather than the experimental method, he favored the empirical method. According to him, instead of experimentation, observation should be the primary method of psychology. He believed that the empirical method is broader and more apt to study mental acts.
He suggested various empirical methods to study mental acts such as inner perception of ongoing acts (naïve reporting of psychic phenomena), recalling past psychic events in the memory and objectively observing them, observation of overt behavior, observation of antecedent and physiological processes associated to psychological acts, and imagining a mental state and observing the accompanying mental processes.
In his later years, Brentano used the phenomenological method. He believed that phenomenology would help in describing psychological acts in terms of subjective experiences.
Brentano’s idea of unity of consciousness later on was influential in the development of the Gestalt movement and his use of the phenomenological method led to the phenomenological movement, which became an integral aspect of humanistic psychology. In this way, Act psychology is considered to be the precursor of two of the major movements in psychology.

From being a priest and a professor of philosophy, Brentano came to be known as one of the most important early psychologists. His Act psychology gave a perspective of psychology that was different from the dominant Wundtian approach. Act psychology was also the precursor in the development of Gestalt psychology and humanistic psychology, two of the highly significant and influential approaches in psychology.        

Thursday, May 12, 2016


The 1960s saw the beginning of a movement in psychology, which is called the humanistic movement. A group of psychologists were unhappy with the then current state of psychology and its methodology, and were determined to bring about a change, which is often referred to as the humanizing of psychology. The approach that they proposed is known as the humanistic approach to psychology or humanistic psychology.
The humanistic approach to psychology, referred to as the third force in psychology (after psychoanalysis and behaviorism), emphasizes on personal growth, strengths, aspirations, positive values, free will, human potential, and conscious experiences. Humanistic psychology conceptualizes humans as positive beings. It creates an optimistic picture of human nature and describes human beings as active and growth oriented.
In the 1950s, a number of psychologists began to show dissent and dissatisfaction with the existing approaches, especially psychoanalysis, which was dominant at that time. The humanistic movement began as a reaction against psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis was heavily criticized for creating a pessimistic and negative picture of human beings. Humanistic psychology made an attempt to not just provide an alternative approach, but to all together replace the existing approach; they felt that instead of emphasizing the negative aspects, focus should be on the positive aspects of human nature.
Even though humanistic psychology began as a reaction against psychoanalysis, it was psychoanalysis itself that had a strong influence on humanistic psychology. The roots of the humanistic movement are found in psychoanalysis. The early psychoanalysts who moved away from the orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis played an influential role on humanistic psychology. They emphasized on conscious experiences (not just the unconscious), social urges, free will, and the significance of not just the past, but the present. Some of these ideas formed the foundations of humanistic psychology.
The psychoanalysts whose specific ideas can be said to be a precursor to humanistic psychology are Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, Harry Stack Sullivan, Heinz Kohut, and Erich Fromm. These theorists modified the orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis in their own way, but had some basic Freudian psychoanalytic elements in their theory, which the humanistic movement had opposed.
One of the most significant ideas in humanistic psychology is the concept of self-actualization given by Abraham Maslow, a pioneer of humanistic psychology. Self-actualization is the innate tendency of individuals to grow beyond their basic needs and realize their true potential. In the words of Maslow, self-actualization is the desire to become more and more what one idiosyncratically is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. It involves the continuous desire to fulfil potentials and become the most complete, the fullest.
Carl Jung
Self-actualization, even though being a concept of humanistic psychology, has actually been derived from Jung’s ideas. The concept of self-actualization is reflected in Jung’s idea of the transcendent function of individuals. This concept is used by Jung in terms of development and it is the capacity to work towards the ideal goal of perfect wholeness.
The aim of this function is the revelation of the essential person, the realization of the personality in all aspects, and the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness. In all, the transcendent function is about self-exploration leading to the tendency to integrate various psychic forces and becoming a whole person. The transcendent function is very similar to Maslow’s idea of self-actualization.
Like self-actualization, one of the major ideas of humanistic psychology is free will, which asserts that behavior is not determined by past experiences or unconscious forces, and that human beings can exert their own choices in given circumstances and choose their path towards self growth. This idea of free will in humanistic psychology was much earlier reflected in the concept of the creative self given by Alfred Adler.
Alfred Adler
Adler’s concept of creative self suggests that people have the capacity to shape their own personality. Adler suggests that each individual can shape and determine his/her destiny. According to him, instead of behavior being determined by the unconscious and past experiences, people can themselves achieve their goals and their true potential. Adler was also the first person to move away from orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis and emphasized on social urges and humanistic tendencies of individuals.

Another pioneer of the humanistic movement, Carl Rogers, was influenced by Karen Horney in his ideas of self. Rogers distinguished between real self and ideal self. The real self is what the person actually, which is based on his/her true potential and the ideal self is what the person feels he/she should be, which is based on societal expectations. The more the person moves towards the ideal self the more he/she has incongruence, which means that the person is anxious, defensive, constricted, and is more likely to be maladjusted. Whereas when there is little discrepancy between the real self and ideal self, the person is said to be well adjusted, is characterized by openness to experience and self-awareness, and has harmonious relationships.
Karen Horney
Karen Horney had similar ideas about the self before Rogers. Horney describes three different aspects of the self – real self, despised self, and ideal self. The real self is the inner core of personality based on self-perceptions, which is the true potential of the individual. The despised self is perceptions of inferiority based on others’ negative evaluations that leads to helplessness. The ideal self or the idealized self-image is hope of achieving perfection based on inadequacies of the individual. It is an imperfect and misleading perception of the self.
The idealized self gives a false picture of personality and alienates the individual from the real self. Horney suggests that the more an individual has an idealized self-image the more he/she moves away from his/her real self and thus, is more likely to be neurotic. Rogers was clearly influenced by Horney in giving his concept of congruence and incongruence.
Harry Stack Sullivan
Rogers was also influenced by Harry Stack Sullivan. Rogers gave a lot of emphasis to positive relationships, unconditional positive regard, and empathy, and how these play a role in developing a fully functioning person. Sullivan was the pioneer of the interpersonal approach to psychology, which emphasized the role of interpersonal interactions and relationships in developing the self and personality.
According to Sullivan, individuals’ relationships shape the self and personality, and that personality cannot be isolated from relationships. Therefore, positive and empathic relationships become the key in the development of an individual. Sullivan suggests that positive relationships lead to better mental health and helps the individual in coping with anxiety and loneliness.
Heinz Kohut
Heinz Kohut also emphasized the significance of positive relationships in the development of a healthy self. He suggested that empathic reactions from significant others is very important for the formation of the self. Further Kohut suggests that when significant others reassure the strengths and uniqueness of the person then he/she has high self-esteem and fulfilling relationships. If this does not take place then the person might get into sensation seeking, substance abuse, and perceives the surroundings as a hostile place.
According to Kohut, lack of acceptance from parents makes the individual prone to narcissistic personality disorder. For their treatment, Kohut believed that the therapist playing the role of a parent would reduce the feeling of lack of acceptance and lead to the development of a healthy self. This aspect of therapy is also found in the method of Rogers.
Rogers also suggested that the therapist showing unconditional positive regard to the client/patient, just like parents show to their child, will lead to healthy psychological development. Kohut, in fact, is regarded as the bridge between Freudian psychoanalysis and humanistic psychology.
Erich Fromm
Among all the psychoanalytic approaches, Erich Fromm’s approach seems to be the closest in foreshadowing humanistic psychology. Fromm’s psychoanalytic approach is called humanistic psychoanalysis. According to Fromm, the only way to alleviate loneliness is the spirit of love, seeking contact, and sharing among each other. The idea of humanistic psychoanalysis, which includes love, affiliation, sharing, and bonding is very similar to the features of humanistic psychology. Fromm also suggested that human beings have an inherent striving for love. This is similar to Maslow’s belongingness and love needs, which is a need to seek satisfying relationships and affiliating with others.
The humanistic movement in psychology demanded a change in the then existing approaches to psychology. Humanistic psychologists were dissatisfied with the psychoanalytic approaches that were dominant at that time, and felt that a very negative and pessimistic picture of human beings is being portrayed. They wanted to replace this approach with ideas that gave a positive and optimistic picture of human beings.
However, much before the humanistic movement there were some psychoanalysts who modified psychoanalysis in their own way, without changing some of the basic elements of Freudian psychoanalysis. They were bringing about a change that emphasized on wholeness, capacity to shape ones personality, positive relationships, and the spirit of love and sharing. In short, they were being more humanistic in their approach. In this sense, it can be said that humanistic psychology even though being a reaction against psychoanalysis, was also very much influenced by psychoanalysis.