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.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


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

Hermann Ebbinghaus
Hermann Ebbinghaus is one of the most significant figures of modern psychology and experimental psychology. He was the first psychologist to investigate learning and memory experimentally.
He is seen as the original genius in experimental psychology. His work on learning and forgetting was the first truly psychological experiment, one that was not a part of physiology. He, thus, considerably broadened the scope of experimental psychology. Ebbinghaus, however, was initially not a psychologist.
Initially being interested in studying history, Ebbinghaus shifted his interests to literature and then philosophy. In 1873, he received his doctoral degree in philosophy.
In 1876, Ebbinghaus bought a secondhand copy of Fechner’s book, Elements of Psychophysics. Gustav Theodor Fechner was a philosopher, physicist, and experimental psychologist as well as the founder of Psychophysics – the scientific study of the relation between stimulus and sensation; the quantitative investigation of the relationship between physical stimuli and the sensations and perceptions they affect. This book profoundly influenced the thinking of Ebbinghaus and developed his interest in psychology.
Ebbinghaus found Fechner’s mathematical approach to psychology to be very exciting. He admired the scientific precision of Fechner’s work on perception. He decided to apply the experimental method to study the higher mental processes; something that Wilhelm Wundt claimed was not possible. Thus, by investigating higher mental processes such as memory, he proved Wundt to be wrong and also changed the way in which association could be studied.
Ebbinghaus decided to investigate the formation of associations by learning serial lists of nonsense syllables, which are meaningless combinations of three letters, he invented for the purpose. He chose nonsense syllables because they are meaningless and that the sameness of their content would not affect the process of learning. He wanted to isolate and study memory as the pure function of learning, abstracting away any effects of content.
In 1885, Ebbinghaus published his work on memory as Ueber das Gedächtnis (Memory). In this, he described his methodology and findings, including the popular retention curve showing forgetting over time from initial acquisition. The work was widely acclaimed and even hailed by Wundt.
From the study of memory, Ebbinghaus moved on to study color vision. He also developed early versions of intelligence tests, anticipating by several years the work of the French psychologist Alfred Binet.
In 1890, Ebbinghaus, with the physicist Arthur König founded the psychological journal called Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane (New Writings for the Psychology and Physiology of Sense Organs). The journal went on to become a highly acclaimed one.
In 1902, he published the highly successful general psychology textbook called Grundzüge der Psychologie (Foundations of Psychology). This book became the standard textbook for psychology in German universities, just like William James’s book Principles of Psychology was in American universities. In 1908, Ebbinghaus published Abriss der Psychologie (A Summary of Psychology), which became more popular than his previous book.
The research of Ebbinghaus showed that, contrary to prevailing beliefs, experimental methods could be applied to the study of the higher thought processes. His research brought objectivity, quantification, and experimentation to the study of learning, which is a topic central to modern psychology. It is due to Ebbinghaus that the concept of association changed from speculation to formal scientific investigation. Many of his conclusions about the nature of learning and memory remain valid even today.
Ebbinghaus did not make any theoretical contributions to psychology. He also did not leave behind any system or school of psychology; he was not even interested in doing so. However, his contributions to psychology are indelible.
His contributions to psychology are important not just in terms of the study of learning and memory, but also to experimental psychology as a whole. His contribution to the intellectual atmosphere of his times significantly helped in establishing psychology as a scientific enterprise.
Ebbinghaus began his career with a doctoral degree in philosophy. He became very excited after reading Fechner’s book, Elements of Psychophysics. He was highly influenced by that book, which led him to develop an interest in psychology. He then went on to become one of the greatest experimental psychologists and a major figure of modern psychology.     

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Psychology is very often, by many, seen as the study and treatment of mental problems; it is seen as a field of study that deals with abnormal behavior and psychological problems. However, initially, psychology had no association with mental illness and disorders. This aspect of psychology emerged much later.
Modern psychology began in 1879, with the establishment of Wundt’s laboratory at Leipzig. Psychology then, and for many years later, was the study of conscious experiences and its aim was to understand basic human processes. The major topics of study were sensation, perception, memory, and learning. In 1892, when the American Psychological Association (APA) was established, psychology was regarded as an academic discipline with its roots in experimentation and was considered to be a field of study based only on research.
With the formation of the APA, psychology was said to be firmly established as a distinct discipline. Psychology was regarded as a scientific, research based discipline as in the beginning of modern psychology, and psychologists were even then mainly concerned with sensation, perception, and dimensions of the mind.
It was only in 1896, seventeen years after the beginning of modern psychology and four years after the formation of the APA that psychology began to be concerned with mental disorders. The year 1896 is regarded as the birth of clinical psychology – the area of psychology concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders.
The opening of the first psychological clinic, in 1896, by Lightner Witmer, at the University of Pennsylvania, is regarded as the formal beginning of clinical psychology. After completing his PhD under Wilhelm Wundt, Witmer returned to the University of Pennsylvania and became the director of the psychology laboratory. While doing research, he was always very keen of using the basic principles of human behavior to help individuals with their difficulties.
In 1896, a teacher consulted Witmer about the problems her student was facing in school. Witmer organized a make shift clinic and after assessing the student’s problem, he developed a specific treatment program. He found that the child had difficulty in spelling, reading, and memory, and recommended tutoring, which later proved to be a successful intervention.
Lightner Witmer
Witmer, thus, became the first psychologist to use his understanding of the principles of human behavior to help an individual with a particular problem. Within a few months, Witmer was preparing courses on methods for treating mentally defective, blind, and disturbed children.
Later, in the same year, Witmer presented a paper at the annual meeting of APA in which he described his methods of diagnosis and treatment. It was here that he used the term clinical psychology for the first time. He also proposed that a psychological clinic could be devoted to diagnosis and evaluation, individual treatment, public service, research, and the training of students.
By 1904, the University of Pennsylvania began offering formal courses in clinical psychology and Witmer went on to offer the first college course on clinical psychology. In 1907, Witmer founded the journal Psychological Clinic, which became the first journal in the field. For many years, this was the only journal for clinical psychology.
In the first issue of the journal, Witmer proposed a new application of psychology and a new profession to be called clinical psychology. The following year, he established a boarding school for retarded and disturbed children, and in 1909 his university clinic expanded and was established as a separate administrative unit.
Witmer independently developed his psychological clinic at the University of Pennsylvania along with programs to assist children with primarily school related difficulties and challenges. Teachers began sending to Witmer’s new clinic many other children with a broad range of deficiencies and problems, which included hyperactivity, learning disabilities, and poor speech and motor development. As his experience with these problems increased, Witmer developed standard programs of assessment and treatment.
A number of psychologists followed Witmer’s example, and within a few years many psychological clinics opened. All these clinics were patterned on Witmer’s clinic.
Many of the principles that Witmer developed in his psychological clinic are still used today - he favored a diagnostic evaluation prior to offering treatment procedures and services, he favored a multidisciplinary team approach instead of individual consultation, he used interventions and diagnostic strategies based on research evidence, and, he was interested in preventing problems before they emerged.
Therefore, clinical psychology, the area of psychology devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal behavior and psychological disorders began in 1896. This was the first time a psychologist used the understanding of basic processes in order to treat abnormal behavior.
A year before the birth of clinical psychology, abnormal behavior, which was only studied in psychiatry, became a part of psychology, due to the beginning of the classical school of psychology called Psychoanalysis.
In his career as a neurologist, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, realized that many of his patients had neurological problems without any organic pathology. Freud found that the neurological symptoms of his patients were caused by hysteria, which was due to an emotional conflict that individuals might be suffering from.
This emotional conflict, according to Freud was due to painful childhood memories, forbidden sexual wishes, or forbidden aggressive wishes that were hidden in the unconscious mind of the individuals. When not resolved, this emotional conflict gets manifested as neurological symptoms.
Sigmund Freud
It was this realization that led Freud towards the founding of psychoanalysis. In 1895, Freud collaborated with his colleague and mentor Joseph Breuer in the publication of the book Studies on Hysteria. The book was about the description of the cases of hysteria that they had treated. The publication of this book is said to be the beginning of psychoanalysis – a system of psychological theory and therapy that aims to understand and treat mental illness by investigating the unconscious elements of the mind.
After separating from Breuer, Freud further developed his theory with the publication of his books The Interpretation of Dreams, in 1900, and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, in 1901. Freud majorly used the techniques of free association and dream analysis for treating his patients.
In free association, the patient lies on a couch and is encouraged to talk openly and spontaneously, giving complete expression to every idea, no matter how embarrassing, unimportant, or foolish it may seem. Such thoughts were often jumbled and fragmentary, with no apparent patterns. However, Freud would gradually see a pattern emerge, which resulted in a highly emotional recall of forgotten events.
These events, according to Freud were repressed in the unconscious mind of the patient and were only revealed in the conscious awareness due to free association. This recall of repressed memories and events would help the patients to be treated of their emotional trauma.
Freud also analysed the dreams (dream analysis) of his patients. He believed that dreams represent a disguised satisfaction of repressed desires and that the essence of a dream is wish fulfilment. Freud believed that when patients described their dreams, their forbidden desires (the latent dream content) are expressed only in symbolic form. This revealing of forbidden desires of his patients helped him in their treatment.
Freud used clinical observations as his primary data. He was a gifted observer and heavily relied on clinical data. He derived his theory from the experiences he had with his patients in his clinic. Freud also believed that normal and abnormal behavior can be seen in continuity. According to him normality and abnormality differed only in terms of degree and not in type; and thus, had a humane approach towards mental illness.  
Among all the classic schools of psychology, Psychoanalysis is the only one that made its aim to improve the mental health of an individual. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, according to which behavior is guided by the unconscious forces of the mind, was the first comprehensive theory of personality.
The ideas of Freud became very crucial to the development of clinical psychology. It moved the field far beyond its origins in Witmer’s clinic. Psychologists were fascinated with Freud’s work and his ideas provided clinical psychologists with their first psychological techniques of therapy.
Therefore, in 1895, sixteen years after the beginning of modern psychology, with the formation and rise of psychoanalysis, the study abnormal behavior which was only a part of psychiatry had also become a part of psychology.    
Psychology, even though popularly seen as synonymous with the study and treatment of abnormal behavior, initially had no association with it. Modern psychology began as a scientific, research-based field to understand general, normal basic human processes. It was a good sixteen to seventeen years after the beginning of modern psychology that abnormal behavior was included as a part of psychology. Before this, abnormal behavior was only a part of psychiatry.