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The Case for a Reorientation in the History of Psychology

  • Katherine Arens
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Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 113)

Abstract

Psychology is a relatively new field whose antecedents as a systematic discipline are generally acknowledged to extend back to the nineteenth century. Despite this short history, the prominence of the field in the twentieth century has led to a considerable body of work on its origins. The development of the field has been traced in the ground-laying work of Edwin Boring and others, in 40 years of effort towards establishing a canon of teachers, schools, and publications of note.1

Keywords

Nineteenth Century Academic Career Experimental Psychologist Space Perception Nonsense Syllable 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Edwin G. Boring, A History of Experimental Psychology (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1950/57), and Sense and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1942). Boring had a distinct program in establishing this canon, as several scholars have noted, but this program has not hindered his work from setting a standard. See, for example, John M. O’Donnell, “The Crisis of Experimentalism in the 1920s: E.G. Boring and His Uses of History,” American Psychologist 34, No. 4 (April 1979): 289–295, on Boring’s program, and Richard P. High, “In the Image of E.G. Boring” (Review of The First Century of Experimental Psychology), Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 18, No. 1 (January 1982): 88–89, on the persistence of Boring’s model.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This definition of a paradigm relies on the work of Michel Foucault particularly. For a definition of Foucault’s épistemè, see the essay review by David E. Leary, “Michel Foucault, An Historian of the Sciences Humaines” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 12, No. 3 (July 1976): 286–93. Leary provides an overview of Foucault’s work, while disagreeing on the utility of his innovations.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    For a review of the types of histories available in the mid-sixties, see Robert M. Young, “Scholarship and the History of the Behavioural Sciences,” History of Science, 5 (1966): 1–51; he includes information on Boring and the consequences of his work.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See particularly Mitchell G. Ash, “The Self-Preservation of a Discipline: History of Psychology in the United States between Pedagogy and Scholarship,” which discusses “textbook histories,” and Ulfried Geuter, “The Uses of History for the Shaping of a Field: Observations on German Psychology,” in Loren Graham, Wolf Lepenies, and Peter Weingart, eds., Functions and Uses of Disciplinary Histories (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1983): 143–189 and 191–228.Google Scholar
  5. Josef Brozek, “History of Psychology: Diversity of Approaches and Uses,” Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 31, Ser. II, No. 2 (February 1969): 115–127.Google Scholar
  6. “Psychology: A Prescriptive Science,” American Psychologist, 22, No. 6 (June, 167): 435–443.Google Scholar
  7. For a discussion of Watson’s use of “paradigm” and an example of the information constituting one, see Irving Kirsch, “Psychology’s First Paradigm,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 13, No. 4 (October 1977): 317–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. The best overview of the field is Historiography of Modern Psychology, ed. Josef Brozek and Ludwig J. Pongrantz (Toronto: C.J. Hogrefe, 1980).Google Scholar
  9. Bernard J. Baars, The Cognitive Revolution in Psychology (New York/London: Guilford Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  10. These are only representative voices. For some further perspectives on the uses and misuses of histories of psychology, see: William R. Woodward’s review of the Graham volume (op. cit.), “Disciplinary History,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 22 (July 1986): 212–4.Google Scholar
  11. 10a.
    William R.“Commentary on the Symposium: The Use of History in the Social Sciences Curriculum,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 18 (July 1982): 286–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 10b.
    Georg Eckhardt and Lothar Sprung, eds., Advances in Historiography of Psychology (Berlin: VEB Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1983), especially Heinz Metzler, “Does a Disciplinary Change of Paradigms Exist in Psychology?” (181–6), and Michael Wertheimer, “Why We Should Study the History of Psychology” (11–25).Google Scholar
  13. William R. Woodward and Mitchell G. Ash, eds. The Problematic Science: Psychology in Nineteenth-Century Thought (New York: Praeger, 1982).Google Scholar
  14. Much current research explores seventeenth- and eighteenth-century psychology. See for example: Kurt Danziger, “Origins of the Schema of Stimulated Motion: Toward a Pre-History of Modern Psychology,” History of Science, 21 (June 1983): 183–210Google Scholar
  15. Karl M. Figlio, “Theories of Perception and the Physiology of Mind in the Late Eighteenth Century,” History of Science, 12 (1975): 177–212Google Scholar
  16. David E. Leary, “Berkeley’s Social Theory: Context and Development,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 38 (1977): 635–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 12c.
    David E. Leary, “The Intentions and Heritage of Descartes and Locke: Toward a Recognition of the Moral Basis of Modern Psychology,” Journal of General Psychology: 102 (1980), 283–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 12d.
    David E. Leary, “Nature, Art, and Imitation: The Wild Boy of Aveyron as a Pivotal Case in the History of Psychology,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 13 (1984): 155–172Google Scholar
  19. 12e.
    Roger Smith, “The Background of Physiological Psychology in Natural Philosophy,” History of Science, 11 (June 1973): 75–123. The bibliographies in these articles can lead the reader into a field outside the scope of this volume.Google Scholar
  20. 13.
    Aside from Boring’s work, the classical histories of psychology are: Max Dessoir, Outlines of the History of Psychology, trans. Donald Fisher (New York: MacMillan Co., 1912)Google Scholar
  21. 13a.
    Otto Klemm, A History of Psychology, trans. Emil Carl Wilm and Rudolf Pintner (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1914).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 13b.
    More recent histories of note that organize their data according to schools and trends include: Thomas Hardy Leahey, A History of Psychology: Main Currents in Psychological Thought, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1987)Google Scholar
  23. 13c.
    Gardner Murphy, Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology, rev. ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1949)Google Scholar
  24. 13d.
    William S. Sahakian, History and Systems of Psychology (New York: Halsted Press/John Wiley & Sons, 1975)Google Scholar
  25. 13e.
    William S. Sahakian,History of Psychology: A Source Book in Systematic Psychology (Itasca, IL: F.E. Peacock, 1986)Google Scholar
  26. 13f.
    Michael Wertheimer, A Brief History of Psychology, rev. ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979)Google Scholar
  27. 13g.
    Michael Wertheimer(as a 15-volume series) Die Psychologie des 20. Jahrhunderts (Zürich: Kindler, 1976 ff.), especially Bd. I: Die europäische Tradition: Tendenzen, Schulen, Entwicklungslinien, ed. Heinrich Balmer, and Bd. II & III: Freud und die Folgen: Von der klassischen Psychoanalyse bis zur allgemeinärztlichen Psychotherapie, ed. Dieter Eicke.Google Scholar
  28. 14.
    Notable examples of histories of pscyhology arranged specifically around themes, and only secondarily around names or schools are: Claude E. Buxton, ed., Points of View in the Modern History of Psychology (Orlando: Academic Press, 1985)Google Scholar
  29. 14a.
    Robert W. Lundin, Theories and Systems of Psychology (Lexington, MA: Theory: Context and Development)Google Scholar
  30. 14b.
    Robert W. Lundin, Journal of the History of Ideas, 38 (1977): 635–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 14c.
    David E. Leary, “The Intentions and Heritage of Descartes and Locke: Toward a Recognition of the Moral Basis of Modern Psychology,” Journal of General Psychology: 102 (1980), 283–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 14d.
    David E. Leary, “Nature, Art, and Imitation: The Wild Boy of Aveyron as a Pivotal Case in the History of Psychology,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 13 (1984): 155–172Google Scholar
  33. 14e.
    Roger Smith, “The Background of Physiological Psychology in Natural Philosophy,” History of Science, 11 (June 1973): 75–123. The bibliographies in these articles can lead the reader into a field outside the scope of this volume.Google Scholar
  34. 13.
    Aside from Boring’s work, the classical histories of psychology are: Max Dessoir, Outlines of the History of Psychology, trans. Donald Fisher (New York: MacMillan Co., 1912)Google Scholar
  35. 13a.
    Otto Klemm, A History of Psychology, trans. Emil Carl Wilm and Rudolf Pintner (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1914).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 13b.
    More recent histories of note that organize their data according to schools and trends include: Thomas Hardy Leahey, A History of Psychology: Main Currents in Psychological Thought, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1987)Google Scholar
  37. 13c.
    Gardner Murphy, Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology, rev. ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1949)Google Scholar
  38. 13d.
    William S. Sahakian, History and Systems of Psychology (New York: Halsted Press/John Wiley & Sons, 1975), and History of Psychology: A Source Book in Systematic Psychology (Itasca, IL: F.E. Peacock, 1986)Google Scholar
  39. 13e.
    Michael Wertheimer, A Brief History of Psychology, rev. ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979)Google Scholar
  40. 13f.
    Michael Wertheimer(as a 15-volume series) Die Psychologie des 20. Jahrhunderts (Zürich: Kindler, 1976 ff.), especially Bd. I: Die europäische Tradition: Tendenzen, Schulen, Entwicklungslinien, ed. Heinrich Balmer, and Bd. II & III: Freud und die Folgen: Von der klassischen Psychoanalyse bis zur allgemeinärztlichen Psychotherapie, ed. Dieter Eicke.Google Scholar
  41. 14.
    Notable examples of histories of pscyhology arranged specifically around themes, and only secondarily around names or schools are: Claude E. Buxton, ed., Points of View in the Modern History of Psychology (Orlando: Academic Press, 1985)Google Scholar
  42. 14a.
    Robert W. Lundin, Theories and Systems of Psychology (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath & Co., 1979 [1972])Google Scholar
  43. 14b.
    John Forrester, Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980)Google Scholar
  44. 14c.
    R.W. Rieber, Body and Mind: Past, Present, and Future (New York: Academic Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  45. 15.
    For an example of the former, see History of Psychology: An Overview, by Henryk Misiak and Virginia Staudt Sexton; for the latter, The Hunconscious before Freud, by Lancelot Law Whyte, both cited in the bilbiography.Google Scholar
  46. 16.
    Again, the source book for virtually all histories of psychology is Boring, A History of Experimental Psychology (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957/1929). See the bibliography for a further selection of other references on the history of psychology.Google Scholar
  47. 17.
    See John D. Lawry, Guide to the History of Psychology (Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams, and Co., 1981): 19, for a brief sketch of Wolff’s impact.Google Scholar
  48. 18.
    For the core of Fries’ work on psychology, see: Jakob Friedrich Fries, Sämtliche Schriften, I.1: Handbuch der psychischen Anthropologie oder der Lehre von der Natur des menschlichen Geistes [1837] (Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1982), and Sämtliche Schriften I.4: Neue oder anthropologische Kritik der Vernunft [1828] (Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1967). The importance of Fries’ work as an attempt to correct Kant through biology is explained by David E. Leary in “The Psychology of Jakob Friedrich Fries (1773–1843): Its Context, Nature, and Historical Significance,” Storia e Critica della Psicologia, 3, No. 2 (December 1982): 217–48. For general introductions of the problem of Idealism and psychology, see: Nicolas Pastore, “Reevaluation of Boring on Kantian Influence, Nineteenth Century Nativism, Gestalt Psychology and Helmholtz,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 10, No. 4 (October 1974): 375–90Google Scholar
  49. 18a.
    David E. Leary, “German Idealism and the Development of Psychology in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 18, No. 3 (July 1980): 299–317Google Scholar
  50. 18b.
    David E. Leary, “The Philosophical Development of the Conception of Psychology in Germany, 1780–1850,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 14 (1978): 113–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 18c.
    David E. Leary, The Reconstruction of Psychology in Germany, 1780–1850, Diss. University of Chicago, 1977.Google Scholar
  52. 19.
    See David E. Leary, “The Historical Foundation of Herbart’s Mathematization of Psychology,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 16(1980): 150–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 20.
    Microcosmus: An Essay Concerning Man and His Relation to the World, trans. Elizabeth Hamilton and E.E. Constance Jones, 4th ed. (New York: Scribner and Welford, 1890). See also the essay by William R. Woodward, “From Association to Gestalt: The Fate of Hermann Lotze’s Theory of Spatial Perception, 1846–1920,” Isis, 69, No. 249 (December 1978): 572–82.Google Scholar
  54. 21.
    For the definitive presentation of Gall’s work, see Robert M. Young, “The Functions of the Brain: Gall to Ferrier (1808–1886),” Isis, 59, No. 198 (Fall 1968): 250–268, and Brain, Mind, and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century: Cerebral Localization and its Biological Context from Gall To Ferrier (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 22.
    For information on the organization of the German university, see: Mitchell G. Ash, “Academic Politics in the History of Science: Experimental Psychology in Germany, 1879–1941,” Central European History, 13, No. 3 (September 1980): 255–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 22a.
    R. Steven Turner, “University Reformers and Professional Scholarship in Germany 1760–1806,” in The University in Society, Vol. II, ed. Lawrence Stone (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974): 495–531.Google Scholar
  57. 23.
    See again Mitchell and Turner, as well as Joseph Ben-David, The Scientist’s Role in Society: A Comparative Study (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971), especially “German Scientific Hegemony and the Emergence of Organized Science,” 108–131.Google Scholar
  58. 25.
    Of the historians cited, Boring divides his history by field, Sahakian by geographically-separated schools, Murphy by schools and fields, Wetheimer by schools, and Baars by areas. For a more complete survey of the older histories, see Robert M. Young, “Scholarship and the History of the Behavioural Sciences,” op. cit.Google Scholar
  59. 26.
    See John Theodore Merz, A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century, 4 vols. (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1904–1912), especially the work on Kant and Lotze in Chapter 11 (591 ff.) and on Wundt in Chapter 12 (Vol. 4).Google Scholar
  60. 27.
    See also William R. Woodward, “From Association to Gestalt.”Google Scholar
  61. 28.
    Literature on Wundt is copious, and some will be discussed below. For an introduction, see William R. Woodward, “Wundt’s Program for the New Psychology,” in his The Problematic Science, op. cit.Google Scholar
  62. 29.
    This undervalution is beginning to be remedied. See, for example, Mitchell G. Ash, The Emergence of Gestalt Theory: Experimental Psychology in Germany, 1890–1920, Diss. Harvard, 1982, and “Gestalt Psychology: Origins in Germany and Reception in the United States,” in Points of View in the Modern History of Psychology, ed. Buxton, op. cit., 295–344.Google Scholar
  63. 30.
    William James’ work on psychology will not be considered here, but it is important to note that the structure of his volume on psychology strongly resembles the proponents of the conceptual psychology outlined here, particularly Wundt, Hermann Paul, and Mach, in his account of the development of higher-order thought out of lower. For information on James, see particularly William R. Woodward, “William James’s Psychology of Will: Its Revolutionary Impact on American Psychology,” in Explorations in the History of Psychology in the United States, ed. Josef Brozek (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1984): 148–195.Google Scholar
  64. 31.
    See David Lindenfeld, The Transformation of Positivism: Alexius Meinong and European Thought, 1880–1920 (Berkeley: University of California, 1980).Google Scholar
  65. 32.
    See John J. Sullivan on “Franz Brentano and the Problems of Intentionality,” in Historical Roots of Contemporary Psychology, ed. Benjamin B. Wolman (New York: Harper & Row, 1968): 248–74.Google Scholar
  66. 33.
    For an introduction to Husserl’s work, see Phenomenology: The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl and Its Interpretation, ed. Joseph J. Kockelmans (Garden City: Anchor/Doubleday, 1967).Google Scholar
  67. 34.
    See the work by Mitchell G. Ash on Gestalt psychology, op. cit.Google Scholar
  68. 35.
    Boring, History of Experimental Psychology, p. 379.Google Scholar
  69. 36.
    Some alterations in this canon are beginning to arise, as indicated in earlier notes. Moreover, work on the early twentieth century is causing a reassessment: see, for example, Siegfried Jaeger and Irmingard Staeuble, Die gesellschaftliche Genese der Psychologie (Frankfurt: Campus, 1978), and Goeffrey Cocks, Psychotherapy in the Third Reich: The Göring Institute (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Arens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Germanic LanguagesUniversity of TexasAustinUSA

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