Edwin B. Holt

May 25, 2009


Holt, Edwin B (1873-1946)   In contrast to Watson sequencing of conditioned bonds, Edwin B. Holt proposed learning is a “specific response relationship.” For Watson, each step is tied to the previous one; for Holt, walking was a molar event. Indeed, he held that most behavior is purposive and meaningful.

William James

May 25, 2009

Best known for his philosophy of pragmatism, William James helped redirect psychology into greater concern with higher mental functioning. [Read more]


May 25, 2009

At nearly the same time as Pythagoras, Confucius was teaching his practical approach to life. He emphasized ethics, morality, and the importance of the family. Confucius was born in the province of Lu (what is now Shantung, China). The exact day of his birth is unknown but Sept 28 (Teachers Day) is celebrated in his honor. Apparently poor but related to the royal family, Confucius was large, strong, and a hard worker. He was 3 when his father died; his mother raised and taught him. When he was 19, he found a job as the land manager for a rich nobleman, got married and began a family (a son and two daughters). [Read more]

Ernest H. Weber

May 23, 2009

As a pioneer of experimental psychophysics, Ernest H. Weber noted that the skin registers changes in temperature, not constant readings. Similarly, he showed that if 2 pin points are placed close enough together, they are perceived as one pin prick. Weber had subjects hold weights in each hand and report whether they were identical or different. He found that people could not detect a change in weight until there was a 1:40 ratio. Weber’s jnd (just noticeable difference) was the first reliable law of psychophysics.

James Rowland Angell

May 21, 2009

Coming from a long line of college presidents, James Rowland Angell studied with Dewey (at Michigan) and James (at Harvard). After chairing the psychology department at the University of Chicago for 25 years, Angell became the president of Yale (1921).

Martin Heidegger

May 18, 2009


Heidegger, Martin (1889-1976)   Born in Messkirch, Germany, Martin Heidegger stressed existential phenomenology. He maintained that people must accept that death in inevitable and that it is followed by nothingness. For Heidegger the contemplation of death was worse than the real thing. [Read more]

Charles Bell

May 14, 2009

Bell, Charles (Sir) (1774-1842)   Knighted in 1831, Scottish surgeon, Charles Bell, was the first to show that different parts of the brain held different functions, and that there was a difference between sensory and motor nerves. Formally known as the Bell-Magendie Law (since both made the same discovery independently), Bell showed that sensory and motor nerves are not bi-directional communicators but one way conductors of information.

Rollo May

May 13, 2009

Born in Ada, Ohio, Rollo May introduced Heidegger’s existentialism to America. While he recovered from tuberculosis (just prior to receiving his Ph.D.), May read Kierkegaard and Freud, and ultimately wrote his dissertation of their views on anxiety. [Read more]

Harvey A. Carr

May 10, 2009

Following Angell as head of the psychology department at the University of Chicago, Harvey A. Carr still used introspection but more behavioral in approach than many functionalists. Using introspection and observation, Carr studied thinking, emotion and adaptive behavior. He maintained that an “adaptive act” has 3 characteristics: a motivating stimulus, a sensory stimulus, and a response which adjusts life to meet the requirements set by the motivating stimulus. Thinking, then, is the substitution of ideas for motivating stimuli, and emotions are physiological readjustments to the environment.

Hermann von Helmholtz

May 9, 2009

The leading scientist of his time, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz measured the speed of a nerve impulse (a task previously thought to be impossible), revived Thomas Young’s theory of color vision, and showed that the ear’s basilar membrane vibrates sympathetically to stimulation. A student of Johannes Muller, Helmholtz also invented the ophthalmoscope (an instrument used to look into the eye and examine the retina).

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