The first modern personality trait theorist was Gordon Allport. In the 1930’s, Allport and his students searched through dictionaries to find words that described personality. They started with 17,953 adjectives but settled on 4504 of them. [Read more]
Theories come out of people’s lives. You can’t separate the theory from the person. To understand the theories of psychology, you have to look closely at the those who generated those theories, and the people who infludenced them. The more you know about the person behind the theory, the better you’ll understand the theory.
Adler, Alfred (1870-1937) Born in Vienna, the 2nd of six kids, Alfred Adler has an unhappy childhood. Suffering from rickets, and having been injured in two accidents, Adler was frail and unathletic. Although he was pampered by his parents (a wealthy grain merchant), he resented Alfred resented his older brother (his mother’s favorite). [Read more]
Hartley, David (1705-1757) Hartley studied at Cambridge and was prepared to follow his father’s footsteps (minister) but his interest in biology led him to seek a medical degree. He is considered to be one of the first physiological psychologists. In 1749, Hartley published a combination of psychological and theological insights entitled Observations on Man, His Frame, His Duty and His Expectations. Like Newton, Hartley dismissed Descartes’ contention that nerves are hollow. He maintained that sensations cause vibrations in the nerves which in turn cause vibrations in the brain. These vibratuncles result in ideas (faint vibrations) and memory (reactivating the original vibrations).
Gorgius (385-380 BC) Born in Sicily, Gorgias is credited with introducing cadence in prose and using everyday examples and locations in arguments. Best known as the title character of a dialogue by Plato, Gorgias answers “what is reality?” by suggesting that nothing exits. Or if it exists it can’t be known or communicated. Ironically, Gorgias made a living by teaching rhetoric (how to communicate effectively).
Galvani, Luigi (1737-1798) Born and educated in Bolgna, Italy, Galvani is less known as a professor of anatomy than for his conclusion that animal tissue is capable of generating electricity. Using an electrically-charged scalpel, he accidentally touched the probe to the leg of a frog, causing it to twitch. Galvani did not conclude that tissue conducts electricity but that animals actually generate it themselves.
Fritsch, Gustav (1838-1927) & Hitzig, Edward (1838-1907)
Working in their own laboratory, two German physicians, Gustav Fritsch (1838-1927) and Edward Hitzig (1838-1907), discovered the motor cortex of the brain. Specifically, they found that electrical stimulation of particular areas resulted in muscle movement. If they stimulated a particular spot on the left side of a dog’s brain, its right leg would move.
Democritus (460-370 BC) According to Democritus, nature is composed of tiny particles which are in constant motion. He called these particles atoms and classified them in terms of their size, shape, and angularity. Taste was the result of small, angular winding atoms. Sight was the result of atoms flying through the air, hitting the eye, and making a copy of the original object. Thinking was caused by the fastest, smallest atoms. For Democritus, there is no soul or will; life is reducible to patterns of atomic matter.
Brown, Thomas (1778-1820) Like Reid and Stewart, Brown’s rationalism was a reaction against Hume’s empiricism. Brown re-proposed Artistotle’s three laws of suggestion: contiguity, resemeblans, and contrast.
Bain Alexander (1818-1903)
The son of a weaver, Bain was born, raised and educated in Aberdeen, Scotland. Indeed, except for several years in London, he lived whole life in Aberdeen. In 1876, Bain wrote the first journal devoted exclusively to psychology (Mind). He also provided the first books on psychology as such. Until William James wrote Principles of Psychology (1890), Bain’s books (The Senses and Emotions) were widely used as textbooks of psychology. A friend of JS Mill (who he met during his London years), Bain was an empiricist and a utilitarianist. He emphasized the law of contiguity, but differentiated between voluntary and reflexive behavior, held that people are capable of spontaneous activity which becomes increasingly purposive as it is rewarded by pleasure, and was a mind-body parallelist. He held that every sensation has both a physiological and a mental reaction. Bain is sometimes called the first modern physiological psychologist because of his detailed descriptions of sense organs and how they worked. He is best known for his description of the reflex arc.
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