William James and the Origins of American Psychology
- William James (1842-1910)
Eldest son of a rich New England family
Father led him and siblings a wandering life, crisscrossing Europe and the Atlantic numerous times.
Father feared him and his siblings ever committing to one career.
o As soon as real interest was established, his father would begin discouraging them from pursuing it too deeply and
shunted them onto something else.
Confusing and disruptive lifestyle
Dropped out of Harvard, tried painting, gave this up and then travelled to the Amazon with a zoologist when he fell ill, and
concluded zoology was not his forte either. He then decided to become a philosopher and returned worse than ever.
Remained a virtual invalid until about 30 when he qualified as a doctor at Harvard and became an instructor in anatomy and
physiology at Harvard.
1875, began teaching physiological psychology
o Americans sometimes invoke as the first Psychological laboratory, although it was not experimental and extremely
Began writing the principles of psychology in 1878, and switched to an assistant professor of philosophy becoming a full
professor in 1885 and changed his title once more to a professor of Psychology in 1889.
o Continued back and fourth between philosophy and psychology and continued his wandering habits of childhood
through adulthood as well
o Adult James had a professional mind and an expert on what it was like to be conscious, open minded, tolerant of
paradox and consistency.
Why was he so disturbed?
o Determinism-vs. -Free will debate preoccupied him (Believed in free will)
o Pragmatism later developed and aimed to rescue the notion of free will, casting James in an ambiguous light in
terms of the scientific Psychology account.
o New England culture he grew up in was infused by the New England Transcendentalism (a version of Romanticism)
Why he is significant?
o Position so obviously ambivalent regarding psychology
o The ambiguities and paradoxes he raised have remained with the discipline ever since
o Was uneasy about jumping on the science bandwagon.
Principles of Psychology
o Highly ambiguous
o Most influential chapters
Stream of Thought
Argues every experience changes an organism, therefore you cannot have an experience twice
Captured course of consciousness, observed consciousness to flow
Raised problems for associations and helped popularize the idea of free association.
Chapter contains the James Lange Theory of emotion
o Theory is consistent with phenomenology of emotion
Emotion result from bodily reaction
Professor Sikorsky- facial expressions- when mimicking facial expressions, no emotion is felt and
is therefore it is artificial.
Self as ‘known’ and ‘knower’
A hierarchy of empirical selves
o The material me
o The social me
o The spiritual me
Further research exposed innumerable social selves
Habit, Methods and snares, Memory
Habit- formulated law of effect and exercise
Methods and snares- difficult chapter- a dangerous snare being the psychologists fallacy (tendency
to confuse the idea which one is reporting with the object of the idea AKA stimulus error)
o Psychologist must avoid confusing the two
Memory – Short term and Long term
Setting the agenda for future functionalist psychologists
- Founding New Psychology The philosophical tradition was the Scottish ‘common-sense’ school
Lists those, besides James that are involved in the rise of New Psychology
o Prime mover of New Psychology
o Founder of APA
o Primary interest in developmental Psych, first large scale program of empirical research
o Child Study Movement
James Mark Baldwin
o Founded the Toronto and Princeton laboratories
o Innovations in evolutionary theory and the groundwork he laid for subsequent Developmental and Social
Psychology studies of the ‘self’
E.B Titchner and E.W Scripture
o Keenest advocates of Wundtian Psychology
o Leipzig Veterans
o Scripture eventually became an expert on speech disorders
o Ended career as a Prof of Experimental Phonetics in Vienna
J Mck. Catell
o Wundt’s ex-student
o Interest changed from psychophysical research to individual differences, educational psychology and testing.
o Main forte- became founder and editor of journal Science, American Naturalist and American Men of Science.
o Early role in new Psychology by his work Psychology, considered to be the first English text to promote the new
approach aside from one other work.
o His eminence more due to his formulation of a version of pragmatism with which advance the applicable
functionalist view of Psychology
o His paper was a profound often misunderstood attack on the objective reality of the stimulus/response distinction
o Significance lays largely in his early textbooks and establishment of psychology at Yale.
o His initial interests in physiological psychology were soon replaced with philosophical and theological concerns.
New Psychology established itself quickly because:
o Expansion and organizational changes in Post-Secondary system
o By the late 19 century, science of the mind was being pressured by evolution based functionalist concept
o The existence of APA facilitated the promotion of a public image of unity but behind the scene, these figures were at
loggerheads on all the fundamental issues. Americans were able to adapt, and as more Psychology students
graduated, older psychologists were able to take on pluralism, which was an asset.
The Practice of Psychological Discourse – Kurt Danziger
Disciplinary Discourse as a Discourse of Practice
- Suggested that it was often the procedures that dictate theoretical formulation rather than the other way around. Historically, the
primary focus was on the concepts and theories.
- No necessary connection between a behaviouristic theoretical framework and a research practice based on constructing measures of
interindividual variance, although historically the two arose at approx. the same time.
- The theme of practice would have to occupy a place in the history of psychological discourse that was not subordinate to theory.
For example, Ian Hacking argued that in the natural sciences, experiment has a life of its own and it is not necessarily driven
- Important clue to the peculiarity of the relationship is the principle of operationalism.
No other discipline in which the principle assumed any