The history of the self studies continuities and changes in ideas about and experiences of the individual mind through time, attending to questions of individuality, identity, stability, self-possession, and interiority. Traditionally, this subject has often been approached as an intellectual history, analyzing philosophers’ explicit writings about the self. Through the work of people such as René Descartes, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant, scholars have traced a growing sense of individuality and self-possession since the 16th century, and an increasing feeling of inner depth since the 18th century. The focus on intellectual sources of the self has been criticized, however, by scholars who stress the importance of practices and of social differences. They have broadened the scope of the field by looking at cultural sources, such as autobiographical writing, literature, art, rituals, and festivities. Still other historians have criticized the absence of power in many accounts of the history of the self and stress the institutional and political sources of the self, including religious institutions, schools, and legal systems. Throughout these different approaches, debates continue about whether a “modern self” can be traced, and when such a modern self can be situated. While many recent scholars stress the need to examine different cultures of the self at any given time in their own right, others argue that it remains important to trace grand shifts in this history.
Kiran Kumar Keshavamurthy Salagame
Indian psychology is a nascent discipline, although it has a history that dates back many millennia. It differs from Western psychology both in its subject matter and its methodology. Whereas Western psychology at present is still anchored in a material worldview and governed by a reductionist paradigm, Indian psychology is founded on the primacy of consciousness as revealed by spiritual experiences and supported by logic and reasoning. Mainstream Western psychology has yet to recognize and accept the spiritual dimension of human nature, though transpersonal psychology emerged in the West fifty years ago. Indian psychology has the potential to enlarge the scope of modern psychology, and Indian psychological thought has universal significance.
John W. Rowe and Dawn C. Carr
While the factors that influence the well-being of individuals in late life have long been a major concern of research in aging, they have been a particularly active area of research and debate since the 1980s and continue to have a prominent role in gerontological research and debate. Early research on aging (from the 1920s to the 1960s) focused largely on examining typical problems that come with aging. The term successful aging was initially used to describe those who aged better than expected. In the 1980s, the MacArthur Network on Successful Aging, concerned that the field of gerontology had become preoccupied with disease and disability to the neglect of studies of the factors that fostered doing well in late life, conducted a series of studies of high-performing older persons and formulated the MacArthur theory of successful aging, which included three principal components: avoidance of disease, maintenance of physical and cognitive function, and engagement with society. Since its initial publication, the concept of successful aging has been applied to many subpopulations of older persons based on geography (East vs. West), socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, religion, cognitive or physical function, and disease states.
With roots that range from medicine to politics, to jurisdiction and historiography in ancient Greece, the concept of “crisis” played an eminent role in the founding years of Western academic psychology and continued to be relevant during its development in the 19th and 20th century. “Crisis” conveys the idea of an imminent danger of disintegration and breakdown, as well as a pivotal turning point with the chance of a new beginning. To this day, both levels of meaning are present in psychological discourses. Early diagnoses of a state of “crisis” of psychology date back to the end of the 19th century and focused on the question of the correct metaphysical foundation of psychology. During the interwar period, warnings of a disintegration of the discipline reached their first climax in German academia, when many eminent psychologists expressed their worries about the increasing fragmentation of the discipline. The rise of totalitarian systems in the 1930s brought an end to these debates, silencing the theoretical polyphony with physical violence. The 1960s saw a resurgence of “crisis literature” and the emergence of a more positive connotation of the concept in U.S.-American experimental psychology, when it was connected with Thomas Kuhn’s ideas of scientific “revolutions” and “paradigm shifts.” Since that time, psychological crisis literature has revolved around the question of unity, disunity, and the scientific status of the discipline. Although psychological crisis literature showed little success in solving the fundamental problems it addressed, it still provides one of the most theoretically rich and thought-provoking bodies of knowledge for theoretical and historical analyses of the discipline.
Influential theorists of pre-adult phases of the development of the individual person (infancy, childhood, and adolescence) have articulated myriad versions of stage theories, varying in specificity, rigidity, and many other parameters. Some stage theories are concerned with capacities defined somewhat narrowly and operationally defined by behavior. Elsewhere on the spectrum, some of the most influential stage theories have purported to indicate capacities or modes of considerable generality, by positing deep, structural changes either in intellectual capacity or in terms of some other aspect of human functioning treated as fundamental to the affective and the rational life. Jean Piaget’s stage theory of intellectual (cognitive) development is the paradigm of a theory of structural changes in the capacity for logical thought. Bluntly put, Piaget’s theory takes for granted the key characteristics of the thinking of the emotionally balanced, rational adult and attempts to define the necessary steps by which that state is to be attained from the time one starts life as a baby. Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, especially as articulated by Karl Abraham, is the paradigm of a stage theory in which significant aspects of adult functioning are redefined, rather than taken for granted. The steps intervening from babyhood, as thereafter articulated, thereby take on an innovative character. In both cases the substantial internal consistency of the stage model, notwithstanding numerous empirical shortcomings, has generated a kind of validity. But even such qualified praise cannot now be offered to Stanley Hall’s stage theory of individual development, which seems with hindsight little more than a derivative popularization of the recapitulationary evolutionism of the latter part of the 19th century. From an historical perspective, Hall’s, Freud’s, and Piaget’s stage theories of development are all artefacts, products of the sociocultural and scientific environments of their times.
Michael J. Zickar
Personnel and vocational testing has made a huge impact in public and private organizations by helping organizations choose the best employees for a particular job (personnel testing) and helping individuals choose occupations for which they are best suited (vocational testing). The history of personnel and vocational testing is one in which scientific advances were influenced by historical and technological developments.
The first systematic efforts at personnel and vocational testing began during World War I when the US military needed techniques to sort through a large number of applicants in a short amount of time. Techniques of psychological testing had just begun to be developed at around the turn of the 20th century and those techniques were quickly applied to the US military effort. After the war, intelligence and personality tests were used by business organizations to help choose applicants most likely to succeed in their organizations. In addition, when the Great Depression occurred, vocational interest tests were used by government organizations to help the unemployed choose occupations that they might best succeed in.
The development of personnel and vocational tests was greatly influenced by the developing techniques of psychometric theory as well as general statistical theory. From the 1930s onward, significant advances in reliability and validity theory provided a framework for test developers to be able to develop tests and validate them. In addition, the civil rights movement within the United States, and particularly the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forced test developers to develop standards and procedures to justify test usage. This legislation and subsequent court cases ensured that psychologists would need to be involved deeply in personnel testing. Finally, testing in the 1990s onward was greatly influenced by technological advances. Computerization helped standardize administration and scoring of tests as well as opening up the possibility for multimedia item formats. The introduction of the internet and web-based testing also provided additional challenges and opportunities.
The History of Psychological Psychotherapy in Germany: The Rise of Psychology in Mental Health Care and the Emergence of Clinical Psychology During the 20th Century
Two different but related developments played an important role in the history of psychologists in the fields of mental health care in Germany during the 20th century. The first development took place in the field of applied psychology, which saw psychological professionals perform mental testing, engage in counseling and increasingly, in psychotherapy in practical contexts. This process slowly began in the first decades of the 20th century and included approaches from different schools of psychotherapy. The second relevant development was the emergence of clinical psychology as an academic sub-discipline of psychology. Having become institutionalized in psychology departments at German universities during the 1960s and 1970s, clinical psychology often defines itself as a natural science and almost exclusively focuses on cognitive-behavioral approaches. There are four phases of the growing relationship between psychology and psychotherapy in Germany in which the two developments were increasingly linked: first, the entry of psychology into psychiatric and psychotherapeutic fields from approximately 1900 until 1945; second, the rise of psychological psychotherapy and the emergence of clinical psychology after World War II until 1972, when the diploma-regulations in West Germany were revised; third, a phase of consolidation and diversification from 1973 until the pivotal psychotherapy law of 1999; and fourth, the shifting equilibrium as established profession and discipline up to the reform of the psychotherapy law in 2019. Overall, the emergence of psychological psychotherapy has not one single trajectory but rather multiple origins in the different and competing academic and professional fields of mental health care.
Tara H. Abraham
The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics were a series of 10 interdisciplinary scientific meetings that took place in New York between 1946 and 1953. The meetings were sponsored by the Macy Foundation, which aimed to promote interdisciplinary approaches to the social, behavioral, and medical sciences. Co-organized by neuropsychiatrist Warren S. McCulloch and Frank Fremont-Smith, medical director of the Macy Foundation, the meetings brought together a variety of scientists from mathematics, psychology, engineering, anthropology, physics, ecology, psychiatry, neurophysiology, linguistics, and sociology. The conferences strove to apply tools from the physical sciences and mathematics to problems in the biological and human sciences. Such tools stemmed first from Norbert Wiener’s work on the anti-aircraft predictor, in which he employed the concept of negative feedback to explain purposeful behavior, and second from McCulloch’s work with Walter Pitts on the logic of neural activity, which purported to embody logical reasoning in the physiology of the brain. Wiener and McCulloch touted the practice of hypothetical modelling as a bridge over the divide between the natural and the artificial, and a method for explaining purposeful behavior in organisms and machines.
Discussions at the Macy Conferences expanded on this work, and participants discussed and debated models of cognitive functions such as sensation, communication, memory, and learning, all cast as functions of the mind and exemplars of purposeful behavior. Thus, the meetings signal a major shift in 20th-century psychology, when discussions of the mind took on a more central place in psychological discourse. Behaviorist psychologists in the early 20th century had largely rejected concepts of mind as unscientific and not objective. The Macy Conferences, in contrast, placed the mind at the nexus of interdisciplinary inquiry across the divide between the physical and human sciences, and helped to bring back the mind as a topic of objective, scientific inquiry in psychology and in the emerging cognitive sciences.
Vanessa L. Burrows
Stress has not always been accepted as a legitimate medical condition. The biomedical concept stress grew from tangled roots of varied psychosomatic theories of health that examined (a) the relationship between the mind and the body, (b) the relationship between an individual and his or her environment, (c) the capacity for human adaptation, and (d) biochemical mechanisms of self-preservation, and how these functions are altered during acute shock or chronic exposure to harmful agents. From disparate 19th-century origins in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, and evolutionary biology, a biological disease model of stress was originally conceived in the mid-1930s by Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye, who correlated adrenocortical functions with the regulation of chronic disease.
At the same time, the mid-20th-century epidemiological transition signaled the emergence of a pluricausal perspective of degenerative, chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis that were not produced not by a specific etiological agent, but by a complex combination of multiple factors which contributed to a process of maladaptation that occurred over time due to the conditioning influence of multiple risk factors. The mass awareness of the therapeutic impact of adrenocortical hormones in the treatment of these prevalent diseases offered greater cultural currency to the biological disease model of stress.
By the end of the Second World War, military neuropsychiatric research on combat fatigue promoted cultural acceptance of a dynamic and universal concept of mental illness that normalized the phenomenon of mental stress. This cultural shift encouraged the medicalization of anxiety which stimulated the emergence of a market for anxiolytic drugs in the 1950s and helped to link psychological and physiological health. By the 1960s, a growing psychosomatic paradigm of stress focused on behavioral interventions and encouraged the belief that individuals could control their own health through responsible decision-making. The implication that mental power can affect one’s physical health reinforced the psycho-socio-biological ambiguity that has been an enduring legacy of stress ever since.
This article examines the medicalization of stress—that is, the historical process by which stress became medically defined. It spans from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, focusing on these nine distinct phases:
1. 19th-century psychosomatic antecedent disease concepts
2. The emergence of shell-shock as a medical diagnosis during World War I
3. Hans Selye’s theorization of the General Adapation Syndrome in the 1930s
4. neuropsychiatric research on combat stress during World War II
5. contemporaneous military research on stress hormones during World War II
6. the emergence of a risk factor model of disease in the post-World War II era
7. the development of a professional cadre of stress researchers in the 1940s and 50s
8. the medicalization of anxiety in the early post–World War II era
9. The popularization of stress in the 1950s and pharmaceutical treatments for stress, marked by the cultural assimilation of paradigmatic stress behaviors and deterrence strategies, as well pharmaceutical treatments for stress.
The history of psychology is characterized by unparalleled complexity of its methodology and uniquely ambiguous subject matter closely entangled with issues of power, social justice, and ethics. This complexity requires inordinate levels of reflexivity and conceptual sophistication. In effect, a historian of psychology needs to explicate no less than one’s worldview—a broad position as to how people are situated in the world, relate to, change, and get to know it, and how knowledge develops through time—all coupled with one’s broad sociopolitical ethos. Traditional histories of psychology have operated with an astonishing lack of reflection about these issues. One of many deplorable results is that psychology still grapples with its racist and sexist legacies and lacks awareness of social injustices in existence today. The recently emerging approaches have begun to remedy this situation by focusing on situated practices of knowledge production. This article addresses how human agency can be integrated into these approaches, while focusing on knowledge production as not only situated in context but also, and critically, as a world-forming and history-making process. In tackling the shortcomings of relational approaches including social constructionism, the transformative activist stance approach draws on Marxist philosophy and epistemology—infused with insights from Vygotsky’s psychology and other critical theories of resistance. The core point is that knowledge is achieved in and through collaborative community practices realized by individually unique contributions as these come to embody and enact, in an inseparable blend, both cultural-historical contexts and unique commitments and agency of community members. The acts of being-doing-knowing are non-neutral, transformative processes that produce the world, its history and also people themselves, all realized in the process of taking up the world, rather than passively copying it or coping with it. And since reality is in-the-making by people themselves, knowing is about creating the world and knowing it in the very act of bringing about transformative and creative change. Thus, the historicity and situativity of knowledge are ascertained alongside a focus on its ineluctable fusion with an activist, future-oriented, political-ethical stance. Therefore, the critical challenge for the history of psychology is to understand producers of knowledge in their role of actors in the drama of life (rather than only of ideas), that is, as agents of history- and world-making, while also engaging in self-reflection on the historians’ own role in these processes, in order to practice history in responsive and responsible, that is, activist ways.
Various self-concepts constitute major keywords in both psychological science and liberal political discourse. They have been central to psychology’s public-facing, policy-oriented role in the United States, dating back to the mid-19th century. Psychologists’ articulations of self-concept include an understanding of the individual, society, and the interventions needed to augment them both. Psychologists’ early enthusiasm for self-esteem has given way to competing concepts of the individual, namely self-regulation and self-control. Self-esteem in a modern sense coalesced out of the deprivation of the Great Depression and the political crises it provoked. The fate of self-esteem became tied to the capacities of the liberal welfare state to improve the psychic capacities of its citizens, in order to render them both more equal under the law and more productive in their daily existence. Western democracies, especially the United States, hit peak self-esteem in early 1990s. Since then, psychologists lost faith in the capacity of giving away self-worth to improve society. Instead, psychologists in the 21st century preached a neo-Victorian gospel of self-reliance. At the very historical juncture when social mobility became more difficult, when inherited social inequality became more entrenched, psychologists abandoned their Keynesian model of human capital and embraced its neoliberal counterpart.
Ekaterina Zavershneva and René van der Veer
Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (real name Lev Simkhovich Vygodsky; Orsha 1896–Moscow 1934) was a Russian psychologist who created cultural-historical theory, which proved influential in developmental psychology and other psychological disciplines. Vygotsky characterized his approach as “height psychology” (as opposed to “depth psychology”) and posited that the higher forms of mind should be the starting point for the study of human development. In his view it was essential to study psychological processes in their historical dynamics; these dynamics could be unraveled with the causal-genetic approach he developed, which involved the guided formation of mind in the course of its study or the experimental unfolding of ontogeny. Vygotsky claimed that the mechanisms of human development are not genetically determined and that we must find its source in culture and the social environment. Human development is mediated by cultural artifacts and sign systems, which are mastered in a dialogue with other people in spontaneous or guided interaction, which stimulates development by creating a zone of proximal development. The major means of the transformation of innate mind into higher mind is language, which enables us to preserve and transmit the experience of generations. In this process of cultural development the person develops a system of higher psychological functions that are social in origin, voluntary and mediated in nature, and form part of a systemic whole. The process of ontogeny goes through a series of stable periods and crises that correspond with specific conditions of the social situation of development and the developmental tasks. Age periods are completed with the development of neoformations, which do not just form results but are also prerequisites for further development. With the development of verbal thinking and the mastery of cultural means of behavior the person masters her/his innate mind and becomes a personality, whose main characteristic is freedom of behavior.
Saulo de Freitas Araujo
Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920) is one of the most famous names in the history of psychology. After passing into oblivion for nearly 60 years, in recent decades he has been celebrated in general psychology textbooks as the founding father of scientific psychology. However, this traditional portrait is incomplete and can lead to misunderstandings, as his psychological program is primarily understood in terms of experimental psychology.
In order to complete this traditional picture, two aspects of his work must be emphasized and clarified: the role of Völkerpsychologie as the counterpart of experimental or individual psychology, and the interaction between his psychological program and his philosophical project. The ultimate meaning of Wundt’s conception of scientific psychology cannot be understood in isolation from his broader philosophical goals. Reading Wundt from the point of view of such interaction offers a deeper understanding of his work.
In the literature of mainstream scientific psychology, German scholar William Stern has been known primarily (if at all) as the inventor of the intelligence quotient (IQ). In fact, however, Stern’s contributions to psychology were much greater and more consequential than this. In this all-inclusive article, I have sought to provide readers with a fuller appreciation for the breadth and depth of Stern’s work, and, in particular, for that comprehensive system of thought that he elaborated under the name “critical personalism.” Drawing frequently on translated quotations from Stern’s published works, and on his personal correspondence with the Freiburg philosopher Jonas Cohn, I have endeavored to show how Stern was much more than “the IQ guy.” During the first 20 years of his academic career, spent at the University of Breslau in what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw, Stern founded that sub-discipline of psychology that would be concentrated on the study of individual differences in various aspects of human psychological functioning. He also made major contributions to that sub-discipline referred to at the time as “child” psychology, and laid the foundations for a comprehensive system of thought that he would name “critical personalism.” After relocating to Hamburg in 1916, Stern continued his scholarly efforts in these domains, taught courses both in psychology and in philosophy at the university that opened its doors there in 1919, and played major administrative roles there in the institutional homes of both disciplines until forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1934. The present chapter highlights ways in which, over the course of his scholarly career, Stern boldly opposed certain trends within mainstream thinking that were ascendant during his time.