Fifty Key Thinkers in Psychology

Fifty Key Thinkers in Psychology

Fifty Key Thinkers in Psychology

Fifty Key Thinkers in Psychology


This book focuses on fifty major influential figures in psychology, ranging from the earliest days of the discipline two hundred years ago to the present day.


Modern psychology has its roots in the intellectual and cultural life of Germany during the 1840s and 1850s. Compared to the natural sciences, psychology is in its infancy and, like every infant, its growth in the early years has been extraordinary. A hundred and fifty years ago it would have been possible to list the names of all of the psychologists in Europe and North America on the back of an envelope. Today the number of people with degrees in psychology runs to many hundreds of thousands. This book considers how fifty people have influenced the shape and direction of this success.

Who are these fifty key thinkers? The foundations of psychology can be traced to the convergence of ideas and methods from philosophy, medicine and the natural sciences. To varying degrees the ideas and influence of the key thinkers considered here reflect those origins. Some, such as von Helmholtz, have backgrounds in medicine and physics; some are neurologists (e.g. Sperry) and others are mathematicians (e.g. Luce). Several, such as the linguist Noam Chomsky and the ethologist Konrad Lorenz, have never regarded themselves as psychologists and would decline that description. Neverthless, their ideas and investigations are in areas closely related to psychology and have had a profound impact on the ways psychologists think about and explain behaviour.

European and American approaches to psychology have identified a number of facets of the human condition as crucially important. These include the brain, perception, motivation, learning, intelligence, language, thinking, personality, development and social relationships. The profiles included here reflect the thinking of key individuals in each of these areas. Choosing those for inclusion has been a marvellously difficult task.

The essays follow a common format. Psychologists are attracted to the idea that the kind of person one is as an adult can often be traced to

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