Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

International Psychology: Is the Whole Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts?

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

International Psychology: Is the Whole Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts?

Article excerpt

CPA Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology (2000) Prix pour contributions remarquables a l'avancement international de la psychologie (2000)


The beginning of international psychology dates back to the end of the 19th century, with the Ist International Congress held in Paris in 1889, but its first official structure, the International Union of Scientific Psychology, was created only in 1951. A rapid development then followed and today, 68 national societies of psychology involving more than one half billion psychologist,; throughout the world are currently represented by the Union, which has indeed become the voice of psychology on the international scene. The present structure of international psychology and its various elements are presented and discussed, and the role and function it assumes are described in relation to the development of psychology as a science and a profession. Examples are given of the capacity-building role to which international psychology has given priority and of diverse research projects pursued in collaboration with United Nations (UN) agencies, such as the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and World Health Organization (WHO). Current issues, such as the unity of psychology and the archiving of primary psychological data, are discussed, and future perspectives and directions are identified.

The history of international psychology can be traced to the Ist International Congress of Psychology, held in Paris in 1889, and to the parallel formation of the International Congress Committee (Rosenzweig, Holtzman, Sabourin, & Belanger, 2000). Previously, in 1881, a young Polish psychologist, Julian Ochorowicz, had suggested holding a First International Congress which would help launch an international organization of psychologists. He managed to convince a friend, the editor of the Revue Philosophique, French psychologist Theodule Ribot, to publish a short note entitled "Projet pour un congres international de psychologie" (Ochorowicz, 1881). Although Ribot was doubtful that this idea, which he nevertheless judged attractive, would ever be achieved, this visionary project materialized, eight years later, on the occasion of the celebration of the centenary of the French Revolution. It is worth noting that the closing banquet was held on the first platform of the newly completed Eiffel Tower overlooking "le Tout-Paris"! What a remarkable start for international psychology!

Although its official name was then the International Congress of Physiological Psychology, the term "physiological" was used to stress the fact that psychology was to be regarded as scientific as physiology (Rosenzweig et al., 2000). An International Committee was then created to assure that there would be other international congresses in the years to come. And it worked very well! Following Paris, 11 other congresses were held every three or four years in various European cities (with the exception of the 1929 Congress held at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut) until the International Committee was abolished by the Assembly at the 1948 Congress in Edinburgh in view of the creation at the next Congress on July 15, 1951, in Stockholm, Sweden, of an International Union of Scientific Psychology (IUSP). The Golden Anniversary of existence of the Union was celebrated this year, during the 27th International Congress of Psychology, in the city where it was born almost 50 years earlier.

The creation of the International Union in 1951 provided for the first time, a recognized voice for psychology in the international arena. Rapidly, contacts were made with the Department of Social Sciences of UNESCO, which had provided support to the creation of the Union, and gradually the IUSP was to be recognized by other international agencies as the body representative of international psychology. Another positive consequence of this initiative was that international congresses became more regular, larger, and were attended by participants from more countries than before. …

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