From the Laboratory to the Field, from Senses to Social Change: Development and Perspectives of Croatian Psychology

Article excerpt


In 1999, the Department of Psychology at the University of Zagreb celebrated the 70th anniversary of its existence and a relatively long history of formal education of psychologists in Croatia. It was an opportunity for psychological profession to look back, to see where it stands in the light of its own history but also in the light of the development of the European psychology. It also was an opportunity for Croatian psychology to view perspectives of future development of the discipline.

During its history, psychology in Croatia went through important changes in several aspects. Regarding education, these changes could be followed from its relatively modest beginnings in 1929 when Ramiro Bujas established psychology as an independent university program. The founders of the so called Zagreb psychological school insisted from the very beginning on a scientific ground of the discipline, an empirical approach and especially on the experiment as the basic method. Experimental tradition and general methodological rigorousness have remained the most important characteristic of Croatian psychology. In the beginning of its development, psychology in Croatia was relatively isolated within laboratory. The most prominent research activity in those days was in the area of "simple" psychological processes like galvanic skin response and the research of senses. However, this research had an important echo in a wider professional audience. With the development of the discipline, enlargement of the number of psychologists and with opening of psychological laboratory to the real-life problems, many psychologists turned to more applied issues in the areas of educational and industrial psychology and clinical practice. In the last decade the course of development was strongly marked by social changes and war. While maintaining an empirical discourse and scientific criticism, psychologists started to research intensively social phenomena that have emerged from general social changes. Until then relatively rarely investigated issues like ethnic distance, national identity and nationalism, changes of value system, organizational changes and others, came to the focus of intensive research activity. With the beginning of the war, psychologists being involved directly in helping the war victims, formulated their knowledge and experiences in well elaborated programs of psychosocial help. This practical work was accompanied by extensive research on the impacts of war on mental health. So we can say, not without proud, that many Croatian psychologists today are recognized in a wider professional community as distinguished experts.

Key words: History of psychology, Zagreb psychological school, psychology in Croatia, future perspectives of psychology

In 1999, the Department of Psychology at the University of Zagreb celebrated the 70th anniversary of its existence and a relatively long history of formal education of psychologists in Croatia. The beginning of psychology in Croatia was relatively modest, as well as it was in other countries throughout Europe and in the United States. Croatian psychology as a science and profession went through equally hard ways of becoming an independent discipline and separating itself from other disciplines. For the foundation of Croatian psychology, all credit goes to Ramiro Bujas, born in 1879, one year after the founder of American behaviorism, John Watson, was born. The year of death of the founder of European psychology, Wilhelm Wundt, who died in 1920, was the very same as when, in Croatia, Ramiro Bujas founded the first psychological laboratory following the examples of similar laboratories in Europe, first and foremost following the example of Wundt's laboratory in Leipzig. The laboratory was founded within the Department of physiology at the School of medicine in Zagreb, thanks to professor of physiology, Fratisek Smetanka. Ramiro Bujas was his research assistant and Smetanka recognized the common research ground of psychology and physiology. …


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