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Psychology Major Figures

Psychology Major Figures

Table of Contents

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Note from SparkNotes: Not all of the people mentioned in the text are listed here. We’ve narrowed the list to include only those figures you’re most likely to be tested on.

Adler, Alfred  -  (1870–1937) An Austrian psychiatrist and one of Freud’s close associates. Adler broke away from Freud because of theoretical disagreements. He believed that social motives, rather than sexual drives, motivated people the most. He formed his own school of thought, which he called individual psychology. In Adler’s view, strivings for superiority drive people’s behavior. He thought mental disorders were characterized by extreme feelings of inferiority and a desire for superiority over others.
Asch, Solomon  -  (1907–1996) A psychologist who investigated social conformity by studying how people reacted when their perceptions of events were challenged by others. Asch found that most individuals changed their own opinions in order to agree with the group, even when the majority was clearly wrong.
Atkinson, Richard  -  (1938– ) and Richard Shiffrin (1936– ) Two influential memory researchers who developed a three-stage model of memory storage.
Bandura, Albert  -  (1925– ) A researcher who focused on observational learning, or modeling. Bandura showed that children learn behavior by watching others. He did a famous study involving Bobo dolls that demonstrated that children don’t need punishment or reward to learn.
Beck, Aaron  -  (1921– ) A developer of cognitive therapy, which is now used for disorders ranging from depression to panic attacks, addictions, and eating disorders. Beck initially received psychoanalytic training but became disenchanted with the approach of psychoanalysis. His cognitive approach to therapy emphasizes using rational thoughts to overcome fears rather than trying to uncover the unconscious meaning of those fears. In addition to writing several books, Beck has developed a questionnaire called the Beck Depression Inventory for assessing depression.
Binet, Alfred  -  (1857–1911) A developer of the Binet-Simon scale, along with his colleague Theodore Simon. Binet intended the test to predict school performance. He did not believe that it measured innate intelligence.
Cannon, Walter  -  (1871–1945) The psychologist who, along with colleague Philip Bard (1898–1977), developed the Cannon-Bard theory of emotion, which holds that physical and emotional stimuli happen simultaneously, with no causal relationship.
Chomsky, Noam  -  (1928– ) A linguist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who revolutionized ideas about language. Chomsky performed research that led to the decline of behaviorist theories about language acquisition and encouraged researchers to study the biological bases of behavior. He proposed that humans are born with an innate language acquisition device that allows them to acquire language skills easily.
Darwin, Charles -  (1809–1882) A British naturalist best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory. Darwin outlined his theory of natural selection in his influential book On the Origin of Species. His ideas shaped the course of evolutionary studies, including evolutionary psychology.
Ebbinghaus, Hermann  -  (1850–1909) A philosopher, psychologist, and author of On Memory. Ebbinghaus began conducting research on memory in 1878. His work challenged the view that higher mental processes such as memory couldn’t be studied scientifically.
Ekman, Paul  -  (1934– ) An expert in emotional research and nonverbal communication. Ekman is particularly well-known for his studies of emotional expression and the physiology of the face.
Ellis, Albert  -  (1913– ) An American psychologist who developed a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy known as rational-emotive therapy. Ellis was trained as a psychoanalyst but found the psychoanalytic approach too limiting. His rational-emotive therapy is based on the idea that self-defeating thoughts cause psychological problems.
Erikson, Erik -  (1902–1994) A key contributor to the study of development across the life span. Erikson proposed a theory that people go through eight distinct stages of development. Erikson published his most influential book, Childhood and Society, in 1950, and his book Gandhi’s Truth, published in 1969, won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
Eysenck, Hans  -  (1916–1997) A psychologist whose research focused on the genetic foundations of personality. Eysenck believed that conditioning was important in personality formation but that personality grew largely out of genetic differences.
Festinger, Leon  -  (1919–1989) An influential psychologist who developed the theory of cognitive dissonance. Festinger’s research examined the efforts people made in order to view their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors as consistent.
Freud, Sigmund  -  (1856–1939) An Austrian neurologist and pioneer in the field of psychoanalysis. Freud’s comprehensive theory of psychoanalysis sought to explain the structure of the human mind, human attitudes and behavior, mental disorders, and the origins of civilization. Freud’s ideas, particularly his emphasis on sexuality, were highly controversial in the repressive Victorian era in which he lived. He published a revolutionary book called The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900 and a more concise version of his theories called On Dreams in 1903. His ideas have had an enormous influence on Western thought, but they continue to be controversial today.
Galton, Sir Francis  -  (1822–1911) A British scholar who advocated eugenics, the study of human improvement through selective breeding. Galton was interested in the idea that intelligence is inherited. He believed that intelligence is related to sensory ability and attempted to assess intelligence by measuring sensory abilities such as sensitivity to sound, color perception, and reaction time. Although he failed to correlate intelligence with these sensory abilities, his work paved the way for subsequent research on assessing mental abilities.
Gardner, Howard  -  (1943– ) A developmental psychologist whose research focuses on creativity in adults and children. Gardner proposed a theory of multiple intelligences, which has been highly influential among educators.
Helmholtz, Hermann von  -  (1821–1894) The inventor of the ophthalmoscope, an instrument for examining the eye. Von Helmholtz lent further support to Young’s theories of color. He also developed a sophisticated theory of harmony.
Hering, Ewald  -  (1834–1918) The developer of the opponent process theory of color vision, which accounted for some phenomena not explained by the Young-Helmholtz theory.
Hilgard, Ernest  -  (1904–2001) A psychologist who became famous in the 1950s for his research on hypnosis. Hilgard was president of the International Society of Hypnosis in the 1970s. During that time, he studied the use of hypnosis in the treatment of children suffering from cancer.
Hodgkin, Sir Alan  -  (1914–1998) and Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley (1917– ) Recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1963 for their work on information transmission in neurons. Hodgkin and Huxley studied giant squid, whose neurons have giant axons.
Hubel, David  -  (1926– ) and Torsten Wiesel (1924– ) Two Harvard University researchers who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries about information processing in the visual system. By recording impulses from individual brain cells of cats and monkeys, Hubel and Wiesel demonstrated that specialized cells in the mammalian brain respond to complex visual features of the environment.
James, William -  (1842–1910) An American philosopher and psychologist. James believed that the experience of emotion arises from bodily expression. For example, according to his view, people are sad because they cry. Another researcher, Carl Lange (1834–1900), independently proposed the same theory of emotion. The James-Lange theory was published in 1884, and James’s landmark book, The Principles of Psychology, was published in 1890. He also wrote two other important books, The Varieties of Religious Experience and Pragmatism.
Jung, Carl  -  (1875–1961) A Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who was a friend and follower of Freud. Jung broke away from Freud in the early 1910s because of a bitter theoretical disagreement and began his own school of thought, which he called analytical psychology. Jung believed that Freud placed too much emphasis on the sexual drive of humans. He thought the will to live was a stronger motivation than sexual drive. Jung also disagreed with Freud about the nature of the unconscious mind. He thought that in addition to the personal unconscious, there is a collective unconscious that contains universal human memories.
Kinsey, Alfred  -  (1894–1956) A leading sex researcher. Kinsey, a biologist, shocked the American public by publishing Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948), a best-selling summary of his research into sexual behavior. He next published Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).
Kohlberg, Lawrence  -  (1927–1987) A major figure in moral psychology and moral education. Kohlberg had a passionate commitment to building a just society, and this commitment fueled his research. He drew on philosophy and sociology as well as psychology to argue that people go through sequential stages of moral judgment.
Lazarus, Richard  -  (1922–2002) The psychologist whose theory of emotion centered on the concept of appraisal, or how a person evaluates the personal impact of an event. Lazarus conducted several studies on the link between emotion and cognition.
Lewin, Kurt  -  (1890–1947) The founder of the field of social psychology. Lewin launched the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1946. He studied interaction among races in particular and is famous for the development of “field theory,” which holds that human behavior is determined both by the person and the environment.
Loftus, Elizabeth  -  (1944– ) A memory researcher renowned for establishing how the misinformation effect might affect the criminal justice system.
Marcia, James  -  (1937– ) The psychologist who described four identity states, based on where people stand on the path to identity. The four states are identity foreclosure, identity moratorium, identity diffusion, and identity achievment.
Maslow, Abraham  -  (1908–1970) A leader in the field of humanistic psychology. Maslow believed that human beings’ needs are arranged like a ladder. He said that basic needs such as the needs for oxygen, food, and water are at the bottom of this ladder, while higher needs such as the need to achieve one’s full potential are at the top of the ladder. Maslow thought people paid attention to higher needs only when their lower needs were satisfied.
Masters, William  -  (1915–2001), and Virginia Johnson (1925– ) Researchers whose work changed people’s perceptions of human sexuality. Physician Masters and psychologist Johnson based their book The Human Sexual Response on an eleven-year project that investigated human sexuality. In Masters and Johnson’s laboratory studies, research subjects wore instruments that monitored their physiological signs while they engaged in sexual activities.
Melzack, Ronald -  (1929– ) and Patrick Wall (1925–2001) The developers of the gate-control theory of pain, which states that perception of pain is related to past experience of pain. Melzack and Wall’s theory led to the discovery of endorphins and other natural painkillers produced by the body.
Milgram, Stanley -  (1933–1984) The conductor of a famous, controversial research study of obedience to authority. Milgram found that his experiment subjects were often so obedient to an authority figure that they were willing to cause serious harm and suffering to others. In order to do his experiment, Milgram had to deceive his subjects. Many people objected to his use of deception and questioned the ethics of his research because he made subjects believe that they were inflicting pain on other people.
Mischel, Walter  -  (1930– ) A social-cognitive theorist whose research focuses on personality formation. Mischel’s work has called into question the idea of stable personality traits.
Pavlov, Ivan  -  (1849–1936) A doctor best known for his research on the conditioned reflex. Pavlov made his most famous discovery while studying how dog saliva related to the function of the stomach. He found that when he repeatedly gave a dog food after ringing a bell, the dog began to salivate for false alarms too. The bell rang, and the dog salivated, even with no food in sight. Pavlov won a Nobel Prize for his work in 1904.
Piaget, Jean  -  (1896–1980) A pioneer in the field of child psychology. Piaget argued that children develop their thinking capacity in stages and that the progression through these stages depends on a genetically determined timetable. His research changed the way people viewed education, showing that children actively explore the world and develop their own hypotheses about what they observe. In 1923, he published The Language and Thought of the Child, the first of his many psychology books.
Rescorla, Robert  -  (1935– ) An influential modern theorist of classical conditioning. Rescorla has made numerous refinements to classical conditioning theories.
Rogers, Carl  -  (1902–1987) An American psychologist who proposed the person-centered or client-centered theory of psychology. Rogers asserted that people’s self-concepts determine their behavior and relationships with others. Rogers also believed that the relationship between a therapist and client was crucial in the treatment of psychological disorders. He thought that a therapist’s unconditional positive regard could help clients to undergo psychotherapeutic personality change.
Schachter, Stanley  -  (1922–1997), and Jerome Singer (1924– ) The developers of the two-factor theory of emotion. Schachter and Singer believed that emotions come both from physiological stimuli and the cognitive interpretation of that stimuli.
Seligman, Martin  -  (1942– ) Pioneer in the field of “positive psychology,” the study of what makes people happy and good, in contrast to traditional clinical psychology, which focuses on what makes people distressed. Seligman is the former president of the American Psychological Association. As a graduate student, Seligman, along with his colleagues, discovered the phenomenon of learned helplessness in dogs.
Selye, Hans  -  (1907–1982) A Viennese-born endocrinologist who pioneered the field of stress research. While doing laboratory research on rat subjects, Selye found that many different types of stressors, such as heat, cold, electric shock, and restraint, produced the same physiological response. He concluded that the physiological response to stress is nonspecific.
Skinner, B. F.  -  (1904–1990) A psychologist who built on Pavlov’s work to develop theories of operant behavior. Skinner wrote The Behavior of Organisms in 1938, in which he described his work on operant behavior. He wrote several other books as well, including a popular though controversial novel, Walden Two. Skinner studied operant conditioning by using the Skinner box.
Spearman, Charles -  (1863–1945) A psychologist who theorized the existence of a general type of intelligence, the “g” factor, that underlies all types of intelligence.
Sperry, Roger  -  (1913–1994) A pioneer in the study of lateralization, the fact that the right and left hemispheres of the brain regulate different functions. Sperry and his colleagues examined people who had gone through split-brain surgery, an operation that separates the two brain hemispheres.
Sternberg, Robert -  (1949– ) The developer of a triarchic theory of intelligence. Sternberg proposed that there are three aspects to intelligence: componential, experiential, and contextual.
Terman, Lewis  -  (1877–1956) A developer of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale in 1916, a revision of the Binet-Simon scale. Terman believed in the existence of innate differences in intelligence and supported the eugenics movement of his time. He advocated widespread use of intelligence tests.
Thorndike, Edward  -  (1874–1949) The psychologist who formulated the law of effect, among other theories of learning. Thorndike primarily focused on animal behavior.
Trivers, Robert  -  (1943– ) A sociobiologist who studies sexual and social behavior with respect to evolutionary history. Trivers forwarded the theory that gender differences in sexual behavior have a genetic root.
Vygotsky, Lev  -  (1896–1934) A Russian psychologist who studied the development of thought. Vygotsky took a sociocultural approach to explaining cognitive development. He believed that social interactions with adults play a critical role in the development of children’s cognitive skills.
Watson, John  -  (1878–1958) The founder of a school of psychology known as behaviorism. Watson studied the effects of conditioning on children. One of his most famous experiments involved conditioning a child named Little Albert to fear white, furry objects.
Wechsler, David  -  (1896–1981) The former chief psychologist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital who designed the first intelligence test specifically for adults. Wechsler called the test the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. Wechsler also devised a test for children called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.
Whorf, Benjamin Lee  -  (1897–1941) A linguist who hypothesized that language has a marked impact on thought. Whorf conducted famous studies of Native American languages.
Wolpe, Joseph  -  (1915–1997) A psychiatrist who helped develop the procedure known as systematic densensitization, which is highly effective in treating phobias. Wolpe believed that most behavior was learned and therefore could be unlearned. Wolpe also developed the behavior therapy known as assertiveness training.
Young, Thomas  -  (1773–1829) An early developer of color theory. Young studied the structure of the eye, the effects of light on the eye, and the nature of light itself.

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