Psychology Major Figures
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
- (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.
- (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.
- (1938– ) and Richard Shiffrin
(1936– ) Two influential
memory researchers who developed a three-stage model of memory storage.
- (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.
- (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
- (1857–1911) A developer of the Binet-Simon scale, along with his colleague
. Binet intended the test to predict school performance. He did not
believe that it measured innate intelligence.
- (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.
- (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.
- (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
- (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.
- (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
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (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
1903. His ideas have had an enormous influence on Western thought, but they continue to be
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.
- (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.
- (1834–1918) The developer of the opponent process theory of color vision, which
accounted for some phenomena not explained by the Young-Helmholtz theory.
- (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
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.
- (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.
- (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
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
- (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.
- (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
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (1944– ) A memory researcher renowned for establishing how the misinformation
effect might affect the criminal justice system.
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (1930– ) A social-cognitive theorist whose research focuses on personality
formation. Mischel’s work has called into question the idea of stable personality traits.
- (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.
- (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.
- (1935– ) An influential modern theorist of classical conditioning. Rescorla has
made numerous refinements to classical conditioning theories.
- (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
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (1863–1945) A psychologist who theorized the existence of a general type of
intelligence, the “g” factor, that underlies all types of intelligence.
- (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
- (1949– ) The developer of a triarchic theory of intelligence. Sternberg proposed
that there are three aspects to intelligence: componential, experiential, and
- (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
- (1874–1949) The psychologist who formulated the law of effect, among other theories
of learning. Thorndike primarily focused on animal behavior.
- (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.
- (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
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.
- (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.