MUNSTERBERG,HUGO (1863-1916)

Miinsterberg was a versatile student of the human sciences, noted equally for his contributions to philosophy and to applied psychology. Bom in Germany, he was a pupil of Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig and later taught in German universities. William James became interested in him after reading his criticisms of Wundt’s structuralist psychology, and invited him to take over the psychological laboratory at Harvard University. He remained there from 1892 until his death. Among his works are: Principles of Psychology (1900), The Eternal Life (1905), Science and Idealism (1906), Philosophy of Value (1908), Psychology of Industrial Efficiency (1913), and Psychology: General and Applied (1915).Miinsterberg did not have as direct an influence on American psychology as some of his contemporaries, partly because of his great interest in philosophy, and partly because he was attracted to the undeveloped areas of of psychic research, legal and industrial psychology. He also alienated himself from many of his colleagues by publishing articles which were interpreted as pro-German at the outbreak of World War I. Nevertheless his work gave impetus to several important trends in the field. First, he proposed an “action theory” which helped to turn attention to psychological processes as contrasted to the analysis of states of consciousness. He attempted to discover the basic physiological correlates of mental acts, and concluded that they always involve a complete circuit from sensory receptor to motor response— in other words, consciousness tends toward action. This view has been incorporated in the modern organismic approach. See act psychology.Second, Miinsterberg did pioneer work in the field of social psychology. He was one of the first to attempt an experimental study of group behavior. An example was his classroom experiment in which students were asked to estimate the number of dots appearing on a screen. The results showed that decisions made in the group setting differed materially from those made when alone, due to the influence of members of the group on each another. See SOCIAL NORM.Third, and perhaps most important, he showed how psychology could be used in education, industry, criminology, and business. In education, he helped to further the mental testing movement as well as the study of individual differences, although he confined himself largely to tests of sensory ability similar to those devised by Cattell. In industrial psychology, he showed the importance of scientific studies of fatigue and its influence on output. In legal psychology, he not only served as expert witness in many court cases, but performed experiments and demonstrations on the reliability of testimony. His activities in these more practical fields have earned him the title of “Founder of Applied Psychology,” according to Boring (1950).

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "MUNSTERBERG,HUGO (1863-1916)," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/munsterberghugo-1863-1916/ (accessed March 24, 2019).
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