William James: Father of Psychology The father of psychology is a topic of great debate as there have been several individuals who have had a large influence on psychology. One of these individuals who made a large contribution to psychology and how we study it today is William James. He lived from 1842 to 1910 and in his life he accomplished a lot in the field of psychology and he dominated American psychology with his functionalist theories. James’ (1890) biggest influence in psychology leading many to believe he is the father of psychology can be seen in The Principles of Psychology where he attempted to describe many human functions and it is still influential today. In James’ (1890) paper, he looked at aspects of human functioning that had already been touched on by previous psychologists and he also created theories that had never been seen before. James touched on many topics in his paper including sensation, perception, hypnotism, emotions, memory, habit, imagination and many others. James studied the functions of the brain where he looked at a frog’s nervous system and he also attempted to describe localization of function in the cerebral hemispheres. He attempted to describe how our memory works and studied the retention, recollection and recall of memories. James wrote a lot on the different aspects of attention including the types and selective attention. The types included voluntary attention, a term we still use today, and passive immediate sensorial attention, a term that is not used as much today. One topic of James’ paper that is still looked at today is the change from a religious to secular self in an effort to look at the self in natural scientific terms rather than with “Christian notions” (Coon, 2000). Coon (2000) wrote about James’ paper and focused on the change from a religious soul to a secular self. He noted that many psychologists have since studied this aspect of the selves and that it played an important role in the
References: Coon, D.J. (2000). Salvaging the Self in a World Without Soul: William James’s The Principles of Psychology. History of Psychology, 3, 83-103.
James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology, American Journal of Psychology, 1990. 1-2.
King, B. D., Viney, W., & Woody, W. D. (2009). A History of Psychology: Ideas and Context.
United States: Pearson.
Valentine, E.R. (1991). William James’s The Principles of Psychology: ‘A seemingly inexhaustible source of ideas’. The British Psychological Society, 82, 217-227.