The mind-brain relationship was becoming increasingly sought with the progress of the 19th century. The general interest on the subject was evident from the fact that almost all relevant text written after 1860 did not fail to discuss this issue. Philosophers and psychologists were engaged in this mind-brain association due to the prevailing notion that brain is the functioning unit of the mind. Studies had also begun emphasizing that mental state like psychic traumas, beliefs and mesmerism can radically change the body state, which evoked considerable public interest.
An English philosopher, Shadworth Holloway Hodgson published his two volumes ‘The Theory of Practice’, which is perhaps the first modern expression of ‘epiphenomenalism’. Hodgson compared mental states and neural events to the surface colours of stone mosaic and supporting stones, respectively. According to Hodgson, functions of the nervous system is independent of the associated mental states just as stones are held in place by one another and not by the surface colours of the stones. This idea was incorporated by Thomas Henry Huxley in his 1874 address to the British Association for Advancement of Science in Belfast.
His paper ‘On the hypothesis that animals are automata, and its history’, is one of the most widely read and cited papers of the period. Wilhelm Wundt and William James are generally regarded by many as founding fathers of psychology. There are several common factors among them like being founders of two greatest psychology schools and claims of establishing first psychological labs. William James was born in New York on January 11, 1842; to the religious philosopher James Sr. He enrolled at Harvard for chemistry and then changed to medicine.
In 1867, James went to Germany to study psychology under Helmholtz where he is said to have suffered depression. He returned to the U. S in 1869 to finish his M. D. James was appointed as an instructor of psychology at Harvard in 1872, which was changed to assistant professor of philosophy and then to professor of psychology in 1889. He published his two volumes of ‘The principles of Psychology’ in 1890 and later brought out a shorter version ‘The Briefer Course’. Both are masterpieces and are of interest to psychology students as well as the common man.
Thanks to his father, James had an interest in mysticism and preferred to consider himself a philosopher. James progressed in his thinking of mind-body relationships in 1902 and explored transcendent experiences in putting back shattered lives through his ‘Varieties of Religious Experience’. In fact today, James is considered as America’s greatest philosopher apart from being the father of American psychology. The developments in the field of American psychology prior to William James are very important and have a direct bearing on the current advanced state of American psychology.
Several philosophers and psychologists contributed to the newly developing study of mind. Among the earliest recognised attempts in the advancement of American psychology, Samuel Johnson’s ‘Elementa Philosophica’ of 1752 deserves a special place. This was subsequently followed by publication of several articles related to psychological issues, contributing to what was already a fast developing psychological literature. There were over 350 authors, actively engaged in this branch of literary evolution, creating a unique American expertise in the spheres of mind, mental states, mind-body relations and mental disease.
This period of rapid advancement in psychology may be attributed to the notable, earliest approaches towards shaping of American psychology. The theologian and philosopher, Jonathan Edwards ranks highly among the early psychologists of America. Edwards studied philosophy at Yale, as a student of Samuel Johnson. He had successfully composed a brief note on “the Mind”, even before he graduated. In 1754 he composed, “A Careful and Strict Enquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of Freedom of Will” which raised immense interest.
Edwards implied that will is the outcome of understanding or evaluation of perceived motives. He equated this process to the human intellect, which responds to ideas and thoughts from God. Edwards concluded that human will is therefore determined by divine forces. On February 27, 1786, Benjamin Rush presented the annual lecture of the American Philosophical Association, which was later published as “An enquiry into the Influence of Physical Causes upon the Mental Faculty”. Rush was a physician and patriot who sang the Declaration of Independence.
He studied medicine and is recognised for his theoretical and therapeutic innovations is psychiatry. Influenced by the Scottish tradition, Rush defined morality as the power of mind in distinguishing and choosing between good and evil”. Rush distinguished moral action from moral opinion and believed that the exercise of morality or moral actions is affected by the size of the brain, heredity, disease, climate, medicines etc. He used the terms ‘micronomia’ and ‘anomia’ respectively for partial absence and absolute absence of logical thinking.
Another physician Joseph Parrish submitted a dissertation on the ‘Influence of the Passions upon the Body’, in 1805 to receive his M. D from the University of Pennsylvania. The article separated passions into two types based on physiological effects, namely the stimulant passions that increase heart activity and those that cause a depression by sedative effect. Parrish was of the opinion that using appropriate dosage corresponding to patient’s capability, passions could be used to cure mental illness. His insight well exceeded the notions prevailing on the subject, during that period.
In 1812, Joseph Buchanan published his ‘Philosophy of Human Nature’, which was actually a series of lectures projecting his views on physiological psychology. He compiled and published his lectures with expectations of a promised professorship at the Transylvania Medical School, which however was not realized. The Philosophy of Human Nature’ is perhaps the most original contribution to American psychology before William James’ principles of psychology, and was vital to the development of visual phenomenology, sensory motor psychophysiology and associationist psychology.
Buchanan is apparently the first to formulate the Law of Exercise. According to him, every process of excitement becomes increasingly easy excitement in proportion to the frequency and force of the excitement. He emphasised that excitement is proportionate to the stimulus while excitability is promoted by repetition. Buchanan was of the opinion that sensual excitement tends to continue even after the stimulus is removed, depending on the remaining quantity of excitability. The ‘Elements of Intellectual Philosophy’, is an important milestone in the development of American psychology.
The ‘Elements of Intellectual Philosophy’ is a compilation of Thomas Cogswell Upham’s lectures at Bowdoin College, where he was a professor of mental and moral philosophy. This compilation ventured into newer boundaries in psychology and dominated American psychology for about half a century. In his first edition of ‘Elements’ in 1827, Upham did not categorise mental operations. However in 1831, in the two volume ‘Elements of Mental Philosophy’, he classified mental process into intellect and sensibilities.
In 1834, Upham published his doctrine on the ‘Will’ in which he further categorised mental process into intellect, sensibilities and will. The final version of this three way classification became prominent in the ‘Elements of Mental Philosophy’; embracing the three aspects of the intellect, sensibilities and will. Upham’s dealing of will is somewhat a compromise between the pre-determined theories of his Calvinist predecessors and mental freedom associated with consciousness.
It was in 1837 that Charles Poyen Saint Souveur published his progress of Animal Magnetism in New England. Poyen, a professor of Animal Magnetism came to America from France in 1836. In America, he toured New England giving lectures and demonstrations on animal magnetism. Poyen induced trance and associated phenomena using volunteers on stage. Such mesmerising shows created public awareness and stimulated imagination on newer facts about human activities. Mental heeling is also indirectly attributed to Poyen.
With the spread of the stage mesmerism, a cultural movement was beginning to take shape in America which relied more on inner harmony, transcendental contact, exploring the power of human mind and association with cosmic vibrations and magnetic field. Most educated Americans were becoming more familiar with mental heeling, hypnotic trance and spiritualistic phenomena, in the late 1870s. The setting up of experimental laboratories is one of the significant developments in the approach to psychology for collection and research of data.
These laboratories proved that psychology was a form of natural science. The first such experimental laboratory was set by Wilhelm Wundt in 1879, at the University of Leipzig. Many people however contest this claim leaving a controversy as to who was the first psychologist to begin a laboratory and what exactly should be called a laboratory. Some credit William James as to establishing the first laboratory for his ‘demonstration laboratory’, five years before Wundt, which was more devoted to teaching than research. American Stanley Hall was among he early researchers who worked at the Leipzig lab.
Hall had just completed his PhD. under William James. On returning to the U. S in 1883, he set his own experimental laboratory at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. Here again, there is not much evidence of the founding of the Hall’s laboratory. It was in the late 1880s that many North American labs were formally founded. The formation of the American Psychological Association (APA) was a milestone in the organisation and development of psychology in America. American Psychological Association was founded by a group of 26 men in June 1892 at the Clark University.
APA’s first president G. Stanley Hall was also Clark’s first president. Hall was earlier responsible for the founding of several journals including the American Journal of Psychology. Hall is generally regarded as the founder of child psychology and educational psychology. Hall’s efforts provided the early thrust and direction to the development of psychology in the U. S. Specializations into narrower fields of psychology were gradually effected with time, as evidence of importance regarding that aspect of psychology developed.
For instance, the recognition of clinical psychology is attributed to Lightner Witmer, a professor in the psychology department of the University of Pennsylvania (Routh, 1994). The development of American psychology can be attributed to the dedicated efforts of several hundred philosophers and psychologists who had contributed remarkably to variable extents in their own area. The agreements and disagreements among them only raised human understanding on the subject to newer levels. Modern psychology and its benefit to mankind today, owes a lot to its humble beginning and to those who took it from scratch.