Tag Archive: theory

Dec 28

William James

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The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. –William James

 

wjames2Best Known For:

• Pragmatism
• Functionalism
• James-Lange Theory of Emotion
• Often called the father of American psychology

Timeline of Events:

• Born January 11, 1842 in New York City.
• 1869 – Received M.D. from Harvard.
• 1875 – Began teaching psychology at Harvard.
• 1882 – Death of William’s father, Henry James Sr.
• 1890 – Published The Principles of Psychology.
• 1892 – Turned lab over to Hugo Munsterberg.
• 1897 – Published Will to Believe and Other Essays
• 1907 – Published Pragmatism and officially resigned from Harvard.
• Died August 26, 1910 at the age of 68.
The writings of psychologist and philosopher William James had a major impact on the way we look at the mind, the body and the world.
IN THESE GROUPS
• Famous Capricorns
• Famous People Born in New York
• Famous People Born in United States
• Famous People Born on January 11

Synopsis
William James was born in New York City on January 11, 1842, into an intellectual household; his father was a philosopher and his brother, Henry James, grew up to become a renowed novelist. After medical school, James focused on the human psyche, writing a masterwork on the subject, entitled The Principles of Psychology. He later became known for the literary piece The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, which was published in 1897. James died on August 26, 1910, in Chocorua, New Hampshire.

As the family money began to dwindle, William realized he would need to support himself and switched to Harvard Medical School. Unhappy with medicine as well, he left on an expedition with naturalist Louis Agassiz, although the experience was not a happy one. “I was, body and soul, in a more indescribably hopeless, homeless and friendless state than I ever want to be in again,” he later wrote.

Suffering from health problems and severe depression, James spent the next two years in France and Germany. It was during this time that he studied with Hermann von Helmholtz and became increasingly interested in psychology.

After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1869, James continued to sink into depression. After a period of inactivity, the president of Harvard offered James a position as an instructor. While he famously commented that “the first lecture on psychology I ever heard being the first I ever gave,” James accepted the job and went on to teach at Harvard for the next 35 years. James also founded one of the first psychology laboratories in the United States.

wjames1His classic textbook The Principles of Psychology (1890) was widely acclaimed, but some were critical of James’ personal, literary tone. “It is literature,” psychologist Wilhelm Wundt famously commented, “it is beautiful, but it is not psychology.” Two years later, James published a condensed version of the work titled Psychology: The Briefer Course. The two books were widely used by students of psychology and were known to most as “the James” and “the Jimmy” respectively.

William James – Theory:
• Pragmatism
James wrote considerably on the concept of pragmatism. According to pragmatism, the truth of an idea can never be proven. James proposed we instead focus on what he called the “cash value,” or usefulness, of an idea.

• Functionalism
James opposed the structuralist focus on introspection and breaking down mental events to the smallest elements. Instead, James focused on the wholeness of an event, taking into the impact of the environment on behavior.

• James-Lange Theory of Emotion
The James-Lange theory of emotion proposes that an event triggers a physiological reaction, which we then interpret. According to this theory, emotions are caused by our interpretations of these physiological reactions. Both James and the Danish physiologist Carl Lange independently proposed the theory.

William James – Theory:

• Pragmatism
James wrote considerably on the concept of pragmatism. According to pragmatism, the truth of an idea can never be proven. James proposed we instead focus on what he called the “cash value,” or usefulness, of an idea.

• Functionalism
James opposed the structuralist focus on introspection and breaking down mental events to the smallest elements. Instead, James focused on the wholeness of an event, taking into the impact of the environment on behavior.

• James-Lange Theory of Emotion
The James-Lange theory of emotion proposes that an event triggers a physiological reaction, which we then interpret. According to this theory, emotions are caused by our interpretations of these physiological reactions. Both James and the Danish physiologist Carl Lange independently proposed the theory.

Influence on Psychology
In addition to his own enormous influence, many of James’ students went on to have prosperous and influential career in psychology. Some of James’ students included Mary Whiton Calkins, Edward Thorndike, G. Stanley Hall and John Dewey.

Source(s)
Cherry, K. (n.d.). William James Biography. Retrieved December 28, 2014, from http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/jamesbio.htm
William James. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 04:02, Dec 28, 2014, from http://www.biography.com/people/william-james-9352726.

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