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      • William James was a psychologist and philosopher who had a major influence on the development of psychology in the United States. Among his many accomplishments, he was the first to teach a psychology course in the U.S. and is often referred to as the father of American psychology.
  1. William James | Department of Psychology › people › william-james
    • Research
    • Writings
    • Influence

    Jamess laboratory research on sensation and perception was conducted in the first half of his career. His belief in the connection between mind and body led him to develop what has become known as the James-Lange Theory of emotion, which posits that human experience of emotion arises from physiological changes in response to external events. Inspired by evolutionary theory, Jamess theoretical perspective on psychology came to be known as functionalism, which sought causal relationships between internal states and external behaviors.

    In 1890 James published a highly influential, two-volume synthesis and summary of psychology, Principles of Psychology. The books were widely read in North America and Europe, gaining attention and praise from Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in Vienna. James then moved away from experimental psychology to produce more philosophical works (he is credited as one of the founders of the school of American Pragmatism), although he continued to teach psychology until he retired from Harvard in 1907.

    James profoundly inspired and shaped the thinking of his students, many of whom (including Hall, Mary Whiton Calkins, and E.L. Thorndike) went on to have prominent careers in psychology. He also advised an undergraduate project on automatic writing by Gertrude Stein. William James is listed as number 14 on the American Psychological Associations list of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century.

  2. William James - Wikipedia › wiki › William_James

    William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States , and the "Father of ...

  3. William James | Simply Psychology › william-james
    • Biography. William James was born in New York City, as the oldest of Henry James and Mary Walsh’s five children...
    • Pragmatism. In 1870, William James and Charles Sanders Pierce founded the school of American Pragmatism (Hookway, 2008).
    • Functionalism (vs. Structuralism). Wilhelm Wundt, the father of modern...
  4. William James | Life, Books, Psychology, Contribution ... › biography › William-James

    William James, American philosopher and psychologist, a leader of the philosophical movement of pragmatism and a founder of the psychological movement of functionalism. His Principles of Psychology (1890) anticipated or inspired much 20th-century research in the field. He was the brother of the novelist Henry James.

  5. William James Psychologist Biography - Verywell Mind › william-james-biography
    • William James' Early Life
    • Timeline of Events
    • Career
    • Theories
    • William James' Influence on Psychology
    • Selected Works
    • Biographies

    William James was born into an affluent family. His father was deeply interested in philosophy and theology and strove to provide his children with an enriched education. The James children traveled to Europe frequently, attended the best possible schools, and were immersed in culture and art, which apparently paid off - William James went on to become one of the most important figures in psychology while his brother Henry James became one of the most acclaimed American novelists. Henry James was the author of several acclaimed works, including The Portrait of a Lady and The Ambassadors. Early in school, William James expressed an interest in becoming a painter. While Henry James Sr. was known as an unusually permissive and liberal father, he wanted William to study science or philosophy. Only after William persisted in his interest did Henry permit his son to formally study painting. After studying painting with the famed artist William Morris Hunt for more than a year, James aband...

    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.

    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.2 Developing health problems and severe depression, James spent the next two years in France and Germany. This period played an important role in shifting his interest toward psychology and philosophy. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1869, James continued to sink into depression. Following a period of inactivity, the president of Harvard offered James a position as an instructor of comparative physiology in 1872. Three years later, James began teaching psychology courses. While he famously commented that "the first lecture on psychology I ever heard being the first I ever gave,...

    James' theoretical contributions to psychology include the following: 1. Pragmatism: James wrote extensively on the concept of pragmatism. According to pragmatism, the truth of an idea can never be proven.5 James proposed we instead focus on what he called the "cash value," or usefulness, of an idea. 2. 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.6 3. James-Lange Theory of Emotion: The James-Lange theory of emotion proposes that an event triggers a physiological reaction, which we then interpret.7 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.

    In addition to his enormous influence, many of James' students went on to have prosperous and influential careers in psychology. Some of James' students included Mary Whiton Calkins, Edward Thorndike, and G. Stanley Hall.

    James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Henry Holt and Co.
    James, W. (1897). The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.
    James, W. (1907).Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.
    Myers, G. (2001). William James: His Life and Thought.Yale University Press.
    Simon, L. (1999). Genuine Reality: A Life of William James.University Of Chicago Press.
  6. William James - Psychology, Pragmatism & Books - Biography › scholar › william-james

    Known as the "Father of American psychology," William James was a philosopher, psychologist and a leading thinker of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After completing medical school, James...

  7. The Genius of William James | Psychology Today › the-genius-william-james

    Jun 11, 2019 · Although he is well recognized as one of the founding fathers of psychology, the range and the timeless relevance of William James’ writings and theories never cease to amaze me. One of the first...

  8. What are the Contributions of William James in Psychology ... › what-are-the

    The work of William James psychology ran the gamut from psychology to philosophy, biology and religion and he was partly responsible for introducing psychology as an area of study in the United States: he established the first psychology laboratory and taught the first course in Psychology, although he later admitted that he had “drifted into psychology and philosophy from a sort of fatality.

    • William James - Background
    • Pragmatism and Functionalism
    • Principles of Psychology and The Stream of Consciousness
    • James-Lange Theory of Emotion

    'The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook,' wrote William James in his groundbreaking 1200-page masterpiece The Principles of Psychology,written in 1890. This is good advice to keep in mind when approaching the life, works, and ideas of one of the most prolific psychologists and philosophers of the 20th century - a figure commonly known as 'the father of American psychology.' James offered some interesting ideas to counter the psychological concepts of his contemporaries. Psychology was a young field at the time and William James was influential in our understanding of how the mind works. Obviously, he didn't have the modern technology of brain imaging, so he focused on what he could observe and reason from those observations. He spent almost his entire academic career at Harvard University as a professor of not only psychology but also physiology and philosophy. William James was among the first teachers of psychology here in the U.S. He famously commented 'The first lectu...

    William James' lectures, writings and theories were organized around the dual principles of functionalism and pragmatism. Functionalismconsiders thought and behavior in terms of how they help a person adapt to their environment. In other words, how they help a person 'function' in the world and be successful. The functional approach was a response to prevailing structuralist approaches in psychology that broke down abstract mental events into their smallest elements through experimental techniques and introspection. Structuralists believed that the parts of the brain acted the same in any circumstance, whereas James was much more interested in its functional adaptability. James was also active in the world of philosophy and his ideas of Pragmatismreflected his fundamental perspective. The basic assumption of pragmatism is that the abstract 'truth' of an idea can never be fully proven and so philosophy should instead focus on the usefulness of an idea, or the difference they can make...

    James's famous book examines the history of human psychology in three main ways: first, through an analysis of historical and contemporary views of the mind, particularly those of Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, Herbert Spencer and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, all famous philosophers of their time. Secondly, through an introspective account and study of his own states of mind. And lastly, a discussion of 19th-century experimental techniques and findings. The book was especially critical of early ideas of human psychology and considered them of little value. James instead built his own distinct theory of the mind, identifying human cognition as inherently pragmatic, physically motivated and intentionally selective. The book is also a valuable historical text in its recording of experimental results and discoveries concerning the different locations of certain functions in the brain, or how each sense is located in a particular neural center. One particularly influential chapter titl...

    The other important theory that William James proposed in his masterpiece has since been termed the James-Lange theory of emotiondue to the fact that he and Danish physician Carl Lange formed the idea independently of each other in the 1800s. The theory suggests that emotions occur as a mental reaction to the physiological conditions that result from stimulus, rather than from the stimulus itself.

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