Psychology, The Department of.

Psychology, The Department of. For such a relatively young discipline, Psychology's history at Princeton is surprisingly long. In the 1868 catalog, Psychology was listed as a required course for the Junior class and for the next two decades was taught by President James McCosh, assisted by Professors Henry Fairfield Osborn and William Berryman Scott. In 1893 a laboratory for experimental psychology was established under J. Mark Baldwin. Housed in Nassau Hall, it thrived as a center for research and scholarship in the then fledgling science. The Psychological Review, founded jointly by Baldwin and by Cattell of Columbia University in 1894, soon became the Leading publication in American psychology.

Following a pattern that developed throughout the western world, psychology was initially treated as a subfield of philosophy. When the departmental system was instituted by President Wilson in 1904, psychology was taught as part of the philosophy department. In 1915, it received recognition in the title, the Department of Philosophy and Psychology. Finally, in 1920, a Department of Psychology was established, largely through the efforts of Howard C. Warren, who was its first chairman.

The next step was to find a home for the burgeoning science, and in 1924 Eno Hall became the first university building in America to be devoted entirely to experimental psychology. There Psychology remained and grew until 1963, when Green Hall, the former engineering building, was renovated to house the Departments of Psychology and Sociology, and Psychology began occupying every nook and cranny of its part of this large building.

But important as space and facilities are, the department's real history lies in the contributions of its faculty and students. From the beginning Psychology at Princeton has been among the foremost programs in the country. McCosh was one of the first to bring the ``new'' experimental psychology of the German psychologists Wundt and Fechner to the attention of scholars in this country. Baldwin continued this tradition, studying both with Wundt and with McCosh, and then went on to become one of this country's most distinguished psychologists, serving as president of the American Psychological Association in 1898. Warren was no less eminent, serving also as president in 1913.

Warren was succeeded as chairman of the department by Herbert Langfeld, whose textbook, written with Boring and Weld, was considered the first modern survey-introduction to psychology. Under Langfeld, the department's program was further strengthened by the appointment of such men as Ernest Wever, pioneer in the study of hearing; Hadley Cantril, noted for his work in public opinion and his study of people's reactions to Orson Welles's Martian invasion broadcast; and Harold Gulliksen, one of the country's foremost authorities on mental testing.

This blend of theoretical and practical interests continued under the chairmanships of Carroll Pratt, Hadley Cantril, and John L. Kennedy in the two decades following the Second World War. During this period Sylvan Tomkins, a leading figure in personality theory and assessment, brought Freud, Jung, and Adler alive for hundreds of enthralled undergraduates. Frank Geldard came from the University of Virginia, expanding the department's scope by his work on cutaneous perception and communication.

The department began to take on a new character and form after it moved to Green Hall in 1963. For the first time laboratories could be built and equipped to house the various new branches of rapidly developing experimental psychology. Professors John L. Kennedy and Joseph M. Notterman, who were instrumental in planning and supervising the building's reconstruction, also brought in young scientists to expand the department's coverage of modern psychology. In 1968, Leon J. Kamin assumed the chairmanship with a clear mandate to build on the solid foundation that already existed. Since then, the department has concentrated on four major areas: physiological psychology and the neurosciences, social psychology, cognitive processes and perception, and the psychology of learning and motivation. In addition, the study of behavioral development has been emphasized within each of these areas.

The decision to build depth as well as breadth resulted in a vigorous and popular department. Interdisciplinary research and scholarship has flourished, with faculty and students working across traditional lines: biology and biochemistry have become part and parcel of the work in neuroscience, linguistics and anthropology an integral part of work in cognition; mathematics and computer sciences a necessary and useful tool in the study of memory, perception and learning.

Student interest has grown correspondingly. In the early 1970s, Leon J. Kamin's introductory psychology lectures averaged over 300 students. John M. Darley and Joel Cooper attracted as many to each of their courses in Social Psychology and Personality, respectively, and the faculty were trying to keep pace with 150 undergraduate concentrators. Despite the constriction of the academic job market, the department attracted many more graduate students than could be accommodated and it had an enviable record in placing its Ph.D.'s in suitable positions throughout the country. President McCosh would have been pleased with the growth and development of experimental psychology at Princeton. Even though psychology was no longer thought of as Mental Philosophy, McCosh's spirit of vigorous inquiry and teaching and his commitment to excellence and service continued to prevail.

Sam Glucksberg


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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