Seventy Years of Psychology

Paul C. Vitz on Surprisingly Positive Developments in a Very Troubled Discipline

Retirement is, no doubt, a good time to reflect on the years one has spent in the academic world, teaching and doing research, so as I begin my official retirement, here I go. From the beginning of my career, starting about 70 years ago, I have been engaged in the field of psychology.

Twentieth-Century Developments

I will start with my undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, from 1953 through 1957. At the time, the intense focus in psychology was on behaviorism and research with white rats or pigeons, and to some extent also on early psychoanalysis. We human beings were to be understood psychologically as the result of such primary drives as hunger and thirst, sex, aggression, and pain avoidance. These drives, plus schedules of reinforcement, and no doubt our unconscious, accounted for all we are. Even if one studied personality, one had to make sure that the measurements predicted a particular behavior. Nevertheless, it all fascinated me, and I was an enthusiastic major, taking a special program in psychology.

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