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Hugo Münsterberg

Hugo Münsterberg

Hugo Munsterberg was the pioneer of applied psychology. He was a prominent German-American psychologist whose ground-breaking works in applied psychology comprised of various researches on legal, medical, clinical, educational and industrial fields. Born on June 1st, 1863, into a Jewish family, as a child he showed interests in various fields including music, poetry, literature, foreign languages and acting. He acquired his early education from gymnasium of Dazing from where he graduated in 1882. He obtained his PhD in physiological psychology from University of Leipzig in 1885, under the supervision of Wilhelm Wundt. He then decided to study medicine following the advice of Wilhelm Wundt. He studied at University of Heidelberg for his medical degree and graduated in 1887 from there. He started his academic career at the University of Freiberg as a P.D. lecturer. He initiated a psychology laboratory at the University of Freiberg as well. Then, he began publishing research papers on various topics comprising of learning, perception, memory and attention processes. He got promoted to the designation of assistant professor at the University of Freiberg in 1891. He attended of the first international congress of psychology in the same year where he met the famous American psychologist, William James. William James invited him to Harvard University to serve as a chair of psychology for a term of three years. Hugo Munsterberg accepted his invitation. He attained the responsibility of supervising the psychology graduate students as well. He became a remarkably renowned teacher in the university who was liked by most of his graduate psychology students. He came back to Freiberg in 1895 due to the love of his homeland.

Hugo Munsterberg was a well-known personality among the scientific community, academic world and general public due to his extensive range of works in the field of applied psychology. He studied and researched the implications of practical situations through the field of applied psychology. According to the views of Munsterberg it is the foremost responsibility of psychologists to reveal the applications of psychological aspects in the real life situations. Hugo Munsterberg was also the first psychologist to apply the concepts of psychology to the legal field. This led him to the development of forensic psychology. His contributions to psychology also included the application of psychological principles to clinical psychology.

Hugo Munsterberg published a book entitled as “On the Witness Stand” in 1908 which stirred a lot of controversies. This book is a collection of his previously published researches related to forensic psychology. He analyzed different psychological factors that are responsible for altering the outcomes of trials, in this book. His work on clinical psychology consisted of theories regarding psychophysical parallelism. Munsterberg proposed the parallel connection between brain process and physical processes. He asserted that certain types of mental illnesses occur through cellular- metabolic causation. These illnesses were diagnosed through Munsterberg’s behavioristic observations which were formed by conducting interviews from the subjects. He also worked on industrial psychology and penned down books including ‘Vocation and Learning’ and ‘Psychology and Industrial Efficiency’ in 1912 and 1913 respectively. He died on December 19th, 1916, at the age of 53.

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