Last updated: July 6, 2003

[Narrative Psychology]

 Historical Background

 Emergence of the Social Sciences



Background  ||  Internet  ||  Bibliographical  ||  Theorists


Background Issues

What falls in the background of contemporary understandings of narrative? To answer this issue, the historical origins of the social sciences broadly conceived serves as the focus of this page. 19th and early 20th century efforts to understand the social world by the application of positivist approaches and scientific methodologies resulted in the emergence of new disciplines, among others, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and linguistics. These have all contributed to the development of narrative. At the same time, a crucial debate concerning the nature of psychology arose particularly in German academic circles: it queried the disciplinary status of psychology and asked whether there might not be two correlative sides to its study -- one emphasizing the positive methodologies of the "natural sciences" (Naturwissenshaften) and the other emphasizing more humanistic and social concerns (Geisteswissenschaften). Note that the origins of the social sciences is an extraordinarily broad issue and researchers are directed to volumes such as Smith (1997), Jahoda (1993), and Leahey (1992) noted below.


Theorists*Key Figures

Internet Resouces

The Durkheim Pages [Robert Alun Jones, U IL Urbana-Champaign in conjunction with the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies at Oxford University]

George's Page [Brock University, St. Catharine's, Ont.] Repository for the publications of George Herbert Mead, related publications by other writers, including sources documents referenced by Mead, some biographical and historical notes, and commentaries on Mead's work.

PsychREF™: Resources in Psychology on the Internet [Vincent Hevern, LeMoyne College]

Verstehen: Max Weber's Homepage [Frank Elwell, Murray State University, KY]

See, also, list of serials below.

Bibliographical Resources

Three serials are particularly important for study of the history of the social sciences:

Blumenthal, A. L. (1997). Wilhelm Wundt. In W. G. Bringman, H. L. Lück, R. Miller, R., & C. E. Early, (Eds.), A pictorial history of psychology (pp. 117-125). Chicago, IL: Quintessence Publishing Co.

A helpful brief overview of Wundt within the intellectual and academic context of his time.

Bringman, W. G., Lück, H. L., Miller, R., & Early, C. E. (Eds.). (1997). A pictorial history of psychology. Chicago, IL: Quintessence Publishing Co.

This comprehensive volume of 107 articles (including 650 illustrations and tables) represents a major revision of the earlier German text, Illustriete Geschicte der Psychologie (The Illustrated History of Psychology), which appeared in 1993 under the editorial direction of Helmut E. Lück and Rudolf Miller (both at Fern University, Hagen, Germany). 57 articles in the current volume are translations into English of the German originals while 50 new essays in English were added to the prior text. Bibliographical references are given at the end of each article. The wealth of topics and biographical material relevant both to narrative generally and, especially, the rise of the social sciences and psychology makes this a helpful resource for students and instructors. However, essays vary significantly in quality and readers may need to employ other resources instead of or to supplement their use of this history. Particularly helpful are those essays on Wilhelm Wundt (from four different perspectives including his "Völkerpsychologie"), the history of Gestalt and Gestalt-influenced psychology from Ernest Mach and Carl Stumpf through Köhler, Lewin and Roger Barker (10 essays), and the origins of theories of personality and general human development from G. Stanley Hall through Piaget, Vygotsky, Allport, and Kelly (15 essays).

Brock, A. (1992). Was Wundt a 'Nazi'?: Völkerpsychologie, racism, and anti-Semitism. Theory and Psychology, 2, 205-230.

Is there a difference between a psychology (such as Wundt's) which sees mental differences as rooted in culturally-determined factors and a psychology which traces differences to racial factors (as many early scientists believed)? Brock's provocative title is answered by a more nuanced review of Wundt's actual purposes (versus those of some contemporaries and followers).

Cahan, E. D., & White, S. H. (1992). Proposals for a second psychology. American Psychologist, 47, 224-235.

The call for a "second psychology" to go beyond the laboratory and examine mental life as it has emerged from social and cultural groundings can be found in writers of the 19th century (Comte, Mill, Wundt) and 20th century (Vygotsky, Murray, G. Allport, et al.). This historical review details efforts to provide a contrasting and complementary psychology to that found in the laboratory.

Cook, G. A. (1993). George Herbert Mead: The making of a social pragmatist. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Danziger, K. (1979). The positivist repudiation of Wundt. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 15, 205-230.

Danziger, K. (1980). Wundt and the two traditions of psychology. In R. W. Rieber (Ed.), Wilhelm Wundt and the making of scientific psychology. New York: Plenum.

[Tinysubhead Icon] Kurt Danziger (1926- )

Danziger, K. (1980). The history of introspection reconsidered. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 16, 241-262.

Danziger, K. (1983). Origins and basic principles of Wundt's Völkerpsychologie. British Journal of Social Psychology, 22, 303-313.

Danziger, K. (1985). The origins of the psychological experiment as a social institution. American Psychologist, 40(2), 133-140.

Describes early differences in how psychological experimentation should be carried out in the social sciences: the "Parisian" model which prescribed absolute social distance between experimenter and participant and the "Leipzig" model in which experimenters could also adopt the role of subject.

Danziger, K. (1990). Constructing the subject: Historical origins of psychological research. New York: Cambridge University Press.

In tracing the development of psychological research methodology during the late 19th and early 20th century, Danzinger provides a pointed social constructivist critique. He indicates that much of the history of the field has failed to acknowledge the "socially constructed nature of psychological knowledge" (p. 2). An crucial and seminal work.

Danziger, K. (1992). The project of an experimental social psychology: Historical perspectives. Science in Context, 5(2), 309-328.

Danziger, K. (1997). Naming the mind: How psychology found its language. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Danziger, K. (2000). Making social psychology experimental: A conceptual history, 1920-1970. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 34, 329-347.

Fancher, R. E. (1996). Pioneers of psychology (3rd ed.). New York: W. W.Norton.

Hamilton, P. (Ed.). (1992). George Hebert Mead: Critical assessments. Vol. 1. Biography and intellectual context. London: Routledge.

James, W. (1950). Principles of of psychology. Vols. 1-2 (authorized ed.). New York: Dover Publications. (Original work published 1890)

While laboratory-based psychological science received powerful impetus from Wundt, Cattell, Fechner, and others, James reminds readers even a century later that a complete psychology demands intellectual engagement of far wider scope, one which explores more than the laboratory can offer by itself. Particularly in James' notion of human consciousness of self, the work of psychological explanation is confronted by important data generated within an interpersonal world of variety and nuance.

Jahoda, G. (1993). Crossroads between culture and mind: Continuities and change in theories of human nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

This very important volume traces the efforts of European theoreticians of the 18th and 19th centuries to understand human nature and how it is affected or defined by "culture," itself a developing concept. The three major sections of this book include (1) "Eighteenth Century Preludes" (the Enlightenment, etc.); (2) "The Positivist Tradition" exploring issues of biology, race, "psychic unity" and the beginnings of a cross-cultural psychology; and (3) "German Idealism and Völkerpsychologie" (leading up to Wundt). Extensive bibliography.

Jahoda, G. (1997). Wilhelm Wundt's "Völkerpsychologie." In W. G. Bringman, H. L. Lück, R. Miller, R., & C. E. Early, (Eds.), A pictorial history of psychology (pp. 148-152). Chicago, IL: Quintessence Publishing Co.

Joas, H. (1997). G. H. Mead: A contemporary re-examination of his thought (Raymond Meyer, Transl.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Note that this volume was originally published in 1980 in Frankfurt (Suhrkamp) in German under the title Praktische Intersubjektivität. Die Entwicklung des Werks von George Herbert Mead.

Leahey, T. H. (1997). History of psychology: Main currents in psychological thoughts (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

[Tinysubhead Icon] George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)

Mead, G. H. (1909). Social psychology as counterpart to physiological psychology. Psychological Bulletin 6, 401- 408.

Mead, G. H. (1910). Social consciousness and the consciousness of meaning. Psychological Bulletin, 7, 397-405.

Mead, G. H. (1913). The social self. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 10, 374- 380.

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist (Charles W. Morris, Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

One of the founders of sociology argues for the crucial role of society in the development of the self. An essential work. This book was actually drawn from the lectures Mead gave at the U of C and was based on both stenographic records of his 1927 course as well as student notes from 1930 and other sources.

Mead, G. H. (1938). The philosophy of the act (Charles W. Morris, Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago.

Mead, G. H. (1982). The individual and the social self: Unpublished work of George Herbert Mead (David L. Miller, Ed.), Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

In addition the the Introduction by David L. Miller, this volume contains two sets of Mead's class lectures -- his 1914 and 1927 Class Lectures -- and the essay "Consciousness, Mind, the Self, and Scientific Objects."

Porter, T. M. (1995). Trust in numbers: The pursuit of objectivity in science and public life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

This well-received study details the cultural context within which scientific objectivity and the use of statistical models to describe reality arose as predominating paradigms within the West during the 20th century. Porter builds upon his general 1986 study, The Rise of Statistical Thinking 1820-1900. He sees the emergence of quantification as a response to forces within a culture which was unable to solve or deal with problematics using earlier forms of address, analysis, or interpretation. The author describes the ways in which the modern nation-state and its predominating political philosophies required an objectified and quantified set of social as well as natural sciences because of the inadequacies of "local knowledge" even to approximate a response strategy to crises, e.g., bank failures, securities manipulation, and the Great Depression. Issues of public trust found paths toward the solution of public problems in the emergence of these rationally-grounded, quantified sciences.

Reed, E. S. (1997). From soul to mind: The emergence of psychology from Erasmus Darwin to William James. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Schmdit, W. (1997). William Stern. In W. G. Bringman, H. L. Lück, R. Miller, R., & C. E. Early, (Eds.), A pictorial history of psychology (pp. 322-325). Chicago, IL: Quintessence Publishing Co.

The influence of William Stern (1871-1938) on psychology and his importance for narrative psychology rests upon (1) his studies of "differential psychology" (a term he coined) or the psychology of individual differences which he later called "personalistics" and (2) his mentorship of postdoctoral fellow Gordon Allport in the early 1920s when Allport lived with Stern's family. Stern, the inventor of the IQ ratio (in 1912), later repudiated this unitary metric of mental capacities.

Smith, R. (1997). The Norton history of the human sciences. New York: W. W. Norton.

This extensive text (> 1000 pages) reviews the entire history of those human sciences which include the present disciplines of sociology, anthropology, linguistics, economics, and psychology. A volume in the Norton History of Science Series (General Editor: Roy Porter), Smith's survey provides detailed analyses of development in the social sciences and allied discplines in five parts across 20 chapters beginning with the Renaissance origins of modern science and culminating in trends characteristic of late 20th century work. Psychology serves as a prime focus of this book. An historian of science and intellectual history at Lancaster University (UK), Smith also provides a helpful critical bibliographical essay (of more than 100 pages and arranged on a chapter-by-chapter basis) on the chief sources in English for understanding specific themes and issues. References are current through the early 1990s. This is an excellent starting place to gain an overview of the history within which narrative and the interpretative turn in psychology developed.

Sokal, M. M. (Ed.). (1987). Psychological testing and American society, 1890-1930. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

The rise of psychological testing is so central to the overall development of psychology as a "science" in the first third of this century, particularly in the United States, that the essays in this volume provide very helpful context for understanding its dynamics.


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Hevern, V. W. (2003, July). Emergence of the social sciences. Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved [enter date] from the Le Moyne College Web site:

     Narrative Psychology: Internet and Resource Guide
is copyright © 1996-2003 by Vincent W. Hevern, SJ, all rights reserved.

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