Top Three German Psychologists and Their Theories

famous german psychologists erich fromm

German Psychologists/ Famous Psychologists from Germany

Psychology is a relatively young science with a turbulent history in terms of change in paradigms or the creation of new schools. Since the field of Psychology developed, theories and research activities increased significantly. German psychologists have always had a great influence on the development of the subject. 

Psychology as a science has evolved from Philosophy. Many of the first Psychology professors at Universities were innately Philosophers. One of the founding fathers of Psychology and the psychological experiment is Wilhelm Wundt. While Behaviorism with its objective and experimental view of Psychology was the main influence in the United States, the Gestalt Psychology, which describes human perception as the ability to identify structures and organizing principles in sensory impressions, was the main trend in Germany. Since the 60s and 70s, Cognitivism became the dominant paradigm in both the US and Germany. People construct constructivist ideas and knowledge content in active exchange with the environment and in the social group. In the last couple of years, Evolutionary Psychology increased in impotance.

Famous German Psychologists

Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm was one of the most famous humanistic German psychologists. Born on March 23, 1900, in Frankfurt at Main, the Jewish Fromm first wanted to become a lawyer, but finally changed his subject to Sociology. Fromm’s main focus was social psychology. One of his main theories says that the individual is a social being and the interactions between individuals always marked by social taboos and requirements. Many psychoanalysts ignored Fromm’s views throughout his life as they didn’t accept him as a Psychoanalyst – even though he was the first one, who considered human beings as relational beings. Furthermore, Fromm recognized a narcissism as the main cause of distorted self and perception of reality. He also published a book about Freud’s psychoanalysis, in which he described Freud’s real discoveries, but he also criticized theories, which were – according to Fromm – only time-bounded.

As Fromm was from a Jewish family, he got excluded from the Psychoanalytic Association in the 1930s. Due to his “unorthodox” views, he never got a chance to become a member again.

Friedemann Schulz von Thun

Friedemann Schulz von Thun was born on August 6, 1944, in Soltau. He is a Psychologist and Communicational Scientist and especially famous for his four sides model. The communication square is based on the assumption, that every verbal expression can get interpreted by four aspects. On the tangible side, the speaker informs about the factual content. The self-revelation includes what is seen by sending the message of the speaker. The relationship side illustrates, what the transmitter thinks in terms of the receiver. What the transmitter finally wants to express, is represented by the call side.

While the transmitter is talking through four “mouths”, the receiver is listening through four “ears”. What the transmitter is trying to express, sometimes doesn’t fit the receiver’s interpretation. The result is conflicting. Interpersonal contacts are the most exciting part when it comes to the four sides of a message.

In total, one of the most famous German psychologists Friedemann Schulz von Thun published three volumes of Miteinander Reden ( = Talking with each other), in which he describes different types and ways of interpersonal communication.

Wilhelm Wundt

William Wundt was born on August 16, 1832, in Mannheim and is considered as the founder of modern Psychology. Wilhelm Wundt is especially famous for his establishment of the Psychological experiment, the creation of the first psychology lab and as the founder of the worldwide first institute for Experimental Psychology at the University of Leipzig.

One of the most famous German psychologists, Wundt, started his university career in Tübingen, where he studied Chemistry, Physics, Botanic, and Physiology. He, later on, studied Mathematics in Heidelberg, when a lecturer in physical chemistry aroused his interest in this subject. When he began his work as an assistant doctor at the university hospital of Heidelberg, some of his patients suffered from paralysis of the skin and muscles. Wundt diagnosed psychological causes – contrary to the then common doctrine that it must have been a physical reason. He released his first book Contributions about the theory of sensory perception and finally finished his Ph.D. in 1856. After teaching Philosophy in Zurich, Wundt was trying to establish Psychology as an own science. Until today, Wundt is seen as the father of Psychology.

Featured image: Erich Fromm – Müller-May Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 DE
February 7, 2017
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