Who is William McDougall?

Who is William McDougall?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

He is a British psychologist.

He was born on June 22, 1871, in Chadderton, Lancashire, England, and died on November 28, 1938, in Durham, North Carolina, USA. He was the son of a chemical manufacturer. After completing his primary and secondary education in England and Germany, he studied biology at the universities of Manchester and Cambridge. In 1897, while working at St. Thomas Hospital in London, he was influenced by the work of psychologist William James and decided to study psychology. He started his doctorate studies in psychology at St. John’s College, Cambridge University.

In 1899 he participated in an anthropological research expedition to the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea. During the trip, he administered psychological tests to the locals. He later did research on color perception at the University of Göttingen in Germany. In 1901 he entered the psychological research laboratory of University College, London, as an assistant. After starting to teach at Oxford University in 1904, he published his book Physiological Psychology in 1905. In his book, he argued that the “soul” is an ether-like structure, driven by neural activity. In 1911, he published his famous book, Body and Mind: A History and Defense of Animism (“Body and Mind: The History and Defense of Animism”), in which he covered topics such as heredity, evolution, memory and learning, and parapsychology. While serving in the army during World War I, he worked on a form of hysteria called shell-shock, a form of war-induced depression. McDougall, who went to the USA in 1920, became a psychology professor at Harvard University in the same year and at Duke University in Durham in 1927.

McDougall, with his contributions to the psychology of purposefulness (hormic) based on the thesis that all conscious or unconscious behaviors are purposeful and directed towards a goal, the understanding of personality composed of hereditary instincts and emotions directed by the biological energy, and the concept of “group mind”, which emerges with the interaction of individuals and directs the psychological behavior of the group, It has a unique place in the history of psychology. With his writings and influential polemics, he has been influential in many psychologists’ attention to biological and social psychology and their orientation to work in these fields.

William McDougall is best known for his “instinct theory of behavior”. Apart from this, McDougall’s book “Introduction of Social Pyscholog” gained fame with 14 editions and contributed to the recognition of McDougall.

McDougall was a staunch advocate of less popular topics such as freedom of the will, Germanic supremacy, and spiritual studies, and was a frequent target of the American press for his views.

After McDougall began to be accepted by psychologists in the world of psychology, he was heavily criticized by the psychology communities in the 1920s due to his intense criticisms of behavioral psychology. So much so that when McDougall died in 1938, Psychologist Knight Dunlop: “He’s finally dead! This has undoubtedly been very good for psychology.” he said. (Quoted from Smith; 1989, p. 446)

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook