William James


Background Information/Education

  • Born January 11, 1842
  • He was born into a affluent family
  • His father gave his children rich education
  • The James children traveled to Europe, attending the best possible schools, which helped William and his brother Henry become famous
  • William wanted to become a painter while his father wanted him to study science or philosophy. But his father, Henry, let William go study painting
  • After studying painting for over a year, he left painting and went to Harvard James n began to study chemistry at Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard but after a few years, he started to study medicine at Harvard Medical School
  • He received his M.D. at Harvard and starting teaching psychology there

Experience/Significant Accomplishments

  • He went to Harvard to study science
  • He wrote his first book called The Principles of Psychology
  • James wrote another book called The Varieties of Religious Experience which studies human nature
  • In collaboration with Carle Lange, James developed the James-Lange theory of emotion
  • The theory states that emotions are physiological reactions. When people experience an event, the event causes physiological changes, and these changes act as cues for emotion
  • Worked on the idea of pragmatism, he truth of an idea can never be proven. James proposed we instead focus on what he called the "cash value," or usefulness, of an idea
  • Studied functionalism, he focused on the wholeness of an event, taking into the impact of the environment on behavior
  • Founder of American Society for Psychical Research

Psychological perspective, theory or school of thought

  • He wanted to understand the evolutionary functions of things
  • Worked on the idea of pragmatism, an idea can never proven
  • Theory of emotion - interpretations of these physiological reactions