These famous psychologists were brainy individuals who contributed innovative theories to the field of psychology. They spent a lot of time looking into the human mind and digging its inner workings, questioning our hidden desires and motives. A dirty job? Sure. But, you know the old saying – somebody has to do it.
- Sigmund Freud. Freud is arguably the most famous psychologist. Many undergraduate students know him as “That Guy Who Connected Everything to Sex.” While it is true that Freud deemed the sex drive to be the heart of most of our motivations, he also developed many other long lasting theorizes that lead to his status of famous psychologist. For example, he explained the function of defense mechanisms, explored symbolism in dreams, and stressed how childhood experiences influenced the development of an individual’s personality. He also theorized that the human mind is composed of three structural elements. The first is the id, which is purely instinctual and always seeking satisfaction. The second is the super-ego, the conscience structure that responds to social-expectations and morality – a bit like Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio.” Standing between these opposite structures is the ego, which is the realistic structure that holds the balance.
- Abraham Maslow. Judging by their pictures and the nature of their theories, this famous psychologist was probably a bit more optimistic and genial than Mr. Freud. Maslow’s major contribution to psychology was the hierarchy theory of needs, which often takes the shape of a pyramid diagram used to explain human motivations. Our most basic physiological needs rest at the bottom of this pyramid; for example, we must have clothing, shelter and food to survive. On the next step, we seek elements of safety, such as employment, resources and good health. The third level is all about social relations and developing a sense of belonging through friendship, family and occasional bed buddies. Self-esteem and confidence make up the fourth level of the hierarchy. Maslow reserves the top of the pyramid for self-actualization, which encompasses the pursuit of creativity, morality, spontaneity and acceptance of facts. Overall, this famous psychologist spent a lot of time studying mentally “healthy” people, rather than sickos – like you and I.
- Jean Piaget. If you plan to have kids in the near future, you might want to read up on this famous psychologist. He was a man interested in child development and education. In 1929, he even became the Director of the International Bureau of Education. Pretty snazzy title, huh? Piaget also outlined the four developmental stages in children. During the sensorimotor stage, which extends from birth to the age of two, a child is learning to use the five senses to take in the world. From ages two to seven, children are in the preoperational stage, in which they come to understand the basics of representation; for example, how a word represents an object. The concrete operational stage extends from the age of seven to eleven. Here the child becomes more empathetic, meaning that he can comprehend the statement, “Please, stop pushing your sister down the stairs. It causes her pain and embarrassment.” From the age of twelve and into the wild yonder, we are immersed in the formal operations stage, which fosters abstract thought.