Psychology is an exciting field that has seen a lot of changes since its early days. Some of the most famous psychologists are those who have produced the most noteworthy milestones in the field. Here are some of the most famous psychologists, and what each one is best known for.
1 Ivan Pavlov
Practically everyone has heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov wasn’t technically a psychologist, but he made one of the most important discoveries in the field, and had a major hand in establishing psychology as an area of study. Pavlov is the one who recognized that responses to stimuli could be learned, based on his studies of dogs.
2 John B. Watson
When Pavlov jump-started the field of psychology by recognizing the role of learned responses, he also kicked off behaviorism. Watson was the first behaviorist, arguing that psychologists can only base their theories on observation, and utilizing the study of animals in order to draw conclusions regarding human behavior.
3 B.F. Skinner
Another behaviorist, Skinner’s theories of operant conditioning and reinforcement have had a lasting impact on psychology. Any time you read or hear about the use of reward and punishment, you are seeing the effects of Skinner’s theories.
4 Sigmund Freud
What list of psychologists would be complete without Sigmund Freud’s name? Freud may be somewhat mocked today for his apparent preoccupation with sex, but his theories of psychoanalysis were extremely influential on the field.
A certain degree of neurosis is of inestimable value as a drive, especially to a psychologist. -Sigmund Freud
5 Carl Jung
Jung is another of the influential early psychologists. He worked with and was influenced by Freud, but eventually developed theories of his own. For instance, he rejected Freud’s focus on sex in favor of symbol and what he called the collective unconscious. His theories also led to the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous.
6 Anna Freud
Often the only Freud remembered is Sigmund Freud, but his daughter Anna was also a highly influential psychologist. She was a pioneer in child psychology, adapting her father’s theories of psychoanalysis for use with children, and recognizing the differences between children and adults.
7 Erik Erikson
Another pioneer in child psychology, Erik Erikson studied with Anna Freud and later went on to form his own theories about the development of identity throughout the lifespan — childhood, adulthood, and old age.
8 Jean Piaget
Like Erikson, Piaget theorized that children developed in stages. Whereas Erikson’s stages focused on identity, however, Piaget studied children’s cognitive abilities. He was one of the first psychologists to acknowledge that children think differently than adults, which makes his work groundbreaking and important, even today.
It is with children that we have the best chance of studying the development of logical knowledge, mathematical knowledge, physical knowledge, and so forth. -Jean Piaget
9 Abraham Maslow
Maslow’s theories provided a sharp contrast to those of Watson, Skinner, and the other behaviorists. His emphasis on positive psychology resulted in the creation of a very different field of study, known as humanistic psychology.
10 Carl Rogers
Rogers was also very influential in the development of humanistic psychology, but perhaps his greatest contribution was in counseling and therapy. Instead of the Freudian-style psychoanalysis that was popular at the time, Rogers developed a client-centered style of counseling, in which the therapist allows the client to determine the focus.
When you get your degree in psychology, you are in good company: In just a little over a century, there have been many famous psychologists that have made lasting impacts on the field. What are some other famous psychologists, either historical or contemporary, that you can think of?