On This Day … 27 March

People (Deaths)

  • 1938 – William Stern, German-American psychologist and philosopher (b. 1871).
  • 1946 – Karl Groos, German psychologist and philosopher (b. 1861).
  • 1998 – David McClelland, American psychologist and academic (b. 1917).

William Stern

William Stern (April 29, 1871 to March 27, 1938), born Louis William Stern, was a German psychologist and philosopher. He is known for the development of personalistic psychology, which placed emphasis on the individual by examining measurable personality traits as well as the interaction of those traits within each person to create the self.

Stern also coined the term intelligence quotient, or IQ, and invented the tone variator as a new way to study human perception of sound. Stern studied psychology and philosophy under Hermann Ebbinghaus at the University of Berlin, and quickly moved on to teach at the University of Breslau. Later he was appointed to the position of professor at the University of Hamburg.

Over the course of his career, Stern wrote many books pioneering new fields in psychology such as differential psychology, critical personalism, forensic psychology, and intelligence testing. Stern was also a pioneer in the field of child psychology. Working with his wife, Clara Joeesephy Stern, the couple kept meticulous diaries detailing the lives of their 3 children for 18 years. He used these journals to write several books that offered an unprecedented look into the psychological development of children over time.

Karl Groos

Karl Groos (10 December 1861 to 27 March 1946, in Tübingen) was a philosopher and psychologist who proposed an evolutionary instrumentalist theory of play. His 1898 book on The Play of Animals suggested that play is a preparation for later life.

Groos was full Professor of philosophy in Gießen, Basel and 1911-1929 in Tübingen.

His main idea was that play is basically useful, and so it can be explained by the normal process of evolution by natural selection. When animals ‘play’ they are practising basic instincts, such as fighting, for survival. This is translated from the original as “pre-tuning”. Despite this insight, Groos’ work is seldom read today, and his connection of play with aesthetics has been termed “misguided”. Another area of study was the psychology of literature, including statistical analysis.

Among his scholars is the German philosopher Willy Moog (1888-1935) (doctorate on Goethe supervised by Karl Groos in Gießen 1909).

David McClelland

David Clarence McClelland (20 May 1917 to 27 March 1998) was an American psychologist, noted for his work on motivation Need Theory. He published a number of works between the 1950s and the 1990s and developed new scoring systems for the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and its descendants.

McClelland is credited with developing Achievement Motivation Theory, commonly referred to as “need for achievement” or n-achievement theory. A Review of General Psychology survey published in 2002, ranked McClelland as the 15th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

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