Jeremy Blatter

Ph.D. Candidate
History of Science and Film and Visual Studies
Harvard University

2012 to 2013
Dissertation Research Fellow

The Psychotechnics of Everyday Life: Hugo Münsterberg and the Politics of Applied Psychology, 1892-1920

Abstract: By the 1880s a new, experimental psychology modeled on the natural sciences had taken root. Distinct from their philosophical forefathers, practitioners of this new scientific psychology found epistemic assurance in the cloistered space of the laboratory, where ever-elusive laws of the mind were pursued with the help of experimental controls and brass instrument-ensured objectivity. However, by 1900, the “pure science” ideal upheld by many was increasingly called into question by progressive psychologists, businessmen and reformers who maintained that the time had come to put psychology to practical use. At the forefront of this movement was Hugo Münsterberg, Director of Harvard’s Psychological Laboratory (1892-1916). Once an outspoken critic of applied psychology, by 1908 Münsterberg had emerged as the most powerful figure of the movement. In this dissertation I trace the historical development of applied psychology from the laboratory to the new, everyday sites of psychological experimentation and influence. Read Jeremy's report on his PACHS-sponsored research here.