Psychology Congresses, International

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Psychology Congresses, International


The idea of an international psychology congress was first proposed by the Polish scientist J. Ochorowicz in 1881. At the First Congress (Paris, 1889), which was devoted to physiological psychology, the Russian delegation was the largest foreign delegation and I. M. Sechenov was elected an honorary chairman. The main topics of the congress were hypnotism and suggestion, the role of heredity in mental development, and the dependence of cognition on muscular sensations. The Second Congress (London, 1892), which was devoted to experimental psychology, was divided into two main sections: physiology and psychophysics, or hypnotism. Discussions centered on the problem of the causal determination of voluntary acts. Contributors included the Russian psychologist N. N. Lange, the American psychologist J. Baldwin, and the German psychologist H. Münsterberg.

The Third Congress (Munich, 1896) examined issues related to physiological psychology, the psychology of the normal individual, and pathopsychology. The Russian delegation included N. E. Vvedenskii and S. S. Korsakov. A heated debate developed at the congress between proponents of the natural science and idealist explanations of mental phenomena. This debate continued at the Fourth Congress (Paris, 1900), where the idealist trend was represented by H. Bergson of France and P. Carus of the United States and the natural science trend was supported by T.-A. Ribot of France and H. Ebbinghaus of Germany. The Fifth Congress (Rome, 1905) reflected the methodological crisis in psychology. The most important issue was the use of introspection as a basis for studying consciousness. P. Janet of France proposed unconscious mental activity as a counterbalance to introspection, and W. James of the United States rejected the existence of consciousness in general.

The Sixth Congress (Geneva, 1909) provided evidence of the further development of objective and precise methods in psychology. Considerable attention was devoted to animal psychology. R. Yerkes, M. Prince, and other American participants were among those who noted the importance of the method of conditioned reflexes developed by I. P. Pavlov. The Seventh Congress (Oxford, 1923) attracted a small number of participants and was primarily devoted to problems of psychotechnology, industrial psychology, and the development of tests for vocational selection that could be administered to large groups of workers. The Eighth Congress (Groningen, the Netherlands, 1926) was dominated by Gestalt psychology and the idealist school of the “psychology of life,” which rejected any alliance with the natural sciences and demanded a description of the personality from the standpoint of its orientation toward cultural values. The psychology of thought was an important topic at this congress. The Soviet psychologist D. N. Uznadze stressed the importance of the attitude (Einstellung) as a factor determining conscious activity.

The Ninth Congress (New Haven, Conn., 1929) was divided into a great number of sections. In an evening lecture, Pavlov presented a general outline of his theories of higher nervous activity. A dispute ensued between Pavlov and behaviorists, such as K. Lashley, who rejected the role of physiological mechanisms in the regulation of behavior. Soviet scholars defended a natural science orientation and the Marxist theory of cognition. The Tenth Congress (Copenhagen, 1932) stressed the need to transcend the one-sidedness of opposing schools of thought. Pavlov’s report substantiated the concept of the “dynamic stereotype” in cerebral activity as the basis for the systemic organization of behavior.

A main theme of the 11th Congress (Paris, 1937) was the problem of mental development in the animal world, with F. Buytendijk of the Netherlands proposing a new field called ethology. The Swiss psychologist J. Piaget touched on another main theme of the congress, namely, the mental development of children. E. Adrian of Great Britain noted the significance of the discovery of variations of electrical potential in the brain for the analysis of mental activity. Problems of social psychology and engineering psychology dominated the 12th Congress (Edinburgh, 1948), and the use of cybernetics in behavioral studies was considered. The 13th Congress (Stockholm, 1951) discussed the use of mathematical and other quantitative methods, including those developed by the theory of information. The relationship between scientific psychology and psychoanalysis was discussed. The congress decided to create an international union of scientific psychology; this body has been responsible for organizing all subsequent international congresses.

The 14th Congress (Montreal, 1954) was primarily devoted to the natural science approach, which had achieved considerable success by combining psychology and neurophysiology. New methods for studying the electrical activity of the brain were discussed by W. Penfield and D. Hebb of Canada and R. Granit of Sweden. Most of the reports delivered by Soviet delegates centered on modern successes in conditioned reflex studies. They examined the role of orienting responses in the origination of images regulating behavior. Problems of physiological psychology also dominated the 15th Congress (Brussels, 1957).

The 16th Congress (Bonn, 1960) was notable for the report of K. Bühler of the United States on the integrity and structural nature of mental activity and that of A. N. Leont’ev of the USSR on the relation of biological and social factors in the development of personality. A report by Piaget discussed the formation of sensory reception by the child. The 17th Congress (Washington, D.C., 1963) reflected the new directions created by combining psychology with a number of technical sciences and with cybernetics. Topics discussed at the congress included the use of computers in psychology and the use of technology in education. The 18th Congress (Moscow, 1966) demonstrated the major success Soviet psychology had achieved by basing itself on the Leninist theory of reflection. The main themes of the congress were problems of mental development, individual psychology, and social psychology.

In addition to analyzing new trends and concepts, the 19th Congress (London, 1969) extensively examined the contributions made by psychology in improving teaching methods and the organization of social behavior so as to help man adapt to the changes brought about by the modern scientific and technological revolution. Among the main problems discussed at the 20th Congress (Tokyo, 1972) were the development of psychology in Asia and the role of psychology in solving the contemporary problems of society.


Iaroshevskii, M. G. “Progress psikhologii i mezhdunarodnye psikhologicheskie kongressy.” Voprosy filosofii, 1966, no. 7.
Voronova, R. A. “O rabote XX mezhdunarodnogo psikhologicheskogo kongressa.” Voprosy psikhologii, 1973, no. 1.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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