Biography of Psychologist G. Stanley Hall

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G. Stanley Hall was a psychologist perhaps best-known as the first American to earn a Ph.D. in psychology and for becoming the first President of the American Psychological Association. He also had a significant influence on the early development of psychology in the United States. Through his work as a teacher, he influenced a number of other leading psychologists including John Dewey and Lewis Terman.

According to a 2002 review of eminent psychologists of the twentieth century, Hall was ranked as the 72nd most-cited psychologist, a ranking he shared with his student Lewis Terman.

Let's take a closer look at his life and legacy.

Best Known For

  • Became the first President of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1892.
  • Founded the first American psychology laboratory at John Hopkins University.
  • First American to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology.

His Early Life

Granville Stanley Hall was born on February 1, 1884. He grew up on a farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts. He initially enrolled at Williston Academy in 1862, but later transferred to Williams College. After his graduation in 1867, he attended Union Theological Seminary. His initial studies and work centered on theology. However, like many students of this time period, he was inspired to turn to psychology by Wilhelm Wundt's Principles of Physiological Psychology.

Hall went on to earn a doctorate in psychology from Harvard University under psychologist William James and Henry P. Bowditch. G. Stanley Hall holds the distinction of being the first American to be granted a Ph.D. in Psychology. Hall also studied briefly in Wundt's experimental lab, noted as the first experimental psychology laboratory in the world.

Career and Accomplishments

While G. Stanley Hall initially began his career teaching English and philosophy, he eventually took a position as a Professor of Psychology and Pedagogics at John Hopkins University. Among his many accomplishments was the creation of the American Journal of Psychology in 1887. During his time at John Hopkins, he also established America's first experimental psychology laboratory.

In 1888, Hall left John Hopkins University and in 1889 he became President of Clark University, where he would remain for the next 20 years.

In 1892, Hall was elected as the first president of the American Psychological Association. In 1909, he famously invited a group of psychologists including Sigmund Freud to speak at Clark University. The trip was Freud's first and only visit to the United States.

Contributions to Psychology

G. Stanley Hall's primary interests were in evolutionary psychology and child development. He was heavily influenced by Ernst Haeckel's recapitulation theory, which suggested that embryonic stages of an organism resemble the stages of development of the organism's evolutionary ancestors, a theory that is today rejected by most evolutionary scientists.

Hall devoted a large amount of his work to understanding adolescent development, particularly in the area of aggression. He described two different types of aggression, which were relational aggression and physical aggression. Where he suggested that physical aggression was more common among males, he believed that females were more likely to exhibit relational aggression. This type of aggression involves tactics such as social exclusion and gossip.

Perhaps his greatest contribution was to the development and growth of early psychology. By the year 1898, Hall had supervised 30 out of the 54 Ph.D. degrees that had been awarded in the United States. Some of those who studied under his influence include Lewis Terman, John Dewey, and James McKeen Cattell. Hall's contributions helped establish psychology in the United States and paved the way for future psychologists.

He died on April 24, 1924.

Selected Publications

  • Hall, G.S.. (1904). Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion, and Education. 2 vols. New York, Appleton.
  • Hall, G. Stanley. (1906). Youth: Its Education, Regiment, and Hygiene. New York, Appleton.
  • Hall, G. Stanley. (1911). Educational Problems. 2 vols. New York, Appleton.

A Word From Verywell

G. Stanley Hall was instrumental in the development of early psychology in the United States. He is known for his many firsts, including being the first American to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, the first to open a psychology lab in the U.S., and the first president of the APA. In addition to his many accomplishments, he helped pave the way for future psychologists who also left prominent marks on the history of psychology.

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Article Sources

  • Arnett, JJ. G. Stanley Hall's Adolescence: Brilliance and nonsense. History of Psychology. 2006;9(3);186-197.
  • Blair-Broeker, C.T., Ernst, R., Ernst, R.M. & Myers, D.G. Thinking about psychology: The science of mind and behavior. Worth Publishers; 2003.
  • Goodchild, L. F. G. Stanley Hall and the Study of Higher Education. The Review of Higher Education. 1996;20:69-99.
  • Haggbloom, S.J., et al. The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of General Psychology. 2002;6: 139–152.