Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Screening the Psychological Laboratory: Hugo Münsterberg, Psychotechnics, and the Cinema, 1892–1916

  • Jeremy Blatter (a1)

According to Hugo Münsterberg, the direct application of experimental psychology to the practical problems of education, law, industry, and art belonged by definition to the domain of psychotechnics. Whether in the form of pedagogical prescription, interrogation technique, hiring practice, or aesthetic principle, the psychotechnical method implied bringing the psychological laboratory to bear on everyday life. There were, however, significant pitfalls to leaving behind the putative purity of the early psychological laboratory in pursuit of technological utility. In the Vocation Bureau, for example, psychological instruments were often deemed too intimidating for a public unfamiliar with the inner workings of experimental science. Similarly, when psychotechnical means were employed by big business in screening job candidates, ethical red flags were raised about this new alliance between science and capital. This tension was particularly evident in Münsterberg's collaboration with the Paramount Pictures Corporation in 1916. In translating psychological tests into short experimental films, Münsterberg not only envisioned a new mass medium for the dissemination of psychotechnics, but a means by which to initiate the masses into the culture of experimental psychology.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Mitchell G Ash . 2003. “Psychology.” In Cambridge History of Science Volume 7: The Modern Social Sciences, edited by Theodor M. Porter and Dorothy Ross , 251274. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

James W Bridges . 1914. “An Experimental Study of Decision Types and Their Mental Correlates.” Psychological Monographs 17:172.

John C Burnham . 2009. Accident Prone: A History of Technology, Psychology, and Misfits of the Machine Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harold E Burtt . 1917. “Professor Münsterberg's Vocational Tests.” Journal of Applied Psychology 1:202213.

Jimena Canales . 2001. “Exit the Frog, Enter the Human: Physiology and Experimental Psychology in Nineteenth-Century Astronomy.” British Journal for the History of Science 34:173197.

James H Capshew . 1999. Psychologists on the March: Science, Practice, and Professional Identity in America, 1929–1969. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Deborah J Coon . 1992. “Testing the Limits of Sense and Science: American Experimental Psychologists Combat Spiritualism, 1880–1920.” American Psychologist 47:143151.

Deborah Coon . 1993. “Standardizing the Subject: Experimental Psychologists, Instrospection, and the Quest for a Technoscientific Ideal.” Technology and Culture 34:757783.

Kurt Danziger . 1980. “The History of Introspection Reconsidered.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 16:241262.

Kurt Danziger . 1990. Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Robert C Davis . 1970. “The Brass Age of Psychology.” Technology and Culture 11:604612.

Gustave A Feingold . 1915. “Recognition and Discrimination.” Psychological Monographs 18:1128.

Raymond Fielding . 1970. “Hale's Tours: Ultrarealism in the Pre-1910 Motion Picture.” Cinema Journal 10:3447.

Paul Forman . 2007. “The Primacy of Science in Modernity, of Technology in Postmodernity, and of Ideology in the History of Technology.” History and Technology 23 (March/June):1152.

David A Gerstner . 2006. Manly Arts: Masculinity in Early American Cinema. Durham: Duke University Press.

Daniel J Kevles . 1968. “Testing the Army's Intelligence: Psychologists and the Military in World War I.” Journal of American History 55:565581.

Brenton J Malin . 2009. “Mediating Emotion: Technology, Social Science, and Emotion in the Payne Fund Motion-Picture Studies.” Technology and Culture 50:366390.

Henry Clay McComas . 1911. “Some Types of Attention.” Psychological Monographs 13:158.

Hugo Münsterberg . 1915b. Business Psychology. Chicago: La Salle Extension University.

Michael J Pettit . 2007. “The Unwary Purchaser: Consumer Psychology and the Regulation of Commerce in America.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 43:379399.

Jutta Spillmann , and Lothar Spillmann . 1993. “The Rise and Fall of Hugo Münsterberg.” Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences 29:322338.

Pieter J van Strien . 1998. “Early Applied Psychology between Essentialism and Pragmatism: The Dynamics of Theory, Tools, and Clients.” History of Psychology 1:205234.

Mark R Wicclair . 1978. “Film Theory and Hugo Münsterberg's The Film: A Psychological Study.” Journal of Aesthetic Education 12:3350.

Alison Winter . 2004. “Screening Selves: Sciences of Memory and Identity on Film, 1930–1960.” History of Psychology 7:367401.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 40 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 247 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.