Nineteenth Century Pioneers in the Study of Dissociation: William James and Psychical Research

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Abstract:

Following recent trends in the historiography of psychology and psychiatry we argue that psychical research was an important influence in the development of concepts about dissociation. To illustrate this point, we discuss American psychologist and philosopher William James's (1842-1910) writings about mediumship, secondary personalities, and hypnosis. Some of James’s work on the topic took place in the context of research conducted by the American Society for Psychical Research, such as his early work with the medium Leonora E. Piper (1857-1950). James Following recent trends in the historiography of psychology and psychiatry we argue that psychical research was an important influence in the development of concepts about dissociation. To illustrate this point, we discuss American psychologist and philosopher William James’s (1842-1910) writings about mediumship, secondary personalities, and hypnosis. Some of James's work on the topic took place in the context of research conducted by the American Society for Psychical Research, such as his early work with the medium Leonora E. Piper (1857-1950). James's work is an example of the influence of psychical research on several aspects of psychology such as early models of the unconscious and of dissociation's work is an example of the influence of psychical research on several aspects of psychology such as early models of the unconscious and of dissociation.

Keywords: William James; dissociation; hypnosis; mediumship

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Atlantic University, 215 67th Street, Virginia Beach, VA, 23451, Email: carlos.alvarado@atlanticuniv.edu 2: Email: skrippner@saybrook.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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