Robert Sessions Woodworth: Biography of this American psychologist

Robert S. Woodworth (1869-1962) was an American psychologist who laid the foundations of the eclectic approach psychology. Throughout his career, Woordworth was interested in the development of a unified theory of psychology based on scientific observation and the possibility of generalizing them.

In this article we will see a biography of Robert S. Woodworth, As well as some of his major contributions to psychology.

    Robert S. Woodworth: life and work of this American psychologist

    Robert Sessions Woodworth was born October 17, 1869 in Belchertown, Massachusetts, United States.

    In 1891 he obtained a degree in philosophy from Amherst College, then studied science and mathematics. In the year 1895 he began an honors study in philosophy at Harvard University, Which he concluded in 1896. His tutor had been the philosopher and scientist William James, who motivated him to pursue a doctorate in psychology.

    Following this advice, Woodworth he graduated from Columbia University under the supervision of James McKeen Cattell, Who has been one of the main proponents of the scientific consolidation of psychology. Robert S. Woodworth finally received his doctorate in psychology in 1899, with research into the accuracy of voluntary movement.

    From there, Woodworth taught at the same university, when he established a close professional relationship with another of the most representative psychologists of the time: Edward L. Thorndike, with whom he conducted various studies on the theories of learning. Among other things, they concluded that learning cannot be transferred from one element to another, that is, learning a subject does not necessarily produce an improvement in general learning.

    He then completed postgraduate training at the University of Liverpool, completing it in 1902. After that, he returned to Columbia University to work as a professor, accompanied by his wife Gabrielle Schjoth. Robert S. Woodworth died on July 4, 1962 in New York City.

    professional task

    In 1914, Robert s. Woodworth he was president of the American Psychological Association (APA), where he had constant debates with other renowned psychologists such as Edward B. Titchener and Oswald Külpe.

    On the other hand, in the context of World War I and as was the case with other psychologists of the time, Woodworth was involved in the design of psychological tests used to assess recruited men. Woodworth Personal Data Sheet (Woodworth Personal Data Sheet) was the name given to the scale used for this purpose.

    Woodworth was also head of the psychology department at Columbia University for almost a decade (1918-1927).

      Dynamic or eclectic psychology

      Robert S. Woodworth’s main contribution to psychology was the necessary defense incorporate different approaches to gain a broad understanding of psychology. At the start of the 20th century, Woodworth proposed a unified system of psychological thought. At one point, he was against the dominant methodological determinism in psychology and said it was necessary to take an eclectic approach to understanding human behavior.

      For example, he rejected McDougall’s proposals which focused heavily on innate components, and at the same time he remained skeptical of John Watson’s proposals, Which emphasized the role of the environment in behavior. In the same vein, he distanced himself from Edawrd Tichener, who emphasized the study of consciousness on other aspects of the human being.

      Woordworth argued that behavior is a function of environmental stimuli, just like the makeup of an organism and its own consciousness.

      For this psychologist, it was necessary to develop a “halfway psychology” which would be possible to adapt or generalize to the interests of all human needs. In this regard, Woodworth considered that thought and consciousness were legitimate objects of study in scientific psychology. The latter represented an important suggestion for the development of psychology at the time, which was part of the debates on the study of observable behavior or internal mental processes.

      From there, he developed two important constructs for psychology: the interactionist metaphor of “dynamics”, to denote the determining role of nature and the environment; and an explanatory model of the latter under the formula “Stimulus-Organism-Response” (SOR).

      remarkable works

      Some of his best-known works are Elements of Physiological Psychology, 191 and Dynamic Psychology, 1918, where behavior analyzed and its relation to physiological processes, As well as the relation of these with introspective methods. It is in this work that Wood insisted on the need to relate all of the above elements in psychological interventions.

      The book Psychology: A Study of Mental Life, 1921 is also representative, in which he argued that heritage and the environment are determinants of human behavior, for which he developed the SOR formula.

      This book has become one of the reference texts in 20th century psychology and one of the most influential introductory writings on the professionalization of this discipline.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Roberth S. Woodworth (2018). Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed September 28, 2018.Available at
      • Roberth S. Woodworth (2013). New World Encyclopedia. Accessed September 28, 2018.Available at

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