Stanley Schachter: biography of this psychologist and researcher

Our emotions are internal forces that continually affect our behavior and perception, but how exactly they work has been a great unknown throughout history. This has led many researchers to try to offer a scientific explanation of why and when an emotion arises, with a wide variety of theories in this regard.

One of them is what Stanley Schachter did with Jerome Singer, the first of whom was a great psychologist specializing in social psychology. In order to better understand his work, it may be useful to know a little more about the life of this author. That is why throughout this article we will see a short biography of Stanley Schachter.

    The life of Stanley Schachter: a biography

    Stanley Schachter’s birth took place on April 15, 1922 in Flushing, New York. Coming from a family of Jews of Romanian origin, he was the son of Nathan Schacter and Anna Fruchter. From childhood he was curious and capable, eager to learn and when he was a little older he showed a desire to study at university.

    Academic training and war

    After graduating from high school, the young Schachter began enrolling at Yale University, entering to study art history. He graduated in this career in 1942 and then completed it he decided to also pursue a master’s degree in psychology to appear closer to their interests and to be able to work on social issues. In this sense, he was deeply influenced by Clark Hull and his theory of learning. He obtained the title of master in 1944.

    At this time, World War II was in full swing, and after completing his master’s degree, Schachter he enlisted in the army, where he would be promoted to sergeant and in which his main article would be to work by studying the visual problems of pilots in the biophysics division of the aero-medical laboratory. His military service ended two years later, in 1946.


    Later and during the same year, the American psychologist he enrolled to do a research doctorate at MIT alongside Kurt Lewin, Aiming to focus on theories relating to social psychology and in particular to group behavior within the Research Center for Group Dynamics. There he will meet those who will eventually become great authors, like Festinger, but unfortunately only a year later his teacher died. Lewin’s death forced the center to close the project and all the students had to look for another center.

    After some time researching Schachter, he was finally accepted to continue his training at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. There he returned to work with Festinger, who in fact became his mentor., And next to him he studied social influence and human communication.

    He completed his doctorate in 1949, with a thesis referring to the treatment provided by members of a group to the existence of divergences from the majority opinion.

      Beginning of professional life

      Based on his work during his doctorate, the University of Minnesota he offered him his first post as assistant professor in the social relations research department. Gradually, he rose through the ranks, becoming associate professor in 54 years and full professor in 1958.

      During this time, he continued his research on group relations and behavior and developed various works on social communication and pressure within groups. He would also end up writing with Festinger and Riecken the publication “When the Prophecy Fails”, in which he studied the case of a group with apocalyptic beliefs which, despite evidence to the contrary, maintained their beliefs about the impending destruction of the world. This made the author even more interested in the power of social influence., This has earned him even more research and the production of several publications, which has earned him interesting awards and prestige. He would stay in his place for a total of twelve years.

      However, in 1961 he was hired by Columbia University as a professor of psychology. That same year he married Sophia Duckworth, With whom he would end up having a son in 1969. He would occupy the place until 1992. It would be during this period in which he would make some of his most remarkable contributions.

      great research

      He first worked on things like the effects of birth order on siblings or the response and sensitivity of the obese population to food stimuli (they eat more if food can be obtained easily). He was also interested in physiological reactions to stimuli, and gradually an interest in understanding and studying the functioning and origin of emotions and the physical reactions that accompany them was born. Other relevant research would be that related to substances, Especially in case of addiction and dependence to tobacco.

      But his best-known contribution is arguably the one he made in the late 1960s, when he got in touch and began collaborating with Jerome Singer and other writers in an effort to find out how we feel. the emotions.

      In which would become the largest and best-known work of the two authors, Singer and Schachter would come to the conclusion that emotion is the result of the presence of internal mental activation at the physiological level and a series of processes by which we try to name and recognize the activation in question.

      For these authors, the emotion felt would come after the physiological reaction, that is, the body first presents the activation, then our mind gives this activation a meaning or a meaning based on the situation. and previous experience. This implies that emotion is nothing more than a conscious level labeling of the interpretation of our physical and mental activity.

      The last years and death

      Schachter continued in his stead and conducted various investigations the rest of his life until 1992. At that point, he would cease his relations with the University of Minnesota. A few years later, the author discovered that he was suffering from a malignant tumor: colon cancer.. Death happened to Schachter on June 7, 1997, when cancer killed him at his New York home.

      Schachter’s legacy is formidable. While among the population it is probably not one of the most famous names, the truth is that it is one of the most recognized authors, especially when it comes to the study of emotions. In addition, the diversity of his research suggests him as one of the precursors of health psychology.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Nisbett, RE (2000). Stanley Schachter 1922-1997. Biographical memories, 78. National Academy of Sciences. The press of the National Academy. Washington DC

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