Famous French Psychologists


Jean-Martin Charcot giving a lecture on hysteria at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital. Une leçon à la Salpétrière by M. André Brouillet.

Psychology Corner has started its journey by presenting you with an article called “Famous Romanian Psychologists”. We have decided to make a habit out of this and once in a while choose a nationality and dedicate an article to its most famous psychologists or contributors to the field.

This time we have focused our attention on France, for its psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists have brought new light to developmental psychology, psychopathology, and other significant branches.

Although far from being a full presentation of their work, this article aims towards creating a general view of the most distinguished French scientists that have enriched the domain of psychology with their discoveries. Armand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puységur (1751-1825) – A French aristocrat that is now seen as a pre-scientific founder of hypnosis (along with Frantz Anton Mesmer). He called that specific modified state of consciousness “artificial somnambulism”.

Jean-Martin Charcot ( 1825-1893) – Neurologist and professor of anatomical pathology at Salpêtrière Hospital, also called “The Napoleon of neurosis”. He mainly focused on hysteria as having a hereditary neurological basis and used hypnosis to induce hysteria to his patients. Charcot was the teacher of famous psychologists, such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Binet, Pierre Janet, and William James.

Théodule-Armand Ribot ( 1839-1916 ) – The thesis for his Doctoral Degree, “Hérédité: étude psychologique” (Heredity: Psychological Study) and “Les Maladies de la mémoire” (Diseases of the memory) are some of his most known works. He has also been a teacher of Experimental Psychology at Sorbonne and his studies guided psychology towards scientific facts and data instead of spiritualism and introspection, which meant the basis of pathological psychology, including neuropsychology. Two of his students were Pierre Janet and Alfred Binet. Théodule Ribot is also known for his law of regression in the amnesias, called Ribot’s Law.

Gustave Le Bon ( 1841-1931 ) – Social psychologist, sociologist, and physicist, author of “The Evolution of Matter” and “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind” with major contributions regarding group psychology in its early form.

Alfred Binet ( 1857-1911 ) – Mostly known for creating the first intelligence test, which he also revised together with his collaborator Theodore Simon in 1908 and 1911, also naming the test Binet-Simon. Later, Lewis Terman from Standford University modified the test and changed the name to Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. The Standford-Binet stands as a basis for modern intelligence tests.

Émile Coué de Châtaigneraie ( 1857-1926) – Psychologist, pharmacist. Introduced the Coué Method of therapy and self-improvement, based on optimistic autosuggestion.

Pierre Marie Félix Janet ( 1859-1947 ) – Janet was one of Charcot’s students and the one to introduce the terms of “subconscious” and “dissociation”. He was the first to show the connection between past traumatic events and present psychological problems.

Paul Sollier ( 1861-1933 ) – Never actually accepted by the scientific community of his times (his opinions were in opposition to Pierre Janet’s), he developed cognitive-behavioral therapies already in the 1890s. One of his most known patients was Marcel Proust who used Sollier’s findings regarding memory as a source of inspiration for his book “In the search of lost time”.

Théodore Simon ( 1872-1961 ) – Théodore Simon’s major contribution regards the assessment of intelligence. He and Alfred Binet created the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale.

Henri Paul Hyacinthe Wallon (1879-1962) – Philosopher, psychologist, psychiatrist, teacher, and politician. Henri Wallon is best known for his theories that explained the development of a child’s personality. He considered five developmental stages in which the prevalence of intelligence and affectivity changes.

Paul Diel ( 1893-1972 ) – Founder of the psychology of motivation. Diel tried to rehabilitate the introspection by making it more scientific and methodical. His work also included the study of symbolism in both Greek mythology and biblical texts.

Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan ( 1901-1981 ) – Psychoanalyst and psychiatrist with major contributions in the fields of psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literary theory. His main concepts include the return to Freud, the mirror stage, Other/other (A/a), the three orders (The imaginary, the symbolic, and the real), desire, and drives (different from instincts).

Françoise Dolto ( 1908–1988 ) – A psychologist with a certain type of charisma, due to her sense of humor and talent, that revolutionized the domain of child-psychotherapy and mother-baby dyad.

René Zazzo ( 1910-1995 ) – Zazzo conducted many studies regarding child psychology, especially related to dyslexia and debility. He proposed the concept of “oligophrenic heterochrony” which referred to the speed at which development occurs (regarding children with developmental problems) in correlation with the psychobiological sector concerned.

Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel ( 1928 – 2006 ) – Psychoanalyst, that is probably most known for revising Sigmund Freud’s theory regarding the ego ideal and its connection to primary narcissism. The extended version of the theory became a critique of utopian ideology.

Serge Moscovici ( b. 1928 ) – A French psychologist of Romanian origins; Currently holds the position of director of the European Laboratory of Social Psychology (which he co-founded in 1975). His major works regarded the field of social psychology where he also provided a new view on the influence of the minority.

The list of famous French psychologists also includes the following: François Simonet de Coulmier/ Abbé de Coulmier (psychotherapy; the director of the asylum in which Marquis de Sade has been institutionalized), Jean-Gabriel De Tarde (social psychologist, sociologist, criminalist), Georges Dumas (wrote “The Treatise of Psychology”), Robert Desoille (studies on waking dreams), Rudolph Loewenstein (Ego psychology), Éliane Amado Levy-Valensi, Jean-Charles Gille, Michel Gauquelin (psychologist, statistician who tried to appoint a scientific basis for astrology), Juan-David Nasio (first psychoanalyst inducted into the French Legion of Honor), Joseph Doucé (the psychology of sexual minorities), Jacques Fradin, Odile Jacob, Christian Lujan, and Jacques-Alain Miller.

Image information: This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923.

9 thoughts on “Famous French Psychologists”

  1. Dr. Shibley Rahman

    Ribot (1881) famously stated that the “the new decays before the old”. He was, of course, talking about memory, and is a testament to why patients with Alzheimer’s disease have such vivid memories of their childhood, but can’t remember what they were doing yesterday. This famous quotation has been referred to in the subsequent literature on the encoding of memories. He is probably my “favourite” of all these people. There’s a nice picture on him in a large portrait at the History of Science and Medicine, in the Sorbonne. Worth seeing if you’re ever in the area!
    Excellent article, by the way!

  2. You are most welcome, and thanks for being so considerate, my dear Lucia!!! I am rather shocked that you got my notice. For I failed to find you on Blog Catalog, and WordPress likes to dump my comments in the spam bin on other blogs. Is that where you found this one?

  3. Is it true that the French Psychologist have ventured away from the real humans to examine a fictional character Darth Vader on his behavior? If so I find it a waste of an education, a lack of judgenebt on their part. When there are so many real humans needing help. I find it very very sad.

    1. Well, Tammy, I don’t know anything about that. However, analyzing fictional figures that have a great impact upon nowadays society may prove to be useful.

      Thank you for your visit!

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