Hugo Münsterberg

German-American psychologist (1863-1916)
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Hugo Münsterberg (June 1, 1863 – December 16, 1916) was a German-American psychologist. He was one of the pioneers in applied psychology, extending his research and theories to Industrial/Organizational psychology (I/O), legal, medical, clinical, educational and business settings.

Hugo Münsterberg


  • Ethics could teach us only those purposes and ideals. If the teachers seeks insight into the means by which the aim can be reached, into the facts by which the child can be molded, his way must lead from ethics to psychology. (...) Water flows downhill, anyhow, but to bring the water uphill hydraulic forces are indeed necessary. To overcome nature and instead to prepare for a life of ideals, to inhibit personal desires and instead to learn to serve the higher purposes indeed demands most serious and most systematic efforts. It is the teachers' task to make these efforts with all his best knowledge of mind and body, of social and of cultural values.
    • Hugo Munsterberg, Psychology and the Teacher, 1909 (new edition, 2006), pp. 64-65.

Psychology and Industrial Efficiency (1913)


Hugo Münsterberg. Psychology and Industrial Efficiency, 1913

  • Our aim is to sketch the outlines of a new science which is to intermediate between the modern laboratory psychology and the problems of economics: the psychological experiment is systematically to be placed at the service of commerce and industry. So far we have only scattered beginnings of the new doctrine, only tentative efforts and disconnected attempts which have started, sometimes in economic, and sometimes in psychological, quarters. The time when an exact psychology of business life will be presented as a closed and perfected system lies very far distant. But the earlier the attention of wider circles is directed to its beginnings and to the importance and bearings of its tasks, the quicker and the more sound will be the development of this young science. What is most needed to-day at the beginning of the new movement are clear, concrete illustrations which demonstrate the possibilities of the new method. In the following pages, accordingly, it will be my aim to analyze the results of experiments which have actually been carried out, experiments belonging to many different spheres of economic life. But these detached experiments ought always at least to point to a connected whole; the single experiments will, therefore, always need a general discussion of the principles as a background. In the interest of such a wider perspective we may at first enter into some preparatory questions of theory. They may serve as an introduction which is to lead us to the actual economic life and the present achievements of experimental psychology
    • p. 3-4 ; Introduction, lead paragraph
  • The knowledge of nature and the mastery of nature have always belonged together.
    • p. 6
  • Applied psychology can, therefore, speak the language of an exact science ill its own field, independent of economic opinions and debatable partisan interests.
    • p. 18-19
  • The inner labor, the inner values, and the inner difficulties and frictions are too often unknown to those who decide for a vocation, and they are unable to correlate those essential factors of the life-calling with all that nature by inheritance, and society by surroundings and training, have planted and developed in their minds.
    • p. 33
  • The theorists of scientific management seem to think that the most subtle methods are indispensable for physical measurements, but for psychological inquiry nothing but a kind of intuition is necessary.
    • p. 53
  • Only the subtle psychological individual analysis can overcome the superficial prejudices of group psychology.
    • p. 133
  • WE have placed our psychotechnical interest at the service of economic tasks... The purpose before us was to find for every economic occupation the best-fitted personality, both in the interest of economic success and in the interest of personal development.
    • p. 141

Quotes about Hugo Munsterberg

  • If they (the ASME) had not been (aware of human problems involved) — and Taylor either failed to encounter, or to recognize the significance of, the early work in industrial psychology contributed by Walter Dill Scott, Hugo Munsterberg, and others — there was the amazing fact that one of them, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, happened to fall in love with a girl who was a psychologist by education, a teacher by profession, and a mother by vocation. I know of no occurrence in the whole history of human thought more worthy of the epithet "providential" than that fact. Here were three engineers — Taylor, Gantt, and Gilbreth — struggling to realize the wider implications of their technique, in travail with a "mental revolution," their great danger that they might not appreciate the difference between applying scientific thinking to material things and to human beings, and one of them married Lillian Moller, a woman who by training, by instinct, and by experience was deeply aware of human beings, the perfect mental complement in the work to which they had set their hands.
    • Lyndall F. Urwick, "Management's Debt to the Engineers," The ASME Calvin W. Rice Lecture. 1952;
  • 1913: Hugo Münsterberg’s Psychology and Industrial Efficiency — presents a scientific study of human behavior in the work environment; analysis of individual differences.
    • Nicholas J. Beutell. "Chronology of Management Theory," in: Eric H. Kessler ed., Encyclopedia of management theory. Sage Publications, 2013. p. 935
  • Munsterberg's Congress program seems to me to be sheer humbug.
    • William James [1]
Wikipedia has an article about:
  1. The Thought and Charecter of William James Vol II, Page 700.