Hugo Münsterberg

Hugo Münsterberg Born in the east Prussian port city of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), Hugo Münsterberg (1863–1916) was one of four sons of prominent parents. His father was a successful businessman, his mother a recognized artist and musician. Both his mother and father died before he was 20 years old. Throughout his life, Münsterberg had wide-ranging interests. In his early years, he displayed talent in art, literature, poetry, foreign languages, music, and acting. Then, while studying at the University of Leipzig, he heard was diametrically opposed to Wundt’s interpreta- tion of voluntary behavior. For Wundt, volitional behavior is always preceded by a conscious will to act. Although James would never have removed consciousness as a causal element in his analysis of voluntary (willful) behavior, he did see in Münsterberg’s position some support for his ideo-motor theory of behavior. If nothing else, both analyses noted a close, direct relationship between thoughts and behavior. However, the relationships postulated were converse. For James ideas cause behavior; for Münsterberg behavior causes ideas. In fact, there was a closer correspondence between James’s theory of emotion and Münsterberg’s analysis of voluntary behavior. As we have seen, the James– Lange theory of emotion states that consciously experienced emotions are by-products of bodily reactions elicited by a situation. For Münsterberg the feeling of willful action results from an awareness of covert behavior, or a readiness to act overtly, elicited by a situation. In both cases (emotion for James, the feeling of volition for Münsterberg), conscious expe- rience is a by-product (epiphenomenon) of behav- ior. In any case, in 1888, Münsterberg elaborated his theory in Voluntary Action, a book that James called a masterpiece and Wundt criticized harshly. James was impressed by many of Münsterberg’s publications and cited them often in his Principles. He arranged to meet Münsterberg in Paris at the first International Congress of Psychology in 1889, and their relation- ship strengthened further.

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