Granville Stanley Hall (1844 - 1924)

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About Granville Stanley Hall

Granville Stanley Hall (February 1, 1844 – April 24, 1924) was a pioneering American psychologist and educator. His interests focused on childhood development and evolutionary theory. Hall was the first president of the American Psychological Association and the first president of Clark University.



Born in Ashfield, Massachusetts, Hall graduated from Williams College in 1867, then studied at the Union Theological Seminary. Inspired by Wilhelm Wundt's Principles of Physiological Psychology, he earned his doctorate in psychology under William James at Harvard University, the first psychology doctorate awarded in America. After Hall graduated with his doctorate, there were no academic jobs available in psychology, so he went to Europe to study at the University of Berlin, and spent a brief time in Wundt's Leipzig laboratory in 1879.

He began his career by teaching English and philosophy at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and then teaching history of philosophy at Williams College in Massachusetts. Following successful lecture series and Harvard and Johns Hopkins University, Hall secured a position in the philosophy department at Johns Hopkins, teaching psychology and pedagogy. He remained at Johns Hopkins from 1882–1888 and, in 1883, began what is considered by some to be the first formal American psychology laboratory. There, Hall objected vehemently to the emphasis on teaching traditional subjects, e.g., Latin, mathematics, science and history, in high school, arguing instead that high school should focus more on the education of adolescents than on preparing students for college.

New discipline of psychology

In 1887, Hall founded the American Journal of Psychology and in 1892 was appointed as the first president of the American Psychological Association. In 1889, he was named the first President of Clark University, a post he filled until 1920. During his 31 years as President, Hall remained intellectually active. He was instrumental in the development of educational psychology, and attempted to determine the effect adolescence has on education. He was also responsible for inviting Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung to visit and deliver a lecture series in 1909 at the Clark Conference. Hall and Freud shared the same beliefs on sex and adolescence. Hall promised Freud an Honorary Degree from Clark University. This was Freud's first and only visit to America. It was the biggest conference held at Clark University. It was the most controversial conference because Freud's research was based on non-scientific theories, which Hall's colleagues criticized.

In 1917, Hall published a book on religious psychology, "Jesus the Christ in the Light of Psychology." The book was written in two volumes to define Jesus Christ in psychological terms. This was his least successful work. In 1922, at the age of 78, he published the book "Senescence," a book on aging.

Darwin's theory of evolution and Ernst Haeckel's recapitulation theory were large influences on Hall's career. These ideas prompted Hall to examine aspects of childhood development in order to learn about the inheritance of behavior. The subjective character of these studies made their validation impossible. His work also delved into controversial portrayals of the differences between women and men, as well as the concept of racial eugenics. Hall believed that men and women should be separated into their own schools during puberty because it allowed them to be able to grow within their own gender. Women could be educated with motherhood in mind and the men could be educated in more hands on projects, helping them to become leaders of their homes. Hall believed that schools with both sexes limited the way they could learn and softened the boys earlier than they should be. "It is a period of equilibrium, but with the onset of puberty the equilibrium is disturbed and new tendencies arise. Modifications in the reproductive organs take place and bring about secondary sexual characteristics. Extroversion gives way slowly to introversion, and more definitely social instincts begin to play an increasing role."

Social views

Hall was deeply wedded to the German concept of Volk, an anti-individualist and authoritarian romanticism in which the individual is dissolved into a transcendental collective. Hall believed that humans are by nature non-reasoning and instinct driven, requiring a charismatic leader to manipulate their herd instincts for the well-being of society. He predicted that the American emphasis on individual human right and dignity would lead to a fall that he analogized to the sinking of Atlantis.

Hall was one of the founders of the child study movement. A national network of study groups called Hall Clubs existed to spread his teaching. But what he is most known for today is supervising the 1896 study Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children which described a series of only child oddballs as permanent misfits. For decades, academics and advice columnists alike disseminated his conclusion that an only child could not be expected to go through life with the same capacity for adjustment that siblings possessed. "Being an only child is a disease in itself," he claimed.

Hall argued that child development recapitulates his highly racialized conception of the history of human evolutionary development. He characterized pre-adolescent children as savages and therefore rationalized that reasoning was a waste of time with children. He believed that children must simply be led to fear God, love country and develop a strong body. As the child burns out the vestiges of evil in his nature, he needs a good dose of authoritarian discipline, including corporal punishment. He believed that adolescents were characterized by more altruistic natures and that high schools should indoctrinate students into selfless ideals of service, patriotism, body culture, military discipline, love of authority, awe of nature and devotion to the state and well being of others. Hall consistently argued against intellectual attainment at all levels of public education. Open discussion and critical opinions were not to be tolerated. Students needed indoctrination to save them from the individualism that was so damaging to the progress of American culture.

Hall coined the phrase "storm and stress" with reference to adolescence, taken from the German Sturm und Drang movement. Its three key aspects are conflict with parents, mood disruptions, and risky behavior. As was later the case with the work of Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget, public interest in this phrase, as well as with Hall's originating role, faded. Recent research has led to some reconsideration of the phrase and its denotation. In its three aspects, recent evidence supports storm and stress, but only when modified to take into account individual differences and cultural variations. Currently, psychologists do not accept storm and stress as universal, but do acknowledge the possibility in brief passing. Not all adolescents experience storm and stress, but storm and stress is more likely during adolescence than at other ages.

Hall had no sympathy for the poor, the sick or those with developmental differences or disabilities. A firm believer in selective breeding and forced sterilization, Hall believed that any respect or charity toward those he viewed as physically, emotionally, or intellectually weak or "defective" simply interfered with the movement of natural selection toward the development of a super-race.

Hall's major books were Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime and Religion (1904) and Aspects of Child Life and Education (1921). His book Adolescence, was based on the results of the Child Study Movement. Hall described his system of psychology, which he called "genetic psychology." His ideas were influenced by Charles Darwin. In the book, Hall described the evolutionary benefits of development from the womb to adolescence. The book itself is divided into six sections: biological and anthropological standpoint, medical standpoint, health and its tests, nubility of educated women, fecundity of educated women and education. Hall hoped that this book would become a guide for teachers and social workers in the education system.

Hall also coined the technical words describing types of tickling: knismesis, or feather-like tickling; and gargalesis, for the harder, laughter inducing type.

Hall is best remembered for his contributions to psychology, for his support of applied psychology and his success in advising many doctoral students who have made great contributions to psychology. Hall also mentored the first African American to get a Ph.D. in psychology, Francis Cecil Sumner in 1920.

Literary activities

An important contributor to educational literature, and a leading authority in that field, he founded and was editor of the American Journal of Psychology and edited also the Pedagogical Seminary (after 1892), the American Journal of Religious Psychology and Education (after 1904), and the Journal of Race Development (after 1910). Among his books are:

Aspects of German Culture (1881)
Hints toward a Select and Descriptive Bibliography of Education (1886), with John M. Mansfield
The Contents of Children's Minds on Entering School (1894)
Supervised the study Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children by E.W. Bohannon, Fellow in Pedagogy at Clark University (1896)
Adolescence (two volumes, 1904)
Youth: Its Education, Regimen, and Hygiene (1906)
Educational Problems (two volumes, 1911)
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G. Stanley Hall, 1st President of the American Psychological Association, 1st President of Clark University's Timeline

Age 80