Edwin Boring

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Edwin G. Boring, 1961

Edwin Garrigues Boring (23 October 1886 – 1 July 1968) was an American experimental psychologist, who later became one of the first historians of psychology.


  • Scientific truth, like puristic truth, must come about by controversy. Personally this view is abhorrent to me. It seems to mean that scientific truth must transcend the individual, that the best hope of science lies in its greatest minds being often brilliantly and determinedly wrong, but in opposition, with some third, eclectically minded, middle-of-the-road nonentity seizing the prize while the great fight for it, running off with it, and sticking it into a textbook for sophomores written from no point of view and in defense of nothing whatsoever. I hate this view, for it is not dramatic and it is not fair; and yet I believe that it is the verdict of the history of science.
    • Edwin G. Boring "The Psychology of Coutroversy", (1929) in: History, psychology, and science: selected papers, 1963, p. 68
  • Sometimes I fear that, if Harvard does not give up trying to turn itself from an Institution of Learning into an Educational Institution, we may have a generation of professors whose duty it will be to disseminate information which they have not the time to acquire.
    • Edwin G. Boring (1942) Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology, Preface. p. xi
  • I believe that robotic thinking helps precision of psychological thought, and will continue to help it until psychophysiology is so far advanced that an image is nothing other than a neural event, and object constancy is obviously just something that happens in the brain. That time is still a long way off, and in the interval I choose to sit cozily with my robot, squeezing his hand and feeling a thrill -- a scientist's thrill -- when he squeezes mine back again.
    • Edwin Boring (1946). Mind and mechanism; Cited in: Melford E. Spiro (1992) Anthropological Other Or Burmese Brother?: Studies in Cultural Analysis.. p. 68
  • Half the time I read Hayek's The Sensory Order with amazement at the extent of his reading and comprehension … he is right … most of the time.
    • Edwin Boring, "Elementist Going Up", The Scientific Monthly (March 1953), p. 183

A History of Experimental Psychology, 1929[edit]

Edwin Boring (1929) A History of Experimental Psychology

  • He was troubled by materialism.
    • p. 269; Cited in: Robert R. Holt, ‎Sigmund Freud (1989) Freud Reappraised: A Fresh Look at Psychoanalytic Theory, p. 148.
    • About Gustav Fechner (1801-1887)
  • His philosophical solution of the spiritual problem lat in his affirmation of the identity of the mind and matter and in his assurance that the entire universe can be regarded as readily from the point of view of its consciousness... as it can be viewed as inert matter.
    • p. 269; As cited in: Robert R. Holt, ‎Sigmund Freud (1989, p. 148).
    • About Gustav Fechner (1801-1887)
  • So far as consciousness goes, one does one's thinking before one knows what he is to think about.
    • p. 397): Cited in: Jay M. Jackson (2013) Social Psychology, Past and Present: An Integrative Orientation, p. 28
  • The gift of professional maturity comes only to the psychologist who knows the history of his science.
    • Cited in: David Ballin Klein (1977) The Unconscious: Invention Or Discovery? p. iii; And partly cited in Arthur G. Bedeian, "The gift of professional maturity." Academy of Management Learning & Education 3.1 (2004). p. 97-98
  • We might regard such human variation as if it occurred when nature aimed at an ideal and missed by varying amounts.
    • Cited in: Marc Ereshefsky (1992) The Units of Evolution: Essays on the Nature of Species. p. 275
    • Characterization of Quetelet's ideas of Aristotelian teleology
  • It is not likely that the history of psychology can be written in the next three centuries without mention of Freud's name and still claim to be a general history of psychology... Perhaps, had Freud been smothered in his cradle, the times would have produced a substitute, It is hard to say. The dynamics of history lack control experiments.
    • Cited in: Eric Shiraev (2010) A History of Psychology: A Global Perspective. p. 314

About Boring[edit]

  • Proponents of the cyclical view of history will find in the 1920s poignant parallels with contemporary controversies between "pure" and "applied" psychologists. During that decade no advocate of the ideal of pure research was more embroiled professionally in the bitter debates surrounding that issue than E. G. Boring. While preoccupied with the practicalist challenge, Boring was also at work on his prodigious History of Experimental Psychology.
  • The key role in creation of the origin myth of psychology as a “laboratory science” belongs to Edwin Boring (1929).
    • Jaan Valsiner (2013) A Guided Science: History of Psychology in the Mirror of Its Making. p. 130

External links[edit]

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