An American psychologist, best known for his research on childhood, adolescence, and the life cycle.
Hall became the first president of Clark University in 1889, which awarded many of the early American doctorates in psychology. He led a popular child-study and educational reform movement, which he supported through his journal Pedagogical Seminary. In 1892, Hall became the first president of the American Psychological Association (APA). He also helped established two significant journals in the field of psychology, the American Journal of Psychology in 1887 and Journal of Applied Psychology in 1917.
Hall's research focused on the study of childhood by means of questionnaires, a method he pioneered. He focused on topics such as children's play, lies, fears, anger, language, and art. He distributed questionnaires among teachers, thus amassing huge amounts of data. The backbone of Hall's thinking was the concept of recapitulation, according to which individual development repeats the history of the species. Children's games apparently reflected primitive humanity. The following “juvenile” stage corresponded to an age when humans were well adjusted to their environment and displayed tribal inclinations. This stage was suited to the formation of groups adapted to the child's “social instinct.” Adolescence was a “new birth” that brought forth ancestral passions, an age of “storm and stress” characterized by conflicting moods and dispositions, a capacity for religious conversion, and an unlimited creative potential. Hall claimed that it was essential to channel these energies (especially sexual energies), and that it was “the apical stage of human development” and the starting point “for the super anthropoid that man is to become.” His idealized and lyrical depiction of adolescence synthesized common nineteenth-century ideas about youth into an evolutionary framework and, while conveying nostalgia for a lost closeness to nature, provided an increasingly urban and industrialized society with a confident image of its own future.
Hall played a decisive role in the organization of American psychology. He invited Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Carl Jung (1875–1961) to America, thus contributing to the diffusion of psychoanalysis. Above all, he gave a crucial impetus to the study of the child and the life cycle. His last psychological book dealt with senescence, the process of becoming old. Hall stressed the social relevance of empirical developmental research, and authored the first major treatise on adolescence. Hall died on April 24, 1924 at the age of 80 in Worcester, Massachusetts and although his theories and methods have since been superseded, the lifespan, stage-based perspective typical of this thinking became a central component of modern psychology.
Hall, G. Stanley. Youth: Its Education, Regimen, and Hygiene. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1906.
Ross, Dorothy. G. Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.
Wilson, Louis N. G. Stanley Hall: A Sketch. New York: GE. Stechert, 1914.
Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne and Anna Duncan Johnson. “G. Stanley Hall's Contribution to Science, Practice and Policy: The Child Study, Parent Education and Child Welfare Movements.” History of Psychology 9, no.3 (2006): 247–258.
Parry, Manon. “G. Stanley Hall: Psychologist and Early Gerontologist.” American Journal of Public Health 96, no.7 (2006): 1161.
Clark University, Clack Digital Commons. “The G. Stanley Hall Papers.” http://commons.clarku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=goddard_library_finding_aids (accessed July 17, 2015).
Grezlik, Amy. “G. Stanley Hall (1844–1924).” http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/hall.htm (accessed July 17, 2015).