On The Mind's Foreign Shores: The Origins of Henry A. Murray's Personology
Getz, Marshall 1957-
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Henry A. Murray (1893-1988) became one of America’s premier scholars in personality research. While most psychologists remember him as the co-developer of the Thematic Apperception Test, he and a large and devoted staff at the Harvard Psychological Clinic devised numerous techniques for studying personality, in support of a theory that Murray called personology (Morgan & Murray, 1935; Robinson, 1992). Personology was described at length in Murray’s first major work, Explorations in Personality (Murray, 1938). An amalgam of Jungian analysis and trait psychology, Murray obviously borrowed from a number of theoretical sources, including Gordon Allport (1967) and Kurt Lewin (1936, 1937/1999). A study of the origins of personology will contribute to a better understanding of the early years of personality psychology, including the limits of methodologies used in the 1930s. The term “individual differences” was not in vogue with Murray and his circle, but his system addressed a subject’s unique needs and external pressures. Since much of Murray’s original documentation has been archived at Harvard, the story of how Murray and his colleagues communicated and conceptualized their work may now be told. Questions remain about Murray’s specific influences. Murray (1959a, 1967) credited medicine and literature for inspiring personology, he later confessed an almost exclusive debt to his colleague and mistress, Christiana Morgan (Anderson, 1999; Douglas, 1993; Robinson, 1992). If a researcher looks beyond Murray’s brief autobiography (Murray, 1967) or the Robinson (1992) biography, which was primarily based on interviews with Murray, it is possible to find other roots to personology. The Henry A. Murray Papers in the Harvard University Archives offer extensive materials, most of which have not been previously used. Murray had close friendships with three senior scholars: mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, physician George Draper and biochemist Lawrence Henderson, and his notes and correspondence suggest that all three played a subtle but important role in establishing the foundations of personology. Previous Murray scholarship focused on Morgan and Carl Jung, but the importance of patterns and personology’s incorporation of evolution came from these now-obscure figures.