The major systems of thought in psychology can be classified as Structuralism, Functionalism, Behaviorism, Gestalt Psychology, Psychoanalysis, Humanistic Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology.1  Jews were instrumental in the development of four of these seven schools of thought.  More specifically, with the exception of Wolfgang Köhler, all of the major figures involved in the establishment of Gestalt Psychology were Jews, viz., Max Wertheimer (its principal founder), Kurt Koffka, Kurt Lewin, Kurt Goldstein, and Edgar Rubin.  Similarly, Psychoanalysis was founded by Sigmund Freud and, with the notable exception of Carl Jung, most of its early proponents were also Jews (e.g., Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, Sandor Ferenczi, Anna Freud, Erich Fromm, Melanie Klein, Otto Rank, and Theodor Reik).  Abraham Maslow was one of the two co-founders of Humanistic Psychology, and Ulric Neisser, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, Herbert Simon, and Noam Chomsky have been major contributors to the development of Cognitive Psychology. 

In 1968, a panel of nine distinguished psychologists published a study of the most significant thinkers in the history of psychology over the nearly four centuries spanning the years between 1600 and 1967.  They identified a preeminent group of fifty-three scientists, philosophers, and psychologists from an initial list of over one thousand candidates.2  (Only deceased individuals were considered.)  Of the fifty-three, five were Jews (Adler, Freud, Koffka, Wertheimer, and Rubin).

A more recent study, published in the Review of General Psychology in 2002, ranked the ninety-nine leading psychologists of the twentieth century.  (See  It was based on journal and textbook citation data, together with rankings submitted by 1,725 members of the American Psychological Association.  Forty percent of the names on the resulting list were those of psychologists who are (or were) Jewish or of Jewish descent.   In that same study, Jews constituted approximately 40% of the most frequently cited researchers in both the professional literature and in introductory psychology textbooks.  The current membership of the division of psychology of the US National Academy of Sciences is also approximately 40% Jewish.  The following links contain the names of leading Jewish thinkers who have contributed to the development of psychology.
  • Jewish Psychologists
  • Jews Ranked Among "The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century" (40% of total)
  • Jews Ranked Among the 100 Most Frequently Cited Psychologists in the Professional Literature (42% of total)
  • Jews Ranked Among the 102 Most Frequently Cited Psychologists in the Introductory Textbook Literature (43% of total)
  • Jewish Recipients of the David E. Rumelhart Prize in Cognitive Science (46% of recipients)
    1. See, e.g., A History of Modern Psychology, 5th edition, by D. P. Schultz and S. E. Schultz (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, CA, 1992).

    2. See Great Psychologists and Their Times, by Dean Keith Simonton (American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, 2002, pp. 5-7).


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