Guido Cimino and Renato Foschi

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Psychology: Global Perspectives

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195366556
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology



This chapter traces the history of “scientific” psychology in Italy between the second half of the 19th century and the last decades of the 20th century. In the first period of “gestation,” through the works of scholars such as Roberto Ardigò, Giuseppe Sergi, Cesare Lombroso, and Gabriele Buccola, its origin was favored by three research traditions that arose within the sphere of positivist philosophy, anthropology, and psychiatry, and contributed to its “birth” in the beginning of the 20th century. In these years, a second generation of scholars—including Giulio Cesare Ferrari, Sante De Sanctis, Federico Kiesow, Francesco De Sarlo, and Maria Montessori—promoted a series of initiatives (debate on the scientific statute of the discipline; experimental research of general, applied, and clinical psychology; first university chairs; laboratories) that characterized the beginnings of the “new” psychological science. The latter proceeded then with fluctuating experiences—thanks to the contribution of Vittorio Benussi, Cesare Musatti, Enzo Bonaventura, and Agostino Gemelli—during the years between the two World Wars, marked by the predominance of the neo-idealist culture grafted onto the fascist regime, which favored in particular psychotechnics. After World War II, Italian psychology had a noteworthy scientific and institutional development up to the realization of the first university degree courses and of the law regulating the profession of psychologist.

Keywords: Italian psychology; positivism; anthropology; psychiatry; scientific foundation; psychotechnics; neo-idealism; fascism; university degree courses

Article.  31211 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology

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