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ā€¢ thematic apperception test (TAT)

Henry A. Murray was born into a wealthy family in New York City in 1893. His early life was unremarkable, and unlike numerous other personality theorists, he experienced no major traumas that obviously influenced his theory. He was not trained in psychology (in fact, he greatly disliked psychology classes); rather, he studied biology and later received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge. His interest in psychology and personality processes was ignited during a three-week stay with Carl Jung, the eminent Swiss psychoanalyst. This meeting led to a change in career aspirations, whereupon Murray was brought to Harvard University to engage in personality research and establish the Harvard Psychological Clinic.

Murray's biomedical training is reflected in his belief that personality processes are dependent on brain functioning. He did not believe that personality actually existed; he believed that descriptions of personality were shorthand methods of describing various aspects of individuals and their behaviors. He thought that personality helped explain and predict an individual's actions, drives, needs, goals, and plans. He stated that his system of personality, "personology," was a tentative theory, as psychologists did not yet know enough to capture completely the essence of each individual.

As opposed to personality theorists who developed their ideas in the clinic, working with emotionally disturbed individuals, Murray believed that the best way to investigate personality was to study normal individuals in their natural environments. While at Harvard, he undertook an intensive study of fifty-one male undergraduates during a six-month period. The undergraduates were examined by a council of twenty-eight specialists of vari ous training and expertise so that the personalities of the students might be fully understood.

From these studies, Murray developed his ideas about human needs. He believed that these needs helped individuals focus their attention on certain events and guided their behaviors to meet those needs. There are primary needs that originate from internal bodily processes (for example, air, water, food, and sex) and secondary needs that are concerned with mental and emotional satisfaction (for example, achievement, dominance, understanding, and affiliation). He proposed a hierarchy of needs, a concept later elaborated on by Abraham Maslow, in which the most basic needs, such as that for food, must be met before others can be addressed. Murray originally proposed a list of twenty basic human needs, although this list was later revised and expanded by his students and followers.

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