Theoretical Contributions

Murray's theory of personology was a unique contribution to the early years of personality theorizing. His system differed from those before it (for ex ample, Freud's psychoanalytic theory) in that it was not developed in a clinic as a result of working with clients. Murray studied normal individuals in great detail and gained knowledge from experts in a number of disciplines. This gave personality theory a certain degree of academic respectability it had not had previously acquired. Murray was also a highly influential teacher, with many students who made significant contributions to psychology.

Murray's description of "needs" was a major contribution to the psychological study of motivation. His research spurred many investigations of individual human needs. Additionally, his complementary emphasis on environmental events (that is, "press") was later to become a major shift in American psychology. The behavioral school of psychology, with its leaders John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner, was to become the dominant force for many years. Their focus on the manipulation of environmental events (for example, rewards and punishments) was to have a major influence on education, therapy, and childrearing. The subjective interpretation of environmental events (that is, "beta press") also was a precursor to a major shift in theory. The cognitive school of psychology now focuses on these mental rearrangements of events and makes predictions based on individuals' expectations and fears. Murray's emphasis on the fact that the idiosyncratic perception of an event is not always the same as what actually happened is the foundation for this approach.

Finally, Murray's development of the TAT (with Christiana Morgan) was an early and influential contribution to the area of personality assessment. It and similar tests, such as the Rorschach inkblot test and the incomplete sentences blank, are frequently used for gathering personality information in the clinic. Even the weaknesses of the TAT (for example, different investigators may score it very differently) led to the development of more objective personality tests with standardized questions and scoring. Murray's influence, both in the classroom and in the clinic, was substantial.

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