Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 83
Differential psychology/Lamiell: William Stern coined the expression in Stern 1900(1); 1911(2)).
Lamiell: Significantly, however, Stern did not regard the assessment and study of individual differences as suitable for advancing our understanding of personalities (or what he termed ‘individualities’). On the contrary, he saw (correctly) that studies of individual differences generate knowledge of person variables, and that what is needed in any psychology of personality worthy of the name is knowledge of persons.
Unfortunately, but for reasons I have thoroughly discussed elsewhere (see esp. Lamiell 2003(3), ch. 5), this distinction was all but obliterated by developments within the field during the first three decades of the twentieth century – against Stern’s strenuous and repeatedly-voiced objections (see Lamiell 2006)(4). This most unfortunate historical development is a major source of current conceptual difficulties within the field.


1. Stern, W. 1900. Über Psychologie der individuellen Differenzen (Ideen zu einer ‘differentiellen Psychologie’). Leipzig: Barth
2. Stern, W. 1911. Die Differentielle Psychologie in ihren methodischen Grundlagen. Leipzig: Barth
3. Lamiell, J. T. 2003. Beyond individual and group differences: human individuality, scientific psychology, and William Stern’s critical personalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
4. Lamiell, J. T. 2006. William Stern (1871–1938) und der ‘Ursprungsmythos’ der Differentiellen Psychologie, Journal für Psychologie 14: 253–73


James T. Lamiell, “The characterization of persons: some fundamental conceptual issues”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Lamiell, James T.
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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