McDougall, William, 1871-1938

Variant names

Hide Profile

William McDougall (1871-1938), an early twentieth century psychologist, taught at Duke University from 1927 to 1938. McDougall espoused a hormic theory of psychology, emphasizing genetics and instinct over nurture. McDougall was also a strong proponent of parapsychology.

From the description of William McDougall papers, 1892-1982. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 57225797

William McDougall, a noted psychologist, was born in Lancashire, England, in 1871. He was educated at the University of Manchester (1886-1890); St. John's College, Cambridge (M.B., 1894), St. Thomas Hospital in London; and at Oxford (M.A., 1908). He also studied at Gottingen and received the D.Sc. from the University of Manchester in 1919.

In about 1898, McDougall participated in an anthropological expedition to Borneo and the Torres Strait. Unsatisfied with anthropology, he turned back to psychology and taught at University College, London, from 1900 to 1904. From 1904 to 1920, McDougall served as a Wilde reader in mental philosophy at Oxford University. During World War I, he also served as a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps. In 1920 he became a professor of psychology at Harvard. In 1927, he came to Duke University as a professor and chair of the new Department of Psychology, a position he held until his death in 1938. McDougall was also one of the organizers of the British Psychological Society; he was for a time president of the British Society for Psychical Research; and in 1912 became a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

McDougall was perhaps best known as a vigorous opponent of behaviorism and materialism in psychology. He strongly believed that nature, not nurture, was responsible for a person's psychological composition. Through empirical, scientific study, McDougall attempted to demonstrate that his "hormic theory of psychology," which emphasized instinct, was superior to the prevailing behaviorist theory of psychology at the time. For many years, he conducted experiments on rats to determine if training could be inherited from one generation to the next. Although his prolific writings and speeches were often controversial and unpopular, McDougall was considered one of the most prominent psychologists of his time.

He also showed a strong interest in extrasensory perception and parapsychological phenomena from his time at Oxford onward. Like his opinions on behaviorism, his advocation of parapsychology was also criticized. McDougall was instrumental in bringing J.B. Rhine to Duke University, and helping to establish the well-known Parapsychology Laboratory at the school.

In 1899, McDougall married Anne Amelia Hickmore of Brighton, England. They had five children: Leslie (Mrs. Paul Brown); Duncan Shimwell (who died while serving in the R.A.F.); Angus Dougal (who died in 1978); Kenneth Dougal (who was killed in France in World War II); and Janet Aline (who died in childhood). William McDougall died on November 28, 1938, and his widow in 1964.

From the guide to the William McDougall Papers, ., 1892 - 1982, (University Archives, Duke University)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Clarence Hagen collection of autographs, 1938 Center for the History of Psychology
referencedIn Parapsychology Laboratory. Records, 1893-1984 and n.d. (bulk 1930-1965). Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Abraham Aaron Roback papers, 1909-1965. Houghton Library
creatorOf McDougall, William, 1871-1938. [Collection of pamphlets on psychological topics / written by William Mcdougall. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
creatorOf William McDougall Papers, ., 1892 - 1982 University Archives, Duke University.
creatorOf McDougall, William, 1871-1938. autograph letter signed W. McDougall to: Professor Palmer November 3, [s.d.]. Wellesley College
referencedIn Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962. Additional papers, 1870-1969. Houghton Library
referencedIn William Roscoe Thayer papers, 1762-1927 (inclusive), 1872-1921 (bulk) Houghton Library
referencedIn Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968. Letter to "Jim" [manuscript], 1929 August 17. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Adams, Donald Keith, 1902-1971. Donald K. Adams papers, 1924-1970. University of Akron, Bierce Library
referencedIn Parapsychology Laboratory. Records, 1893-1984 (bulk 1930-1965). Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Louttit, C. M. (Chauncey McKinley), 1901-1956. Chauncey McKinley Louttit papers, 1917-1956 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Collection of autographed American correspondence, 1832-1969. Temple University Libraries, Paley Library
referencedIn Sir William Rothenstein correspondence and other papers, 1887-1957. Houghton Library
creatorOf McDougall, William, 1871-1938. William McDougall papers, 1892-1982. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, Donald Keith, 1902-1971. person
correspondedWith Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962 person
associatedWith Duke University. Dept. of Psychology. corporateBody
associatedWith Duke University. Parapsychology Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Hagen, Clarence person
associatedWith Louttit, C. M. (Chauncey McKinley), 1901-1956. person
associatedWith McDougall, Angus, 1906-1978. person
associatedWith McDougall family. family
associatedWith McDougall, Kenneth Dougal, 1908-1944 person
associatedWith Palmer, George Herbert, 1842-1933. person
associatedWith Parapsychology Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Parapsychology Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Roback, A. A. (Abraham Aaron), 1890-1965 person
correspondedWith Rothenstein, William, Sir, 1872-1945 person
associatedWith Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968. person
correspondedWith Thayer, William Roscoe, 1859-1923 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Pacific Area
Evolutionary genetics
Rats as laboratory animals


Birth 1871-06-22

Death 1938-11-28





Ark ID: w6mw2g38

SNAC ID: 52113252