Hypnotism is undoubtedly the most important, the most fruitful and far-reaching method of experimental psychology.


William McDougall (1871-1938) was an early twentieth century psychologist who spent the first part of his career in the UK and the latter part in the US.

He wrote a number of highly influential textbooks, and was particularly important in the development of the Theory of Instinct and of Social Psychology in the English-speaking world. He was an opponent of Behaviourism.

His work was influential in the creation of the Instincts Theory, although he ended up denying the importance of instinct (see Psychological Aspects of Biodanza).

Theory of Instinct

Instinct is an inate, inherited, psych-physical disposition which determines that the individual perceives certain specific objects which make him act in a precise way.

Theory of Instinct - McDougall saw instincts as having three components:

  • Perception - We pay attention to stimuli relevant to our instinctual purposes,
  • Behavior - We perform actions that satisfy our instinctual purposes,
  • Emotion - Instincts have associated negative and positive emotions.

Colour Theory

  • This early theory by McDougall of colour vision proposed that all colours were reducible to three basic or fundamental colours (reds, greens and blues), and that there are in the retina two distinct receptor mechanisms for light: rods for dim light and cones for normal and intense light