James Rowland Angell

Researched and written by
:  Donald F. Kneessi

I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work..

  • James Roland Angell was born in Burlington, Vermont.  He came from an academic family, his grandfather was president of Brown University and his father was president of the University of Vermont and then later the University of Michigan (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • Angell did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, where he studied under John Dewey.  He read James’s The Principles of Psychology, which he said influenced his thinking more than any other book he has read.  Angell got a chance to work with William James for a year at Harvard and received his mater’s degree in 1892 (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • Angell went to Europe to continue his graduate studies at the universities in Halle and Helmholtz.  He wanted to go on to Leipzip, but Wundt would not accept anymore students that year. Angell was unable to complete the work for his doctoral degree.  Angell’s dissertation was accepted with the condition that he rewrite it in better German, but that would mean he would have to stay in Halle without any income coming in.  He never received his Ph.D (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • He decided to take an appointment at the University of Minnesota, where the salary was low.   Even though he never received his Ph.D., he did grant many doctorates.  He also received 23 honorary degrees himself (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • After being at Minnesota for a year, he accepted an offer from Dewey to be a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.  He stayed at Chicago for 25 years. Two of Angell's famous students include Harvey Carr and John B. Watson.  Following in his families footsteps, he became president of Yale University and helped to develop the Institute of Human Relations (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • In 1906, he was elected 15th president of APA.  Angell’s 1906 presidential address to the APA, was published in the Psychological Review.  After he retired from academic life, he served on the board of the National Broadcasting Company (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • In 1904, he wrote a highly successful book called Psychology: An Introductory Study of Structure and Functions of Human Consciousness.  The book embodies the functionalist approach.  The book was so successful that it appeared in four editions in four years, indicating the appeal of the functionalist position.  Angell noted that the function of consciousness is to improve the organism’s adaptive abilities.  The goal of psychology is to study how the mind assist the organism in adjusting to its environment. (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • Functional psychology, Angell said, was not at all new but had been a significant part of psychology from the earliest of times.  It was structural psychology that had set itself apart from the older and more truly pervasive functional form of psychology. Angell describes the three major themes of the functionalist movement.  (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • Functional psychology is the psychology of mental operations, in contrast to structuralism; witch is the psychology of mental elements.  Angell was promotion functionalism in direct opposition to Titchener’s elementistic approach.  The task of the functionalism is to discover how mental process operates, what it accomplishes, and under what conditions it occurs (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • Functional psychology of the fundamental utilities of consciousness.  Thus, consciousness is viewed in a utilitarian spirit as it mediates between the needs of the organism and the demands of the environment.  Structures and functions of the organism exist because they allow the organism to adapt to its environment and thus to survive.  Angell suggested that because consciousness had survived, it must therefore perform some essential service for the organism.  Functional psychologist need to discover precisely what this service was, not only for consciousness, but also for more specific mental processes such as judging and willing (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
  • Functional psychology is the psychology of psychophysical relations (mind-body relations) and is concerned with the total relationship of the organism to its environment.  Functionalism encompasses all mind-body functions and recognizes no real distinction between mind and body. It considers them as belonging to the same order and assumes an easy transfer from one to the other (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).




Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2004). A History of Modern Psychology.

p. 196-197. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.



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