Pierre Janet bigraphy, stories - French psychologist

Pierre Janet : biography

30 May 1859 - 24 February 1947

Pierre Marie Félix Janet (30 May 1859 – 24 February 1947) was a pioneering French psychologist, philosopher and psychotherapist in the field of dissociation and traumatic memory.

He is ranked alongside William James and Wilhelm Wundt as one of the founding fathers of psychology.Graham F. Reed, 'Janet, Pierre', in Richard Gregory ed., The Oxford Companion to the Mind (1987) p. 397


Janet was one of the first people to allege a connection between events in the subject's past life and his or her present day trauma, and coined the words ‘dissociation’O. L. Zangwill, 'Hypnotism, history of', in Gregory ed., p. 332 and ‘subconscious’.Henri F. Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) p. 147 and p. 406 His study of the 'magnetic passion' or 'rapport' between the patient and the hypnotist anticipated later accounts of transference.Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988) p. 50

The 20th century saw Janet developing a grand model of the mind in terms of levels of energy, efficiency and social competence, which he set out in publications including Obsessions and Psychasthenia (1903) and From Anguish to Ecstasy (1926), among others.Ellenberger, p. 386 In its concern for the construction of the personality in social terms, it has been compared to the social behaviorism of George Herbert MeadEllenberger, p. 405-6 something which explains Lacan's early praise of "Janet, who demonstrated so admirably the signification of feelings of persecution as phenomenological moments in social behaviour".Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (1997) p. 17

Developmental hierarchy

Janet established a developmental model of the mind in terms of a hierarchy of nine 'tendencies' of increasingly complex organisational levels.Reed, p. 398

He detailed four Lower Tendencies, rising from the Reflexive to the Elementary Intellectual; two Middle Tendencies, involving language and a social world; and three Higher Tendencies, the Rational-Ergotic world of work, and the Experimental and Progressive Tendencies.Ellenberger, p. 387-94

Neurosis could be seen as a failure to integrate, or a regression to earlier tendencies;Red, p. 398 while Janet defined subconsciousness as "an act which has kept an inferior form amidst acts of a higher level".Quoted in Ellenberge, p. 387


Janet studied under Jean-Martin Charcot at the Psychological Laboratory in Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. He first published the results of his research in his philosophy thesis in 1889 and in his medical thesis, L'état mental des hystériques, in 1892. He earned a degree in medicine the following year in 1893.

In 1898, Janet was appointed lecturer in psychology at the Sorbonne, and in 1902 he attained the chair of experimental and comparative psychology at the Collège de France, a position he held until 1936. He was a member of the Institut de France from 1913, and a central figure in French psychology in the first half of the 20th century.E. Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan (2005) p.16-21


In 1923, he wrote a definitive text, La médecine psychologique, on suggestion and in 1928-32, he published several definitive papers on memory.

While he did not publish much in English, the fifteen lectures he gave to the Harvard Medical School between 15 October and the end of November 1906 were published in 1907 as The Major Symptoms of Hysteria, and he received an honorary doctorate from Harvard in 1936.

Of his great synthesis of human psychology, Henri Ellenberger wrote that "this requires about twenty books and several dozen of articles".Ellenberger, p. 387

Influence on depth psychology


Controversy over questions of priority between Janet and Freud emerged at the 1913 Congress of Medicine in London.Ellenberger, p. 817 Prior to that date Freud had freely acknowledged his debt to Janet, particularly in his work with Josef Breuer, writing for example of "the theory of hysterical phenomena first put forward by P. Janet and elaborated by Breuer and myself",Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) p. 52 and stating further that "we followed his example when we took the splitting of the mind and dissociation of the personality as the centre of our position" -- although he was also careful to point out where "the difference lies between our view and Janet's".Sigmund Freud, Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1995) p. 25-33

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine