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Janet, Pierre

JANET, PIERRE

(b. Paris, France, 30 May 1859; d. Paris, 24 February 1947),

psychology, philosophy, psychotherapy, hypnosis.

In his day Janet enjoyed a worldwide reputation as a psychologist and psychotherapist. A specialist in psychopathology, he proposed a theory of the psyche that was widely seen as competing with Sigmund Freud’s. After World War I, he worked out a general theory of the evolution of the mind based on a notion of “conduct” that he contrasted with the idea of behavior promoted by John B. Watson and the American behaviorist school.

Life and Work . Janet’s background was middle-class. His father, Jules Janet, was a Paris lawyer, and his mother, Fanny Hummel, was a devout Catholic from Alsace. In his “Autobiography,” he tells how in his youth his interests were divided between an enthusiasm for the natural sciences, particularly botany, and mystical inclinations, and how he hoped to resolve this contradiction by taking up philosophy (1930). This choice was also much affected by his uncle Paul Janet (1823–1899), an influential philosopher of the spiritualist school. Eclectic spiritualism was in fact the predominant philosophical doctrine in France for the greater part of the nineteenth century. It traced its origins to Maine de Biran and its chief exponent was Victor Cousin. Typically, thanks to Cousin, senior students in French secondary schools learned philosophy with a spiritualist bent. Paul Janet described himself as a spiritualist philosopher who, as such, drew a distinction between two irreducible realities, the material and the spiritual; at the same time he declared himself a “liberal” open to positive science. From 1870 on, under the Third Republic, Paul Janet exercised great institutional power. He was a professor at the Sorbonne and reformed the French secondary-school philosophy curriculum. In 1879, Paul Janet published a celebrated philosophy textbook that went through twelve editions before 1919.

Following in his uncle’s footsteps, Pierre Janet became a student of philosophy, passing the competitive entrance examination to the elite École Normale Supérieure in 1879. Among his fellow students were the future sociologist Émile Durkheim, the future philosopher Henri Bergson, and the future socialist politician Jean Jaurès. In 1882 he passed the agrégation exam, which qualified him to teach philosophy in lycées. He did so for several months in Châteauroux, in central France, and then at Le Havre, in Normandy, where he remained until 1889. Attracted by medicine and scientific psychology, he persuaded local hospital doctors to allow him to observe patients, notably hysterics. Another Le Havre physician, Joseph Gibert, drew his attention to the work of magnetizers (or mesmerists) and introduced him to Léonie, an uneducated woman who seemed to possess a remarkable ability to be hypnotized mentally from a distance and to read the thoughts of others. With Gibert, Janet made various experiments regarding mental suggestion, or with what would now be called telepathy, and published the findings in 1885. These experiments aroused widespread interest, and helped make Janet’s name known in medical and scholarly circles.

It was not long, however, before Janet realized that twenty years earlier Léonie had in fact been coached by magnetizers and that she was by no means the naïve subject that she appeared to be. He promptly abandoned his “parapsychological” research and directed his attention to the scientific psychology of Théodule Ribot (1839–1916). Ribot was a philosopher, not a physician, and his ambition was to found a “positive” psychology in France that was not beholden to the metaphysics of the spiritualists. This “evolutionist” psychology was inspired rather by the philosopher Herbert Spencer and the neurologist John Hughlings Jackson, and sought a basis in physiology and medicine. According to Ribot, it was by studying mental disturbances, conceived of as regressions relative to the development of both the individual and the species, that the psychologist could understand the normal, more highly evolved development of mental functions. Ribot accordingly gave pride of place to psychopathology as the best line of approach, and he steered the new French psychology in that direction.

Ribot had played an important institutional role, for in 1876 he had founded the Revue Philosophique, which published not only properly philosophical work but also contributions from physicians and philosophers looking to lay the groundwork for a physiological psychology. It was in this journal that Pierre Janet published his first articles. In 1888, with the support of Paul Janet, Ribot became the first person to occupy the Chair of Experimental and Comparative Psychology at the celebrated Collège de France.

In 1889, Janet defended a thesis in philosophy entitled “Psychological Automatism: An Essay in Experimental Psychology Concerning the Inferior Forms of Human Activity.” His uncle Paul was a member of the jury. This thesis, which adumbrated all the main themes of Janet’s future work, was hailed at once as an event in the philosophical and medical world. After delivering it, Janet taught philosophy in a Parisian lycée and embarked on medical studies. He began frequenting the wards of the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. At that time Charcot was at the pinnacle of his fame, but his work on hysteria and hypnosis was being challenged by Hippolyte Bernheim, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Nancy in eastern France. Bernheim claimed that the neurological symptoms associated with hysteria and hypnosis, as identified by Charcot, were the result of a kind of training: hysteria and hypnosis were not pathological states but psychological phenomena for which suggestion was largely responsible. It was in the context of this debate that Charcot encouraged the work of the young psychologist Janet, which he hoped would erode Bernheim’s case. In 1890 he set up a clinical psychology laboratory (Laboratoire de psychologie dela clinique) for his protégé at the Salpêtrière. In 1893, under Charcot’s supervision, Janet presented his medical thesis, “Contribution to the Study of the Mental Accidents of Hysterics.”

In 1894 Janet married Marguerite Duchesne. From 1895 to 1897, standing in for Ribot, he was responsible for the teaching of experimental psychology at the Collège de France. From 1898 to 1902, he held the post of chargé de cours at the Sorbonne, still in the field of experimental psychology. When Ribot retired from the Collège de France in 1902, he and Bergson put Janet’s name forward as a successor. Despite the competing candidacy of the psychologist Alfred Binet, Janet won the appointment. After long years as a secondary-school teacher, he now took up a respected, tenured position that he was to occupy until his retirement in 1935. Janet’s lectures at the Collège de France always attracted a large audience. In 1901 Janet had founded the Société de Psychologie, and in 1904, with Georges Dumas, he launched the Journal de Psychologie Normale et Pathologique, the second French journal devoted to scientific psychology (the first being L’Année Psychologique, initiated by Henri Beaunis and Alfred Binet in 1895). At the start of the twentieth century, a strong claim could be made that Janet was the most eminent representative of French psychology.

In parallel with his university career, Janet practiced medicine and psychotherapy both in the hospital setting and in a private capacity. He amassed many thousands of clinical records that he filed carefully in a room in his apartment, but which were destroyed after his death in accordance with his wishes. Janet’s scientific and therapeutic work continued up until his death soon after World War II.

The Subconscious, Hysteria, and Psychasthenia . In his work L’Automatisme psychologique (1889), Janet followed Charcot in promoting hypnosis as an experimental method capable of eliciting and reproducing the hysterical phenomena in which he was interested. He endorsed Ribot’s hypothesis, according to which a continuity existed between the normal and the pathological such that the laws governing illness applied equally to health. His perspective, like Ribot’s, was distinctly evolutionist in character, and underpinned by a model borrowed from Jackson. Janet’s aim was to reveal lower, elementary and automatic activity that was generally inhibited in normal individuals by higher functions.

Janet parted ways with Ribot, however, on the question of the relationship between psychology and physiology. Whereas Ribot subordinated the first to the second, Janet made psychology responsible for the study of such automatic phenomena as somnambulism, hallucinations, automatic writing, and dual personality, which, because they appeared to occur in the absence of consciousness, had been left to the scrutiny of the physiologists. Physiology, he felt, was unreliable when mental phenomena needed to be explained. Automatic phenomena were always accompanied, in his view, by a particular kind of consciousness that lay outside and below normal awareness. The consciousness of hysterics, because of their psychological weakness, could contain and synthesize only a small number of phenomena. This “shrinking of the field of consciousness,” as Janet called it, accounted for a “dissociation” of the personality: psychological phenomena outside normal consciousness governed the automatic forms of behavior that gave rise to a second consciousness and a dual personality.

For Janet, then, the object of psychology was still consciousness. He distinguished between a normal or personal consciousness and a pathological consciousness, which might appear to be unconscious but in fact was not. It was in this connection that he popularized the term “subconscious,” which he preferred to “unconscious.” He did not therefore challenge the postulate of the spiritual-ists, according to which there was no psychology apart from the psychology of consciousness. Indeed, he referred often to Maine de Biran and drew a clear distinction between automatic activity on the one hand (based on habit, and conservative and repetitive), and voluntary (creative, synthesizing, organizing) activity on the other. In contrast to Maine de Biran, though, Janet assigned a psychological status to subconscious phenomena. In common with Bergson and Freud, at that moment, Janet held that phenomena that were unconscious or devoid of a certain kind of consciousness fell nevertheless within the province of psychology and ought not to be assigned to physiology.

In L’Automatisme psychologique Janet showed himself to a genuine heir to Ribot and Charcot, but at the same time he sought to reconcile this positivist heritage with his uncle’s spiritualism.

In his medical thesis, published in 1893 as L’État mental des hystériques (The mental state of hystericals), Janet treated hysteria as a mental illness. Like Freud and Breuer at the same period, he adopted Charcot’s idea that hysteria was a phenomenon linked to a traumatic event. It might seem, therefore, that Janet was close to the two Viennese authors at that time; in reality, however, despite some common ground, especially the quest for a psychological explanation of hysteria, there was a wide gap between the respective approaches of Janet and the Freudians.

Janet ascribed what he called “hysterical accidents” connected to patients’ histories to the abovementioned shrinking of the field of consciousness. Because of their “psychological impoverishment,” hysterics were able (to use today’s terminology) to process and synthesize no more than a few pieces of information at a time, so that a certain number of items—notably those which underlay subconscious fixations—remained outside the field of personal consciousness. As a corollary, such excluded fixed ideas tended only to exacerbate psychological disintegration.

Character traits traditionally attributed to hysterics, such as instability, impulsiveness, and volatility, as well as long-lasting hysterical stigmata (anesthesias, paralyses, etc.), were also viewed by Janet as effects of a “weakness of psychological synthesis.” The main defining characteristic of hysteria was the tendency to develop a dual personality.

While Freud and Joseph Breuer tended to see the traumatic event as the root cause of dissociation, Janet looked upon it rather as a consequence of the shrinking of the field of consciousness, and hence of the psychological weakness of the hysteric. Freud and Breuer thus drew a picture very different from Janet’s, highlighting the intelligence, liveliness of mind, and psychological fortitude of their hysterical patients.

Beginning in 1901, Janet framed a psychological theory that allowed him to group various illnesses together in a single clinical category, psychasthenia (whose etymological meaning is “lack of mental strength”). This condition was said to begin with a weakening of nervous functions that occasioned a state described at the time, following the American physician George M. Beard, as “neurasthenic.” In Janet’s account, a “primitive neurasthenia” underlay deteriorations of various bodily functions and various mental disturbances such as an absence of will (abulia), indifference, and apathy. Subsequently there arose what Janet called “feelings of inadequacy” (sentiments d’incomplétude), which in turn produced a constellation of symptoms, including depersonalization, shame, anxiety, impressions of automatism, and so on. The feelings of inadequacy could signal the development of tics, phobias, and eventually, in many cases, obsessive ideas (ideas of illness, crime, sexual transgression, etc.). Such obsessions, as distinct from the idées fixes of hysteria, were conscious rather than subconscious, for the shrinking of the field of consciousness was not very marked in psychasthenics, who were quite aware of the contradictions between their obsessive ideas and their “normal tendencies.”

Janet’s clinical description of psychasthenia was buttressed by an energetic conception of mental functioning: psychasthenics’ low psychological energy level made complex, well-adapted and voluntary actions too costly for them, so causing the drop in mental level that generated their seemingly bizarre actions and symptoms.

Whatever the mental disturbance at issue, Janet tended to invoke psychological impoverishment and weakness, and in his clinical notes he paid special attention to the complaints actually articulated by patients. Behind this approach was a vision of the human being to which voluntary action and the unity of the self were cardinal. The term depression appeared frequently in Janet’s writings, and in any case the omnipresence therein of the theme of psychological weakness arguably foreshadowed the modern preoccupation with depressive illness.

Janet as Psychotherapist . Unlike other psychotherapists of his era, who were content merely to suppress symptoms by means of suggestion, Janet sought to understand their genesis. The basis of his clinical approach was “psychological analysis,” which consisted fundamentally in the identification of the root causes of the condition and, usually, in the “dissociation of fixed ideas” by using suggestion to suppress them. Alternatively, should suggestion fail, other ideas might be substituted: for example, as he recounts in “Histoire d’une idée fixe” (1898), Janet gradually was able to change his patient Justine’s terrifying hallucinations of dead cholera victims into amusing visions, so that over the course of her treatment hysterical crises were replaced by fits of laughter. Janet also—though much more rarely— succeeded, like Freud and Breuer, in effecting a cure through the retrieval of traumatic memories. This was true in the case of Irène, who had forgotten things about her mother’s agony and death and was reliving them in a hallucinatory way; since she refused to be hypnotized, Janet stimulated her memory until her amnesia was dispelled and she was able to recall her memories at will (Janet, 1904).

Janet’s psychological analysis was inseparable from a synthetic endeavor to restore mental integrity by teaching patients how to manage their psychological economy in a better way. Very often his therapeutic approach incorporated an educational or re-educational attempt to improve the exercise of voluntary attention. In “L’Influence somnambulique et le besoin de direction” (1897), he compared his therapeutic intervention to that of a teacher or a spiritual guide (directeur de conscience) and underscored the relational aspect of treatment. According to Janet, the physician’s task was a paradoxical one in that the patient had to be coaxed into a curative relationship of depend-ence—even of “somnambulistic passion” —with the therapist, while at the same time being led toward emancipation from that dependence. Later, while emphasizing the social aspect of the therapeutic relationship, Janet (1919) wrote that an “adoptive” attitude of the patient toward the therapist was a desirable goal.

Janet was an eclectic therapist who borrowed from the old “magnetic” techniques and continued, if needed, to use hypnotic suggestion long after it had lost the respect of many of his colleagues; he had no fear of playing the pedagogue, the spiritual guide, or even the exorcist. Indeed he adopted practices associated with Catholicism, as for instance in the case of Achille (1898b), a patient who presented all the classical features of

demonic possession. After failing to hypnotize Achille, Janet reports, he had the idea of acting like a “modern exorcist” and addressing himself to the Devil. He discovered by this means that Achille had had an extramarital affair, and, suffering the effects of remorse, had been harboring a “dream,” which was subconscious, in which he felt he was damned and possessed by the Devil. Janet conducted the treatment in such a way that Achille forgot both his transgression and his remorse. In this case history, Janet noted, “Knowing how to forget is sometimes as much a quality as knowing how to learn, because forgetting is prerequisite to moving forward, to progress, to life itself.… One of the most valuable contributions that pathological psychology could make would be to discover a reliable way to precipitate the forgetting of specific psychological phenomena” (Janet, 1898b, p. 404). Janet’s chief therapeutic concern here was apparently not a cathartic retrieval of memories, as promoted at the same period by Freud and Breuer, but rather a process of learning how to forget.

Janet’s Psychology of Conduct . In 1919, Janet published Psychological Healing (Les Médications psychologiques), a three-volume work in which he presented himself as a seasoned practitioner. The first volume dealt with the history of psychotherapy, and as such constituted the first notable and well-documented book on the origins of French psychology. In the second two volumes, Janet reviewed contemporary psychotherapeutic approaches. He included a polemical text against psychoanalysis that he had first presented in 1913 at the International Congress of Medicine in London and first published in 1914. It criticized the claims of psychoanalysis to originality, as well as its systematic and sectarian character. Despite these criticisms, however, Janet’s approach was more measured than might have been expected with respect to the Freudians, and indeed he later defended psychoanalysis on occasion. It was not after all impossible, seeing that he had not a little in common with his Viennese colleague, for Janet to see himself as in some sense the “French Freud.” His contemporaries, especially the early French psychoanalysts, reinforced this image, which was not truly discarded until after his death.

In Psychological Healing, Janet restated theories about hysteria and psychasthenia that he had first framed before World War I. He reiterated the need to distinguish between psychological strength and psychological tension: the first meant the quantity of energy available and the second the subject’s capacity to mobilize that energy at a particular level relative to an evolutionary scale. Mental disturbances were specific to either psychological strength or psychological tension. Janet’s aim was to construct a pathological and therapeutic psychology of the entirety of mental illnesses on the basis of this opposition.

Almost all of the first volume of Janet’s work De l’angoisse à l’extase (From anxiety to ecstasy), published in 1926, was devoted to a mystically inclined woman whom he called Madeleine and whom he had observed at the Salpêtrière over a few years early in the century. Madeleine presented contractures, stigmata evocative of the wounds of Christ, and ecstatic states. Janet had been able to observe her at leisure in his laboratory, and in her case too he had assumed the role of a lay spiritual guide. It was on the basis of this case, in the second volume of De l’angoisse à l’extase (1928), that he constructed a schema, conceived from an evolutionist perspective, of the development of feelings and the corresponding ways of regulating action. It was in this volume that Janet presented a first outline of a vast psychological system that he elaborated upon subsequently in his many publications and in his courses at the Collège de France. Yet he never produced a grand synthesis: the closest he came was a short encyclopedia article (1938) in which he stated the basic principles and sketched the main features of his projected theory.

The “psychology of conduct” that Janet defined in this article was founded on the unifying hypothesis according to which all psychological phenomena were actions, thus obviating the need for a distinction to be drawn in manuals of psychology between action and thought. Consciousness itself became action thanks to language. Janet’s psychology of conduct implied that the study of consciousness was lacking in the behaviorism then triumphant in the United States, which Janet considered inadequate to the study of man. He based his thinking on the idea of tendency, defined as “a disposition of the living organism to perform a specific action.” Tendencies in Janet’s system were classified and ordered in a hierarchical manner, from the primordial and automatic to the most recently evolved, which were also the most fragile, and hence the first to be lost in mental illness. Clearly Janet was borrowing here from Ribot’s evolutionism and applying it to all “tendencies.” Drawing on psychopathology, he extended his objects of study to the child, to primitive humans, and to animals. Forms of conduct were underpinned by tendencies common to man and animals ranging from the reflex to the social. Intellectual tendencies were incipient in lower animals and fully developed only in man. For Janet, this category included language and symbolic thought. Medium-range tendencies under-lay belief systems, which were founded on speech as a substitute for action. Lastly, the highest-level tendencies were the basis of the kind of conduct adopted by individuals in order to conform to the moral rules and logical laws developed over time by social groups; such higher tendencies also supported those individual and particular kinds of conduct which allowed humanity to evolve in a progressive way. Prior to this synthetic sketch of 1938, Janet’s work had been increasingly focused on conduct of the social kind.

As for how Janet himself evaluated the import of his system of psychology, it is striking that he seemed at times to distance himself somewhat from his grand evolutionist narratives. Was this perhaps his way of acknowledging criticism? In the France of the late 1930s, certainly, the growing influence on psychopathology of psychoanalysis and phenomenology had begun to make Janet’s approach seem old fashioned, and in the 1950s the overwhelming success of Freudianism marginalized it almost completely. This situation endured until Janet and his work were rediscovered by Henri F. Ellenberger (1970).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

WORKS BY JANET

L’Automatisme psychologique: Essai de psychologie expérimentale sur les formes inférieures de l’activité humaine. Paris: Alcan, 1889.

The Mental State of Hystericals: A Study of Mental Stigmata and Mental Accidents, translated by Caroline Rollin Corsin. Bristol: Thoemmes, 1998 [1893].

“L’influence somnambulique et le besoin de direction.” Revue Philosophique 43 (1897): 128–143.

“Histoire d’une idée fixe.” In Névroses et idées fixes, Vol 1. Paris: Alcan, 1898a.

“Un cas de possession et l’exorcisme moderne.” In Névroses et idées fixes, Vol. 1. Paris: Alcan, 1898b.

Les Obsessions et la psychasthénie. Paris: Alcan, 1903.

“L’amnésie et la dissociation des souvenirs.” Journal de psychologie normale et pathologique 1 (1904): 28–37.

Psychological Healing, 2 vols. Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul.

London: Allen & Unwin, 1925 [1919].

De l’angoisse à l’extase. 2 vols. Paris: Société Pierre Janet, 1975 [1926, 1928].

“Autobiography.” In A History of Psychology in Autobiography, Vol. 1, edited by Carl Murchison. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1930.

“La psychologie de la conduite.” In Encyclopédie Française, Vol. 8: La Vie mentale. Paris: Société de Gestion de l’Encyclopédie Française, 1938.

OTHER SOURCES

Brooks, John, III. The Eclectic Legacy. Academic Philosophy and the Human Sciences in Nineteenth-Century France. London: Associated University Press, 1998.

Carroy, Jacqueline, and Régine Plas. “How Pierre Janet Used Pathological Psychology to Save the Philosophical Self.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 36, no. 3 (2000): 231–240.

——, Annick Ohayon, and Régine Plas. Histoire de la psychologie en France XIXe–XXe siècles. Paris: La Découverte, 2006.

Ellenberger, Henri F. The Discovery of the Unconscious: The

History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books, 1970.

Ohayon, Annick. L’impossible rencontre: psychologie et psychanalyse en France 1919–1969. Paris: La Découverte, 1999.

Prévost, Claude M. La psycho-philosophie de Pierre Janet:

Économies mentales et progrès humain. Paris: Payot, 1973.

Jacqueline Carroy
Régine Plas

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Janet, Pierre

Janet, Pierre

WORKS BY JANET

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Pierre Marie Felix Janet (1859–1947), French physician and psychologist, did much to bring about the close relation that exists in France between the medical and the academic study of mental disorders. He advanced clinical psychology by insisting that a knowledge of academic psychology is indispensable to an understanding of the individual.

Janet studied in both the faculty of letters and the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris. He soon became interested in phenomena related to hypnosis and clairvoyance. This interest brought him into direct contact with Charcot, whose writings he studied, along with those of Hippolyte Bernheim. Janet felt that both Charcot and Bernheim minimized the importance of psychological factors in psychoneurotic manifestations, and he began what was to be a lifelong study of the etiology of the neuroses.

While he was still studying for his doctoral degrees, Janet was invited by Charcot to become director of the psychological laboratory at the Salpêtrière, the largest Parisian mental hospital. In 1889 he received his doctorate in the faculty of letters with a thesis on the psychology of automatic activities (1889), and by 1892 he produced a dissertation for the doctorate in medicine, based on his work at the Salpêtrière.

At the same time that Janet held his post at the psychological laboratory of the Salpêtrière, he taught at the Sorbonne from 1895 to 1902 and then succeeded Théodule Ribot in the chair of psychology at the Collège de France; he continued in this chair until his retirement in 1936. With Georges Dumas, Janet founded the Journal de psychologie normale et pathologique in 1904 and edited it until 1937.

The study that served as his dissertation, The Mental State of Hystericals (1892–1894), represents Janet’s attempt to bring order and system into the classification of the various forms of hysteria and to relate the symptoms exhibited by hysterical patients to then current psychological theories. He became convinced that hysteria is only apparently physical in nature, while in reality it reflects a host of psychological conditions. He described hysteria as a form of mental disintegration, induced by cerebral exhaustion. In hysteria there is a weakening of psychological synthesis, exhibited particularly in a contraction of the field of consciousness and a complete and permanent division of the personality. Hysteria, in general, is deteriorative in nature, and terms such as “degenerative” and “stigmata” are, in Janet’s view, applicable in connection with the illness. For the rest of his life Janet’s thinking about hysteria remained basically set in the pattern of this early study. Charcot, in a preface to the book, accepted Janet’s contention that hysteria is essentially mental and approved of the attempt to relate psychology and medicine more closely.

Early in his career Janet realized that the various stages of hypnosis and the symptoms of hysteria are both products of suggestion. He understood more fully than had Charcot just how important suggestion is in producing the appearance of hysterical symptoms. The fact that hysteria and hypnosis are caused by suggestion does not mean, however, that they are not genuine and important subjects for study. Although hysteria almost disappeared as a disease entity during Janet’s lifetime, he attributed this to the fact that patients he would have called hysterics were being designated by other names.

Over the years Janet investigated not only hysteria but also other forms of neuroses, such as phobias and obsessions, which he grouped under the inclusive name of psychasthenia. He saw different patterns as pervasive in normal and abnormal mental life. Normal mental life is a flux of sensations, images, and ideas, cohering in an integrated stream of consciousness; abnormal mental life results from the dissociation of this stream, which in extreme cases splits into two or more streams. In the normal person, integration is achieved; in the neurotic, it is imperfect. Psychic energy and its diminution or depletion was his guiding concept:

Diminution of force and modification of the important relationship between tension and psychological force are becoming elements of vast importance to psychological analysis… One of the most important studies of I’analyse psychologique will be the appreciation of the degree of psychic energy of an individual and the extent of his weakness; we know nothing of the nature of this psychic energy, but we must study its manifestations and succeed in measuring it as the physicist measures an electric current without understanding the nature of it. (1930 a, p. 372)

In the 1920s behavioral psychology became predominant. Janet did much to further European behavioristic views, referring to psychology as the science of conduct. He held that every discriminable psychological event is also a discriminable response. But he felt that within a behavioral system a place must and can be found for consciousness and described it as a form of specialized conduct expressed in terms of action. Even after Janet began to write the psychology of conduct, he continued to think in terms of energy and tension. Instead of judging the quantity of energy by assumed mentalistic (psychic) and physical interactions, he judged the patient’s energy by the speed, strength, and duration of his actions. If energy is so depleted that actions charged with high tension cannot be performed, mental disorder results.

Janet’s approach to psychotherapy was always an eclectic one. In Psychological Healing (1919), he advocated a great variety of methods, among them suggestion, hypnosis, rest, confession, education, and moral guidance. When in his “L’analyse psychologique’ (1930 a) he developed a diagnostic tool for the clinical psychologist—an eclectic case history establishing an individual’s unique characteristics—he explicitly made further development of that tool dependent on necessarily unknown but expected advances in both medicine and psychology.

In the early 1900s Janet’s work was quite well known in the United States. He lectured at the Harvard Medical School in 1906 and published his lectures the following year as The Major Symptoms of Hysteria (1907). The book did much to bring Janet to the attention of American psychologists and psychiatrists. William James’ writings in psychology show his awareness of Janet’s work, and Morton Prince, who in 1927 founded the Harvard Psychological Clinic for the study of abnormal and dynamic psychology, called Janet’s work epochmaking (1914, p. 157). Through his influence on such men as Prince, Janet fostered the union of academic psychology and medical science.

Janet’s popularity in the United States waned considerably in the 1920s. Psychologists and psychiatrists were attracted by Watsonian behaviorism and Freudian psychoanalysis respectively. Freud himself disparaged Janet’s work, and his followers reacted accordingly.

Many factors contributed to the strained relations between Freud and Janet. Janet considered psychoanalysis to be only one form of treatment, namely, treatment by “mental liquidation,” or the dissociation of traumatic memories. He offended Freud by commenting that the term “unconscious” is suitable enough as a metaphor but not as designating an implied entity. Janet further alienated Freud by claiming that psychoanalysis arose directly from Charcot’s work and his own (1919). Not only did he claim priority, but he deprecated certain aspects of psychoanalysis: thus, he considered free association “somewhat simple-minded” ([1919] 1925, vol. 1, p. 603) on the grounds that the patient knows he is under observation, and he advised instead watching a patient who does not know he is being observed. In general, because Janet was an eclectic, he could not or would not understand that psychoanalysis constitutes a coherent system of analysis of the personality.

For his part, Freud considered Janet’s work to be in an area similar to his own but carried on at a nondynamic, superficial level and without proper regard for the etiological significance of sexual factors. Freud (1910) acknowledged the influence of Charcot’s work on hysteria and traumatic memories but resented Janet’s wider claims. Janet, an acute and original psychologist, lived to see medical psychology move in an alien direction, as his views were overshadowed by those of Freud.

Robert I. Watson

[Other relevant material may be found inClinical psychology; Hypnosis; Hysteria; Suggestion; and in the biographies ofCharcot; Freud; James.]

WORKS BY JANET

(1889) 1930 L’automatisme psychologique: Essai de psychologic expérimental sur les formes inférieures de I’activite humaine. 10th ed. Paris: Alcan.

(1892–1894) 1911 The Mental State of Hystericals: A Study of Mental Stigmata and Mental Accidents. With a preface by J. M. Charcot. London and New York: Putnam. → First published in French.

(1903) 1919 Janet, Pierre; and Raymond, FulgenceLes obsessions et la psychasthenie. 2 vols. 3d ed. Paris: Alcan.

(1907) 1920 The Major Symptoms of Hysteria: Fifteen Lectures Given in the Medical School of Harvard University. 2d ed. New York: Macmillan.

(1919) 1925 Psychological Healing: A Historical and Clinical Study. 2 vols. London: Allen & Unwin; New York: Macmillan. → First published in French in three volumes.

1923 La médecine psychologique. Paris: Flammarion.

1930 a L’analyse psychologique. Pages 369–373 in Psychologies of 1930. Worcester, Mass.: Clark Univ. Press.

1930 b Autobiography. Volume 1, pages 123–133 in Carl Murchison (editor), A History of Psychology in Autobiography. Worcester, Mass.: Clark Univ. Press.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bailey, Percival 1956 Janet and Freud. A.M.A. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 76:76–89.

Freud, Sigmund (1910)1957 Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Volume 11, pages 1–56 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth. → First published as Über Psychoanalyse.

Prince, Morton (1914) 1921 The Unconscious: The Fundamentals of Human Personality, Normal and Abnormal. 2d ed. New York: Macmillan.

Schwartz, Leonhard 1951 Die Neurosen und die dynamische Psychologic von Pierre Janet. Basel: Schwabe.

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Janet, Pierre (1859-1947)

JANET, PIERRE (1859-1947)

Pierre Janet, a French physician and philosopher, was born in Paris on May 30, 1859; he died there on February 23, 1947. Janet spent his entire life in Paris, except for his years as a teacher and his travels abroad.

For fifty years (1889 to 1939) Janet was, along with Henri Bergson, the most famous French psychologist in the world, the student of two of the greatest minds in French psychopathology, Jean Martin Charcot and Théodule Ribot. Attempts were made to turn Janet into an unfortunate rival of Freud during the controversy over the discovery of hysteria.

Born into a middle-class Catholic family, he was deeply influenced by his uncle Paul Janet, a well-known spiritualist philosopher. As a philosopher and physician, Janet had the educational background of the ideal psychologist outlined by Ribot.

He entered theÉcole Normale Supérieure in 1879, received his degree in philosophy in 1882, and was appointed professor of philosophy at the Lycée du Havre in 1883. There he began collecting material for his dissertation, and in 1889 presented the oral defense of his doctoral dissertation, "L'automatisme psychologique, essai de psychologie expérimentale sur les formes inférieures de la vie mentale." It is based on experiments Janet conducted, in the department of Doctors Gibert and Powilewicz, on hypnotism, somnambulism, and suggestion with one of his most famous patients, Léonie. Janet insisted on the role of unconscious obsessions in the genesis of hysteria and the possibility of their disappearance through hypnosis and suggestion.

His work attracted the attention of Théodule Ribot, who in 1895 recommended him as his successor as professor of psychology at the Collège de France, which he did in 1902, and of Jean Martin Charcot, who in 1890 created for Janet a laboratory of psychology at the Salpêtrière Hospital. Charcot died in 1893, immediately after Janet's defense of his medical dissertation, "L'état mental des hystériques." Although hysteria and hypnosis had been almost universally criticized, Janet, with the help of Fulgence Raymond, was able to continue working, and wrote several important works, which he cosigned with Raymond. But upon Raymond's death in 1910, Jules Déjerine fired him from the laboratory at the Salpêtrière. And in 1912 Henri Piéron was chosen, in place of Janet, as head of the Laboratory of Physiological Psychology at the Sorbonne. Janet's only institutional support at this time consisted of his courses at the Collège de France, where he taught the psychology of behavior, emphasizing genetic and social factors.

At the Seventeenth Congress of Medicine in London, in 1913, he presented a paper on "Psychoanalysis." This period, the culmination of his public dispute with Sigmund Freud, ended, as many observers concluded, with his defeat and the decline of his stature. His theories on hysteria were supposedly more rational than Freud's, and were based on the idea of mental depression that was said to be the origin of a narrowing of the field of consciousness, of "subconscious" obsessions, and the dissociation of systems of images and functions that normally constituted consciousness. With respect to etiology he also insisted on the importance of a predisposition, since dissociation was acquired, and the presence of some form of emotional trauma; sexuality did not play any special role in this. In his therapy he used suggestion under hypnosis, providing a non-traumatic substitute for the obsessions associated with events that were said to be the cause of the disease.

Although Janet modified his positions later on, Freud would never forget his criticisms and remained deeply upset by the efforts of French psychologists and psychoanalysts to give Janet priority in the essential discoveries of psychoanalysis. Marie Bonaparte and Édouard Pichon (who became Janet's son-in-law) tried to reconcile the two men, but in vain.

The founder, in 1904, along with Georges Dumas, of the Journal de psychologie normale et pathologique, Janet published a number of books, including Névroses et Idées fixes (1898) and Les Médications psychologiques (1919-1921). In 1926 he published his major work, De l'angoisseà l'extase, where he described the case of Madeleine, who suffered from mystical delusions and whom he treated for twenty years, analyzing the psychology of belief and its pathology.

Janet continued teaching until 1935 and, following his retirement, continued to write articles and even to see patients until 1942 at the Sainte-Anne Psychiatric Hospital in Paris. When he died on February 23, 1947, he was working on a paper on the psychology of belief.

Annick Ohayon

See also: Automatism; Case histories; Charcot, Jean Martin; Compulsion; Estrangement; France; Hypnosis; Intellectualization; Narco-analysis; Obsessional neurosis; Obsession; Phobias in children; Pichon, Edouard Jean Baptiste; Psychology and psychoanalysis; Salpêtriere Hospital, La; Studies on Hysteria ; Subconscious; Suggestion.

Bibliography

Ellenberger, Henri F. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious: The history and evolution of dynamic psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

Janet, Pierre (1889). L'Automatisme psychologique: essai de psychologie expérimentale sur les formes inférieures de la vie mentale, dissertation. Paris: Félix Alcan; reprinted Société Pierre-Janet, 1973.

. (1914, March-April). La psychoanalyse. Journal de psychologie normale et pathologique, 11 (1-3), 98-130.

. (1926). De l'angoisseà l'extase.Étude sur les croyances et les sentiments. Paris: Félix Alcan.

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Janet, Pierre Marie Félix

Pierre Marie Félix Janet

1859-1947
French psychologist particularly well-known for his work on psychopathology and psychotherapy.

Born in Paris on May 28, 1859, Pierre Janet spent his childhood and youth in that city. His bent for natural sciences led him to pursue studies in physiology at the Sorbonne at the same time that he was studying philosophy, for which he received a master's degree in 1882. Janet then left Paris for Le Havre and for seven years taught philosophy there in the lycée.

Janet, however, wanted to study medicine and at the hospital of Le Havre began to do research in hypnosis , using the well-known medium Léonie. Through these studies, the first of this sort, Janet came into contact with Jean Martin Charcot , but after reading Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim he thought these investigators did not sufficiently take into consideration the psychological factors involved in neurotic phenomena. This forced Janet to undertake a deep psychological study of the neuroses, in particular of hysterical neurosis .

In his doctoral thesis in 1889 entitled "L'Automatisme psychologique" (Psychological Automatism), Janet devised an inventory of the manifestations of automatic activities, thinking that it would help him in studying the "elementary forms of sensibility and conscience." At the age of 30 he returned to Paris, and Charcot appointed him director of the laboratory of pathological psychology at the Salpêtrière hospital. Janet completed his medical studies, and in 1893 he published his medical dissertation entitled "The Mental State of Hysterics."

Janet was by temperament a naturalist, and during all his life he improved his herbarium. He had the same acquisitive attitude toward mental patients, from whom he collected thousands of precise and detailed observations.

However, in his books he attempted to give a more theoretical and depth interpretation of a few particular cases. From 1902 until 1934 he taught at the Collège de France.

Janet's works are numerous, and many of his writings have been translated into English. Among his books one can cite Névroses et idées fixes (1902); Les Obsessions et la psychasténie (1903); The Major Symptoms of Hysteria (1907, symposium undertaken in the United States); Les Médications psychologiques (1919); De l'angoisse à l'extase (1926); Les Débuts de l'intelligence (1935); and L'Intelligence avant le langage (1936).

Janet characterized his dynamic psychology as being a psychology of conduct, accepting the schema of a psychology of behavior while integrating in his schema conscious processes acting as regulators of action. Janet's work has often been compared to the work of Freud, and his influence has been great in both North and South America.

Well after Janet had retired, he continued to teach and to give conferences, manifesting a great vitality until the time of his death on Feb. 23, 1947.

Further Reading

Murchison, Carl, et al. A history of psychology in autobiography. 4 vols. 1930-1952.

Wolman, Benjamin B., ed. Historical roots of contemporary psychology. 1968.

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Pierre Marie Félix Janet

Pierre Marie Félix Janet

Pierre Marie Félix Janet (1859-1947) was a French psychologist particularly well known for his work on psychopathology and psychotherapy.

Born in Paris on May 28, 1859, Pierre Janet spent his childhood and youth in that city. His bent for natural sciences led him to pursue studies in physiology at the Sorbonne at the same time that he was studying philosophy, for which he received a master's degree in 1882. Janet then left Paris for Le Havre and for 7 years taught philosophy there in the lycée.

Janet, however, wanted to study medicine and at the hospital of Le Havre began to do research in hypnosis, using the well-known medium Léonie. Through these studies, the first of this sort, Janet came into contact with Jean Martin Charcot, but after reading Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim he thought these investigators did not sufficiently take into consideration the psychological factors involved in neurotic phenomena. This forced Janet to undertake a deep psychological study of the neuroses, in particular of hysterical neurosis.

In his doctoral thesis in 1889 entitled "L'Automatisme psychologique" (Psychological Automatism), Janet devised an inventory of the manifestations of automatic activities, thinking that it would help him in studying the "elementary forms of sensibility and conscience." At the age of 30 he returned to Paris, and Charcot appointed him director of the laboratory of pathological psychology at the Salpêtrière hospital. Janet completed his medical studies, and in 1893 he published his medical dissertation entitled "The Mental State of Hysterics."

Janet was by temperament a naturalist, and during all his life he improved his herbarium. He had the same acquisitive attitude toward mental patients, from whom he collected thousands of precise and detailed observations. However, in his books he attempted to give a more theoretical and depth interpretation of a few particular cases. From 1902 until 1934 he taught at the Collège de France.

Janet's works are numerous, and many of his writings have been translated into English. Among his books one can cite Névroses et idées fixes (1902); Les Obsessions et la psychasténie (1903); The Major Symptoms of Hysteria (1907, symposium undertaken in the United States); Les Médications psychologiques (1919); De l'angoisse à l'extase (1926); Les Débuts de l'intelligence (1935); and L'Intelligence avant le langage (1936).

Janet characterized his dynamic psychology as being a psychology of conduct, accepting the schema of a psychology of behavior while integrating in his schema conscious processes acting as regulators of action. Janet's work has often been compared to the work of Freud, and his influence has been great in both North and South America.

Well after Janet had retired, he continued to teach and to give conferences, manifesting a great vitality until the time of his death on Feb. 23, 1947.

Further Reading

Janet's autobiography is in Carl Murchison and others, A History of Psychology in Autobiography (4 vols., 1930-1952). See also Benjamin B. Wolman, ed., Historical Roots of Contemporary Psychology (1968). □

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Janet, Pierre (Marie Félix) (1859-1947)

Janet, Pierre (Marie Félix) (1859-1947)

French psychologist and neurologist noted for his research on hysteria and neuroses. Janet was born on May 30, 1859, in Paris. He studied at the École Normale and the École de Medecine, Paris. He became a lecturer on philosophy at the lycées of Chateauroux and The Hague, at the College Rollin, and at the lycées Louis-le-Grand and Condorcet. From 1889 to 1898 he was director of the psychological laboratory of the Saltpêtrière in Paris. He also lectured on psychology at the Sorbonne and became professor of psychology at the Collège de France in 1902. He published many important works on psychology and hysteria. His work with French neurologist J. M. Charcot includes a serious medical and scientific study of the phenomena of hypnotism.

The scope of Janet's influence in the world of psychology is often compared to that of Freud. Janet remained active and continued to lecture until his death on February 23, 1947.

Sources:

Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2d ed. 18 vols. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999.

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Janet, Pierre

Pierre Janet (pyĕr zhänā´), 1859–1947, French physician and psychologist. As director (1890–98) of the laboratory of pathological psychology at Salpêtrière and as professor of experimental and comparative psychology at the Collège de France from 1902, he made important contributions to the knowledge of mental pathology and the origins of hysteria through the use of hypnosis. In 1904 he founded the Journal de psychologie normal et pathologique, to which he contributed numerous articles. Among his important works were L'Automatisme psychologique (1889), in which he founded automatic psychology, and Les Obsessions et la psychasthénie (1903), which contains the first description of psychasthenia. Major Symptoms of Hysteria (1907) contains lectures delivered at Harvard. He wrote also Principles of Psychotherapy (1924), Psychological Healing (1925), and Cours sur l'amour et la haine (1933).

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