Selz, Otto

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SELZ, OTTO (1881–1944?), German psychologist. Born in Munich, he first taught in Bonn until, in 1923, he was appointed professor at the Handelshochschule (a business college) at Mannheim. In 1933, when the Nazi regime came to power, he was dismissed and he emigrated to the Netherlands. During World War ii he was deported and killed in a concentration camp, probably in 1944.

His work was concerned primarily with thought processes and foreshadowed the modern approach to the psychology of thinking. His theories grew out of the work of the Wuerzburg school, which rejected the notion that thinking could be analyzed by detailed self-observation. He also reacted against G.E. Mueller's constellation theory, which interpreted thinking along purely associative lines. In 1913 and again in 1922 Selz called for a psychology of thinking that dealt primarily with processes rather than content. His theory of productive and reproductive thinking (1924) marked a major turning point as the first attempt to deal with these two processes in a single theoretical framework. In its main elements, his theory anticipated modern theories of thinking and fits in well with some recent work on computer simulation of human problem solving. His major works include Ueber die Gesetze des geordneten Denkverlaufs (1913), Zur Psychologie des produktiven Denkens und des Irrtums (1922), and Die Gesetze der produktiven und reproduktiven Geistestaetigkeit (1924).

[Helmut E. Adler]