Judd, Charles H.

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Judd, Charles H.



Charles Hubbard Judd (1873–1946), American psychologist, was born in India of missionary parents and came to America in 1879. He received his B.A. at Wesleyan in 1894 and his PH.D. at Leipzig under Wilhelm Wundt in 1896. After seven years as professor of psychology at Yale, he accepted the position of head of the department of education at the University of Chicago, where he remained until his retirement in 1938. His vigorous leadership at Chicago made a marked contribution to the development of education as a field of graduate study, changing its content from a set of courses on the philosophy of pedagogy to a program based on a substantial body of research findings

Judd’s graduate work with Wundt gave him a strong and persistent interest both in language, especially the psychology of reading, and in experimental methods of research. Early in his career, as director of the psychological laboratory at Yale, and later at Chicago, he stressed the importance of objective laboratory studies in the creation of what he called “a science of education.” He was chiefly concerned with the mental processes involved in studying various school subjects. His pioneer laboratory research on eye movements in reading (Judd et al. 1905) stimulated more than one hundred published studies in the following twenty years, and other books and monographs that he published between 1903 and 1927 had a wide influence on teaching in elementary and secondary schools.

Throughout his writings Judd emphasized the importance of social psychology in the study of education. He believed that the contributions of animal psychology to education had been grossly overrated and that those of social psychology were of much greater significance. He held that “social institutions,” such as language, numbers, tool consciousness, and systems of exchange are the accumulated abstractions of the human race, made possible by the immense cerebral development of the human brain as compared with animal brains. Through language and mathematics, the crucial subjects of education, the intellectual inventions of the human mind are revealed to the individual learner.

Judd’s position on social psychology was first presented in his Genetic Psychology for Teachers (1903) and developed in much greater detail in his Psychology of Social Institutions (1926). In 1936, in his Education as Cultivation of the Higher Mental Processes, he made more explicit his theory that more can be learned about mental life by studying experience than by speculating about neural connections. He believed that the psychology of his time devoted too much attention to what he called the “path” theory of neural activity and too little to the “pattern” theory, since significant human responses operate to a greater extent through the higher mental processes of abstraction and generalization than through the simple connections that mediate the stimulus–response behavior of animals. His research was devoted to the detailed analysis of these higher mental processes.

The primary target of Judd’s criticism was the early work of E. L. Thorndike on transfer of training. Judd held that Thorndike’s connectionism tended to reduce the higher mental processes to aggregations of simpler processes. For example, he asserted that Thorndike’s view led teachers of arithmetic to think of the subject as a collection of specific items to be learned through drill rather than to look on arithmetic as a highly abstract and systematic form of learning. Judd rejected not the concept of transfer, but Thorndike’s mechanism of transfer: he believed in the possibility of transfer through the learning of widely applicable generalizations rather than through the connection of different situations by identical elements. His position on transfer was an outgrowth of his fundamental view of the higher mental processes. He emphasized learning as an organization of experience, with the possibility of transfer increasing as the higher levels of generalization are reached.

Although Judd was a psychologist by training, his long career as head of the department of education at Chicago brought him in direct contact with all the major issues of educational administration. He exerted an important influence on school organization over a period of three decades. In addition, as editor of two major periodicals in the field of education, the School Review and the Elementary School Journal, Judd was able to give his views on education wide currency.

Guy T. Buswell

[For the historical context of Judd’s work, see the biography of Thorndike;for discussion of the subsequent development of his ideas, see Educational psychology; Learning,article on TRANSFER; Vision,article on EYE MOVEMENTS].


1903 Genetic Psychology for Teachers. New York: Appleton.

1905 Judd, Charles; McAllister, C. N.; and Steele, W. M. General Introduction to a Series of Studies of Eye-movements by Means of Microscopic Photographs. Psychological Monographs Vol. 7, no. 29.

1915 Psychology of High School Subjects. Boston: Ginn.

1926 Psychology of Social Institutions. New York: Macmillan.

1927 Psychology of Secondary Education. Boston: Ginn.

1936 Education as Cultivation of the Higher Mental Processes. New York: Macmillan.


Buswell, Guy T. 1947 Charles Hubbard Judd: 1873–1946. American Journal of Psychology 60:135–137.

Freeman, F. N. 1947 Charles Hubbard Judd. Psychological Review 54:59–65.