Heinz Werner: His Life, Ideas, and Contributions to Developmental Psychology in the First Half of the 20th Century

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The author provides an overview of Heinz Werner's life and contributions to the field of developmental psychology during the first half of the 20th century. She focuses on his early work in Vienna and Munich as well as his tenure at the Psychological Institute in Hamburg, up through the time when he became a named Professor in Psychology at Clark University. Recognized as one of the founders of developmental psychology, Heinz Werner worked in the areas of perceptual development, comparative psychology, and symbol formation. Versatile in rigorous experimental methodologies, and in observational and phenomenological methodologies, Werner's approach to development stood in contrast to other approaches of development, both past and current. For Werner, development was a heuristic, a way of looking at processes in a variety of domains, including ontogeny, phylogeny, microgenesis, biology, developmental psychopathology, neuropsychology, and comparative psychology. Werner viewed development as proceeding from a state of relative globality and lack of differentiation to a state of increasing differentiation, articulation, and hierarchical integration, but he also stressed that individuals can function at different developmental levels under different times and conditions. Werner's holistic, organismic, comparative, and contextual approach to development transcended interdisciplinary boundaries, allowing him to study the interrelatedness between thought, language, feeling, perception, and culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-243
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Genetic Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Developmental psychology
  • Werner
  • history
  • life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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