You are here

Beyond Individual and Group Differences

Beyond Individual and Group Differences
Human Individuality, Scientific Psychology, and William Stern's Critical Personalism

  • James T. Lamiell - Georgetown University Medical School, Georgetown University, USA

July 2012 | 360 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
This book treats the history of psychology's effort to come to terms with human individuality, from the time of Wundt to the present day, with primary emphasis on the contributions of German psychologist William Stern. With this book, Lamiell hopes to waken a wider appreciation for Stern's perspective on human individuality and for the proper place of personalitic thinking within scientific psychology. He presents an alternative approach to the logical positivism that permeates traditional psychological thought and methodology. As such, he provides a book that is sure to prove both controversial and ground-breaking.


· Provides book-length treatment of the concept of human individuality in twentieth century scientific psychology, highlighting the historical contributions made by the German psychologist and philosopher William Stern (1871-1938).

· Critically appraises contemporary thinking about personality in light of historical and methodological considerations.

· Challenges readers to re-think the problem of human individuality with research that mounts a direct empirical challenge to the long-standing belief that it is meaningless to characterize individuals without comparing them to one another.

· Concludes with a general discussion of the potential of personlistic thinking both as a foundation for personality theory and as a framework for social thought.

1. Introduction: A Lost Star
Part I: Historical Beginnings
2. The Problem of Individuality & the Birth of a "Differential" Psychology
3. The Narrowing of Perspective in the Proliferation of Standardized Testing & Correlational Research
4. The Entrenchment of a "Common Trait" Perspective on Human Individuality
Part II: Statistical Thinking in the Post-Wundtian Restructuring of Scientific Psychology
5. The Emergence of a "Neo-Galtonian" Framework for Psychological Research: An Historical Sketch
6. Contemporary "Nomotheticism" within the Framework of Neo-Galtonian Inquiry: A Methodological Primer
7. Contemporary "Nomotheticism" in Critical Perspective
Part III: Rethinking the Problem
8. An Introduction to Critical Personalism
9. Some Models of Personalistic Inquiry in Contemporary Psychology
10. Our Differences Aside: Persons, Things, Individuality, & Community
Name Index
Subject Index

"James Lamiell is a creative, sophisticated, and careful thinker, one whose ideas are deserving of broad attention….The book should be of interest to scholars and practitioners, along with advanced graduate students."

Kenneth J. Gergen
Swarthmore College

"Lamiell offers a critical analysis of the current state of the psychological study of human individuality. . . . The author makes a significant contribution in rescuing the work of an obscure intellectual pioneer and demonstrating its relevance to the contemporary study of individuality. Highly recommended." 


"This book is fundamentally relevant in showing that the individual is returning to his or her central place in scientific psychology. ... The psychology of human beings must be built on the centrality of people's value making, and their use of these values in conducting their lives. ... Lamiell carries the reader out of the web of discourse about standardized methods and mundane correlational research to the wide thoroughfare of building a new version of idiographic science. ... Lamiell's positive methodological program fits the demands for consistency between the different components of the methodological cycle that unites theory, meta-theory, phenomena, methods and data in one system ... and demonstrates the value of knowing the history of science.

For anybody who appreciates depth of argumentation in psychology, Lamiell's book deviates in substantial ways from the opinions that have prevailed in psychology over the last fifty years and brings the discipline back to a place from which to develop a new idiographic science. ...

Lamiell's book ... is a rare treat in offering a synthesis of ideas in the very best tradition of general knowledge (science in the sense of Wissenschaft). It points psychology toward a new beginning; but will the discipline live up to that intellectual and social challenge?"

Jaan Valsiner
Clark University

"There is much to admire in Gibbs’s important book.  It is the only sustained scholarly attempt of which I am aware to synthesize the major traditions in cognitive and affective developmental research and theory, doing so by emphasizing both cognitive and affective capacities for taking the perspective of the other."

Gibbs on Kohlberg on Dewey

James T. Lamiell

James T. Lamiell (Ph.D., Kansas State University, 1976) is Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, where he has taught since 1982. Prior to that, he was on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A three-time Fulbright Senior Scholar to Germany, Lamiell spent his spring semester 2004 sabbatical at the University of Hamburg where, during their summer semester (April to July), he was Ernst Cassirer Visiting Professor. During that time, he taught a seminar in the Psychology Department and also delivered a series of public lectures on "William Stern: His Life and Works" under the... More About Author

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9780761921721

SAGE Knowledge is the ultimate social sciences digital library for students, researchers, and faculty. Hosting more than 4,400 titles, it includes an expansive range of SAGE eBook and eReference content, including scholarly monographs, reference works, handbooks, series, professional development titles, and more.

The platform allows researchers to cross-search and seamlessly access a wide breadth of must-have SAGE book and reference content from one source.