Claparede, Edouard (1873-1940)
Claparede, Edouard (1873-1940)
One of the main figures of the child study and progressive education movement in Europe.
Edouard Claparède was one of the leaders in the study and education of children in Europe in the early 1900s. He wrote on numerous subjects, including clinical neurology, perception, animal psychology, hypnosis, hysteria, psychological methodology, the association of ideas, sleep, play, emotions, the empirical control of mediums, the genesis of hypotheses, and the use of film in psychology; he also helped introduce psychoanalysis in the French-speaking world, and pioneered the psychological investigation of judicial testimony.
Claparède's reputation rests on his book Experimental Pedagogy and Psychology of the Child, a remarkable synthesis of the history, problems, and methods of the field, and on his creation in 1912 of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in Geneva, a center for teacher education and developmental research that became a model for similar institutions throughout the world. Claparède's other books in the area dealt with the "school made to measure," aptitude testing, and "functional education;" they were translated into several languages (but not into English). Claparède believed that the school ought to adapt to the child, and that education ought to be based on child psychology. He thus shared, on the whole, the outlook of such American and European psychologists and educators as G. Stanley Hall, Alfred Binet, John Dewey, or William Stern.
Claparède was born in 1873 in the French-speaking Swiss city of Geneva, in a distinguished bourgeois Protestant family. In 1901, three years after the end of his medical studies, he created the journal Archives de psychologie with his older cousin, the psychologist Theodore Flournoy. In 1908, Claparède succeeded Flournoy as professor of psychology at the University of Geneva, a position he held until his death in 1940.
Claparède's thinking was characterized by a "functional" approach he first elaborated as a critique of associationism. He applied the postulate that behavior has an adaptive function to several psychological problems, including the development of intelligence. An influential notion of his functionalism (it became central in Piagetian psychology) was the "law of the grasp of consciousness." This "law" is based on the idea that the more often a sort of behavior or judgment has been used automatically or by habit, the harder it is to become aware of it. The process of taking cognizance of one's intellectual operations is thus a key in the growth of intelligence.
While trying to synthesize child psychology and education, Claparède enhanced the psychologist's role as expert on mental development, tests, and other aspects of school psychology. Through his publications, his establishment of the Rousseau Institute, and his activities as educational consultant for different countries, he provided a significant impetus to the field of child development in Europe. Jean Piaget, whose career took place for the most part at the Rousseau Institute, was his main intellectual heir.
Claparède, E. "Autobiography." In C. Murchison, ed., A History of Psychology in Autobiography, Worcester, MA: Clark University Press, 1930.
Trombetta, C. Edouard Claparède psicologo, Rome, Italy: Armando, 1989.
Revue suisse de psychologie 33 (3), special issue, 1974.
University of Geneva, Switzerland