phrenology


phrenology
phrenologic /fren'l oj"ik/, phrenological, adj.phrenologically, adv.phrenologist, n.
/fri nol"euh jee, fre-/, n.
a psychological theory or analytical method based on the belief that certain mental faculties and character traits are indicated by the configurations of the skull.
[1795-1805, Amer.; PHRENO- + -LOGY]

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Study of the shape of the skull as an indication of mental abilities and character traits.

Franz Joseph Gall stated the principle that each of the innate mental faculties is based in a specific brain region ("organ"), whose size reflects the faculty's prominence in a person and is reflected by the skull's surface. He examined the skulls of persons with particular traits (including "criminal" traits) for a feature he could identify with it. His followers Johann Kaspar Spurzheim (1776–1832) and George Combe (1788–1858) divided the scalp into areas they labeled with traits such as combativeness, cautiousness, and form perception. Though popular well into the 20th century, phrenology has been wholly discredited.

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▪ pseudoscientific practice
 the study of the conformation of the skull as indicative of mental (mental hygiene) faculties and traits of character, especially according to the hypotheses of Franz-Joseph Gall (Gall, Franz Joseph) (1758–1828), a Viennese doctor, and such 19th-century adherents as Johann Kaspar Spurzheim (1776–1832) and George Combe (1788–1858). Phrenology enjoyed great popular appeal well into the 20th century but was wholly discredited by scientific research.

      The principles upon which phrenology was based were five: (1) the brain is the organ of the mind; (2) human mental powers can be analyzed into a definite number of independent faculties; (3) these faculties are innate, and each has its seat in a definite region of the surface of the brain; (4) the size of each such region is the measure of the degree to which the faculty seated in it forms a constituent element in the character of the individual; (5) the correspondence between the outer surface of the skull and the contour of the brain-surface beneath is sufficiently close to enable the observer to recognize the relative sizes of these several organs by the examination of the outer surface of the head.

      The system of Gall was constructed by a method of pure empiricism, and his so-called organs were identified on quite specious grounds. Having arbitrarily selected the place of a faculty, he examined the heads of his friends and casts of persons with that peculiarity in common, and in them he sought for the distinctive feature of their characteristic trait. Some of his earlier studies were made among inmates of jails and lunatic asylums, and some of the traits that he presumed to detect were “criminal.” These he named after their excessive manifestations, mapping out organs of murder, theft, etc. However, the names were changed by Spurzheim to align with more moral and religious considerations. Gall marked out on his model of the head the places of 26 organs as round enclosures with vacant interspaces. Spurzheim and Combe divided the whole scalp into oblong and conterminous patches identified by such designations as amativeness, philoprogenitiveness, concentrativeness, adhesiveness, combativeness, destructiveness, secretiveness, acquisitiveness, constructiveness, self-esteem, love of approbation, cautiousness, benevolence, veneration, conscientiousness, firmness, hope, wonder, ideality, wit, imitativeness, individuality, form perception, size perception, weight perception, colour perception, locality perception, number perception, order perception, memory of things, time perception, tune perception, linguistic perception, comparative understanding, and metaphysical spirit.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Phrenology — (from Greek: φρήν, phrēn , mind ; and λόγος, logos , knowledge ) is a defunct field of study, once considered a science, by which the personality traits of a person were determined by reading bumps and fissures in the skull. Developed by German… …   Wikipedia

  • Phrenology — Phre*nol o*gy, n. [Gr. ?, ?, the mind + logy: cf. F. phr[ e]nologie.] 1. The science of the special functions of the several parts of the brain, or of the supposed connection between the various faculties of the mind and particular organs in the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • phrenology — 1815, lit. mental science, from Gk. phren (gen. phrenos) mind + LOGY (Cf. logy) study of. Applied to the theory of mental faculties originated by Gall and Spurzheim that led to the 1840s mania for reading personality clues in the shape of one s… …   Etymology dictionary

  • phrenology — ► NOUN chiefly historical ▪ the study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character. DERIVATIVES phrenologist noun. ORIGIN from Greek phr n mind …   English terms dictionary

  • phrenology — ☆ phrenology [fri näl′ə jē ] n. [ PHRENO (sense 2) + LOGY] a system, popular esp. in the 19th cent., based on the assumption that an analysis of character can be made by a study of the shape and protuberances of the skull phrenological [fren΄ə… …   English World dictionary

  • Phrenology — The study of variations in size, shape, and proportion of the cranium. Phrenology was a pseudoscience of the 18th and 19th centuries based on the belief that a person s character could be learned by looking with care at the shape of their head… …   Medical dictionary

  • phrenology — [[t]frɪnɒ̱ləʤi[/t]] N UNCOUNT Phrenology is the study of the size and shape of people s heads in the belief that you can find out about their characters and abilities from this. ...the ancient science of phrenology. Derived words: phrenologist… …   English dictionary

  • phrenology — noun The science, now generally discredited, which studies the relationships between a persons character and the morphology (structure) of the skull. Oh, sure, you have a system for predicting the stock market; whats next phrenology? Syn:… …   Wiktionary

  • phrenology — noun Etymology: Greek phren , phrēn Date: 1805 the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character • phrenological adjective • phrenologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary