George Malcolm Stratton (September 26, 1865 – October 8, 1957) was a psychologist who pioneered the study of perception in vision by wearing special glasses which inverted images up and down and left and right. He studied under one of the founders of ...
George Malcolm Stratton (September 26, 1865 – October 8, 1957) was a psychologist who pioneered the study of perception in vision by wearing special glasses which inverted images up and down and left and right. He studied under one of the founders of modern psychology, Wilhelm Wundt, and started one of the first experimental psychology labs in America, at the University of California, Berkeley. Stratton's studies on binocular vision inspired many later studies on the subject. He was one of the initial members of the philosophy department at Berkeley, and the first chair of its psychology department. He also worked on sociology, focusing on international relations and peace. Stratton presided over the American Psychological Association in 1908, and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He wrote a book on experimental psychology and its methods and scope; published articles on the studies at his labs on perception, and on reviews of studies in the field; served on several psychological committees during and after World War I; and served as advisor to doctoral students who would go on to head psychology departments.
Stratton was born and brought up in the Oakland area of California, in a family with deep roots in America, and spent much of his career at Berkeley. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, an M.A. from Yale University, and a PhD from the University of Leipzig. He returned to the philosophy department at Berkeley, teaching psychology, and was promoted to associate professor. Stratton left for Johns Hopkins University in the early 1900s and spent a few years as faculty at the psychology department before returning to Berkeley. During this period, he focused on studies on sensation and perception and the psychological effects of inverting sensory stimuli in different ways. He was involved in establishing some of the early regional associations devoted to the field of psychology.
Stratton served in the Army during World War I, developing psychological tests to select airmen for Army aviation. Exposure to the war effort prompted his interest in international relations and causes of wars. He was an anti-war believer who held psychology should aim to assist humanity's quest to avert future wars. He was optimistic people and ethnicities, making up nations, could be taught to live in peace, though the races were not equal in inborn mental capacity, a belief he held as scientific. In the later part of his career he wrote books looking at international relations, war, and the differences between races on emotions. He was also a scholar of the classics and translated Greek philosophers.
Of Stratton's many contributions, his studies on perception and visual illusions would continue to influence the field of psychology well after his death. Of the nine books he wrote, the first was a scholarly look at the methodology and scope of experimental psychology. The remaining, including one unfinished at his death, were on sociology, international relations and the issues of war and how findings from psychology could be used to eradicate conflict between nations. Stratton considered these issues more salient to the application of psychology in the real world, though his ideas on this front did not produce a lasting impact in the field because of their subjective and non-experimental nature.