About the Blog

There’s nothing more embarrassing than mispronouncing someone’s name. Unless it’s mispronouncing the name of a famous psychologist at a conference with all of your peers and elders listening. Yet this is quite easy to do–psychology seems to have more than its fair share of difficult names, and if the authority is textual rather than oral, there is really nothing to warn the unwary presenter of his danger.

It’s just this sort of incident that inspired this blog. After a successful conference presentation I was annoyed to learn that in pronouncing ‘Gesell’ like it looks I’d made myself look ignorant. In fact, the name of developmental psychologist Arnold Gesell, properly pronounced, sounds very like ‘gazelle’. After this I started keeping notes on all the counterintuitive names I encountered and asking my friends for their contributions.

I soon realized that this problem was more widespread than both conferences and proper names when I found myself trying not to laugh at my students’ surprise over how Oedipal was pronounced. “Are you sure?” they asked incredulously. Of course, Intro Psychology is a very natural place to learn the pronunciation of basic psychology terms, yet if students somehow fail to make the connection between how a word looks and how its said, it could easily cost them on tests and papers. So I’ve decided to share my little pronunciation guide for psychology names and concepts with the general public.

I have also expanded it to include a section on myths in the history of psychology, a sort of “Snopes of Psychology”. The rationale is the same: this is yet another area where it’s tricky to catch one’s mistakes without quite a bit of background knowledge, since there’s no way to know that an older article in a reputable journal has been debunked or superseded. Since I wrote my master’s thesis on a famous myth in psychology, I’ve thought a bit about this kind of myth-making in psychology.

I hope that students of psychology will find these resources helpful and will contribute new items. I welcome corrections or new submissions via comments on the appropriate pages.

Yours in the pursuit of correct pronunciation and historical accuracy,
Elissa

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