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William James

The influence of the American philosopher William James on our modern views of cognitive neuroscience cannot be underestimated. In the field of memory, for example, James' interpretation of the classic Ebbinghaus experiments anticipated the now well-established division between short- and long-term memory by more than fifty years. James also coined the widely used expression “stream of thought” and wrote extensively on attention, emotion, perception and many other topics that still occupy the agenda of today's neuroscientists.

In some respects, James' influence rivals that of Ramón y Cajal; like this other formidable thinker, James is cited extensively today, although few people have actually read his work. But here's a great opportunity to remedy this state of affairs — the Williams James web site. This marvellous resource, maintained and developed by Frank Pajares from Emory University, is a repository of links that lead to a plethora of web sites with information about James, his life and times, his work and essentially anything you might ever want to know about this philosopher.

The William James web site is organized into useful categories and one of its highlights is a series of links to the complete text of some of James' writings, including the legendary The Principles of Psychology . The 28 chapters of this classic book are hosted by another fantastic resource developed by Christopher Green of York University — Classics in the History of Psychology — which also contains the original writings of many forerunners of modern neuroscience, including Broca, Pavlov, Spearman and Skinner. These two web sites are splendid resources that should be visited again and again in search not only of information, but also of inspiration.


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López, J. William James. Nat Rev Neurosci 2, 382 (2001).

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