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Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides a broad overview of the history of psychology in Brazil from the first notions of psychological though in the country´s colonial period through the inception of scientific psychology in the late 19th and early 20th century, up to the consolidation of psychology as profession and scientific practice throughout the 20th century. Psychological ideas first arrived in Brazil through Jesuit clericals, who were in charge of the colony’s education from the 16th century to the middle of 18th century, when they were banned from the Portuguese Kingdom. Children of Native, European, and mixed ethnicity were in the same classes, and Jesuits assimilated the ideas of Native Brazilians about child development and education into their own propositions. Higher education was prohibited in the Portuguese colonies up to the 19th century. Brazilian nationals interested in pursuing academic degrees in law or medicine had to do so in Portugal or France, up to 1808, when the country´s first two Medical Schools were created. Throughout these schools, new European ideas about psychology arrived in Brazil. The school in Rio de Janeiro was more concerned about neuropsychiatry, psychophysiology, and neurology. In Salvador, the medical school focused on the study of criminology, forensic psychiatry, mental hygiene, social psychology, and pedagogy. In the early 20th century, psychological laboratories were first established in normal schools (aimed at training teachers for child education) and mental hospitals. Laboratories were implemented by Brazilian students of European and American psychologists, or by the foreign scholars themselves. They visited the country by official invitation, and some eventually settled here. Psychology was recognized as a profession in Brazil by a federal law in 1962. By that time, training and research in psychology were organized around major theoretical approaches, mainly psychoanalysis. It is argued that the current trend of psychology in Brazil is toward growing specialization and consolidation of its subdisciplines, reflected on a growing number of scientific societies and specialized periodicals.

Keywords: Psychology in Brazil, history of psychology, teaching and research in psychology

The aim of this chapter is to provide a broad overview of the history of psychology in Brazil. It begins with the psychological ideas prevalent during the colonial period, advancing through the inauguration of scientific psychology in the late 19th and early 20th century, up to the consolidation of psychology as a profession and a scientific practice in the country.

The history of psychology is a theme of great interest among Brazilian psychologists. This history has been described since the middle of the 20th century by recognized Brazilian psychologists. The first account of experimental psychology in Brazil was written by Plinio Olinto (1944/2004). He worried about the lack of support for the conduct of experimental research at Rio de Janeiro institutions in the first half of the 20th century. However, the first comprehensive studies about the history of psychology in Brazil were in the form of articles published by two eminent Brazilian psychologists: Annita (p. 35) Cabral (1950), a former student of Max Wertheimer (1880–1943) at the New School for Social Research in New York; and Lourenço Filho (1955), the founder of the New School’s theory, a clarification and application of the functional educational ideas of Édouard Claparède (1873–1940) and John Dewey (1859–1852).

In the 1970s, Isaias Pessotti (Universidade de São Paulo), a former Brazilian Gestaltist who became a Skinnerian behaviorist, wrote two often-cited papers (Pessotti, 1975, 1988). Rogério Centofonti (1982) and Antonio Gomes Penna (1985, 1986) also wrote about the history of psychology in Rio de Janeiro. However, work to advance research in the history of psychology came with the symposiums of the National Association of Graduate Programs in Psychology (ANPEPP), which started in 1988. These meetings are a place for the clarification and discussion of research by workgroups from different areas of psychology. At the Sixth Symposium, held at Teresópolis, Rio de Janeiro, in 1996, appeared a group interested in the history of psychology, led by Marina Massimi (Universidade de São Paulo), who was a former student of Pessotti; Regina Campos (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), who received her Ph.D. at the Stanford University; and Maria do Carmo Guedes (Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo), who was a student of Carolina Bori (1924–2004). This group attracted researchers from universities around the country and became a reference for the study of the history of psychology in Brazil. The Brazilian historians in psychology were greatly influenced by Josef Brožek (1913–2004), a former professor at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He visited Brazil in 1988 and in 1996, he attended the Sixth Symposium of ANPEPP (Massimi & Campos, 2004).

Among the many Brazilian psychology journals, Memorandum: Memória e História em Psicologia is a major publication focused on history of psychology. A dictionary of pioneers in Brazilian psychology (Campos, 2001a) was published, and a historical dictionary of institutions (educational, medical, and governmental) that served as centers for the dissemination of psychology in Brazil was edited by Jacó-Villela (in press). The Professional Council of Psychology, an organization that controls the licensing of Brazilian psychologist, has financed some of these publications. Most programs include a history of psychology in the curriculum, and a textbook for use in university courses was prepared by Jacó-Villela, Ferreira, and Portugal (2005).

Psychological Ideas in Colonial Times

Psychological ideas first arrived in Brazil through the Jesuit clericals (Catholic Company of Jesus) by occasion of their inauguration of the first school in the colony, in Salvador–Bahia, in the middle of 16th century. For about 200 years, the Jesuits took care of the education of the sons and daughters of the Portuguese, the Native Indians, and also of children born from interracial unions. They founded several schools and offered a scholastic teaching in Latin. They also tried to integrate Portuguese, Indian, and mixed-race children in the same classrooms. Had the Jesuit program prevailed, the Brazilian population probably would consist today mainly of native Brazilian descendants. The psychology of the colonial period was a mix of scholastic ideas and native Brazilian culture, mainly with respect to childhood education, as reflect by the writings of the Jesuits Fernão Cardim (1549–1625) and Alexandre de Gusmão (1629–1724). Cardim’s writings were first published in English in London, in 1625. They appeared in Portuguese late in 1847, in Lisbon (Veríssimo, 1916). Both books were republished recently in Brazil (Cardim, 1625/1980; Gusmão, 1685/2004). The Jesuits were very impressed with the loving relationships between parents and infants, observed especially in the care mothers took in breastfeeding their children. Native Brazilian parents related with their children without any kind of aggression, and they used toys and games to prepare them for adult life.

Massimi (1990) found old Jesuit publications that brought light to their ideas about education. The Gusmão’s treatise A Arte de Crear Bem os Filhos na Idade da Puerícia (The Art of Well Training the Children When They Are Very Young) is considered the first manual on psychopedagogy written in Brazil, and it presents topics on child development, family relationships, learning, and motivation. Infancy was defined by Gusmão (1685/2004) as a period in which the child does not present rational actions for living, being dependent of adult help. The child was considered a blank tablet, ready to absorb any image. He believed that, depending on the education that one gives to a child, it would possible to predict her or his future. The idea was that any child could be educated (“domesticated,” in the author’s words). Gusmão also defended that girls should be educated, which was forbidden by the Portuguese Crown at that time. According to Massimi (1990), the Jesuits brought to the colony a very creative and innovative educational system, recognized throughout in missionary regions of southern Brazil and northern Argentina. But all that experience came to an end (p. 36) with the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portugal and from its colonies in 1759. After that, there were no more schools in the Brazilian colony until the Portuguese Court moved to Brazil in 1808, with the help of the United Kingdom, to escape the invasion of Lisbon by Napoleon. The few books that Massimi could find from that period brought psychological ideas based on the writings of Augustine and Aquinas.

The dictatorial Marquis of Pombal (1699–1782), the chief minister of King Joseph Emanuel of Portugal, used his power to modernize the Portuguese kingdom. In 1755, he abolished slavery in Portugal and prohibited the enslavement of native Brazilians by declaring them free citizens of Brazil. Pombal wanted to outlaw African slavery in Brazil as well, but he realized that slavery formed a central part of the Brazilian agricultural economy. Recognizing the importance of Brazil to the economic well-being of Portugal, Pombal tried to improve the efficiency of the Brazilian economy and administration, and to lessen tensions between colonists and their Portuguese rulers. He involved Brazilian-born individuals in the colonial government, introduced new crops, and established Portuguese as the official language in Brazil. (At the time, Brazilians used two different general languages, northern and southern dialects, both a mix of Portuguese and native Brazilian tongues [Freire & Rosa, 2003]). The Jesuits were expelled from the country because they did not agree with Pombal’s economic programs. However, Pombal was not able to organize a system of education for the Brazilian people.

Until the early 19th century, the University of Coimbra was the institution of choice for Brazilians looking for a college education. In the first three centuries of Brazilian history, Coimbra graduated more than 2,500 Brazilian nationals. It is interesting to note that, at Coimbra, Brazilians were not considered foreigners, but rather Brazilian-born Portuguese, who could even become faculty there. This was the case, for example, of Francisco de Lemos de Faria Pereira Coutinho (1735–1822). Born at Rio de Janeiro, he was educated at Coimbra, becoming a professor there after graduation. Later, he joined an organization (Junta de Providência Literária) that aimed to study and plan the radical university reforms of the Pombal period. Coutinho was promoted and became an executive of that reform and president of the University of Coimbra for nearly 30 years. José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva (1763–1838), the father of Brazilian independence, had been also a professor at Coimbra University before becoming a national hero in Brazil for his participation in the fight for the country’s independence. Like Coutinho and José Bonifácio, several other Brazilians were professors and lecturers at Coimbra (Teixeira, 1989).

Although Coimbra had long been a main destination for Brazilian nationals who sought a university degree, Portugal was not interested in implementing higher education in the colony. However, local communities were clamoring for the establishment of universities. When the Portuguese royal family moved to Brazil in 1808, fleeing Napoleon’s invasion of Lisbon, one of their first acts was to authorize the creation of medical schools in the country. The Faculdade de Medicina da Bahia and Faculdade Medicina do Rio de Janeiro were both created in 1832. Such a concession certainly pleased the affluent families of Salvador, capital of the Bahia province, because their offspring had no longer to move to Coimbra or to Paris to become doctors. When the royal family arrived in Rio de Janeiro, then the capital city of the new Kingdom of Brazil, Portugal and Algarves, a medical school was also created there. Another consequence of the royal family moving to Brazil was the opening of Brazilian ports to friendly nations. Several activities that were prohibited, such as building roads and installing industries, were now allowed. The Bank of Brazil was created, as well as the Royal Press (prior to that, no book had ever been printed in Brazil). The political and economic turmoil of that period also contributed to the opening of theaters and to the organization of libraries.

Several scientific and cultural European missions and expeditions came to Brazil during colonial and imperial times. Naturalists John Mawe (1764–1829) from England and Auguste de Saint-Hilaire (1779–1853) from France, zoologist Johann von Baptist Spix (1782–1826), and botanist Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794–1868) from Germany were among them. France sent an important artistic mission that included Grandjean de Montigny (1776–1868), who became Brazil’s first architecture professor, responsible for introducing the neoclassical style. Also in that mission were painters Félix Émile Taunay (1795–1881) and Jean Baptiste Debret (1768–1848), who depicted Brazilian sceneries and documented the Court’s most important events. Two other important visitors were Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and William James (1842–1910). Darwin came to Brazil first in 1832, and then in 1836, as described in his Beagle Diary.1 James spent 10 months in Brazil between 1865 and 1866, mostly in Rio de Janeiro, Belém, Manaus, and along the rivers and tributaries of the Amazon bay. (p. 37) His letters, diaries, and drawings were recently published in a bilingual book (in Portuguese and English) (Machado, 2006). Soon after the country’s independence in 1822, law schools were opened in São Paulo and in Pernambuco. Along with the medical schools, these were the institutions that opened the long road to the creation of a Brazilian university.

The organization of higher education in Brazil was guided by the French model, focused on professional education and managed under the supervision of the central government. Such a model did not stimulate research activities and seriously restricted academic autonomy. The first professors in the medical schools were military doctors. Only later were civilian professors appointed. However, those schools came to be consolidated as medical training centers after independence. The medical model and the textbooks were also French. At that time, Brazilians who wanted to become medical specialists went to Paris to study. Most professors at Brazilian medical schools were trained in Paris.

Psychology in the Medical Schools in the 19th Century

The medical schools in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador–Bahia gained the status of comprehensive programs only in 1832, 10 years after Brazilian independence in 1822. In these schools, as well as in the law schools established in 1928 at Recife and São Paulo, the advances in European psychology, especially the attempts to understand the subjective motivations of behavior, were considered as necessary and important information for the curriculum. The study of subjective motives of behavior was considered as a way to help in the prevention of mental disease and delinquent behavior (Massimi, 1990).

It was not until the 1850s that Brazil’s first psychology book was written by philosopher and medical doctor Eduardo Ferreira França (1809–1857). Born in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, Ferreira França graduated in medicine in 1834, at the University of Paris with the thesis “Essai sur l’Influence des Aliments et des Boissons sur le Moral de l’Homme” (“Essay on the influence of food and beverages on the spirit of man”). In his treaty Investigações Psicológicas (Psychological Investigations), originally published in 1854, Ferreira França (1972) attempted to reconcile two apparently incompatible French doctrines: Condillac’s2 materialism and Maine de Biran’s3 spiritualism. The central idea was that, although instincts were the substrata for the development and differentiation of all mental faculties, it was only through will, acting as a catalystic power, that they might actually function. In that sense, he accepted Condillac’s argument for the primacy of empirical data as the basis for modern psychological science, but set it against the problem of necessary confidence in observations as a condition for knowledge: simple sensation is not a fact if an idea had not yet been created by it. Without rebutting empiricism, he was committed to prove the existence of a spirit that was modified by sensation, and stressed the importance of such a concept in explaining human psychology. At that point, Ferreira França appealed to Maine de Biran’s idea that voluntary action is the actualization of a power that is the true primary fact related to an “intimate sense”. Confidence, which is a condition for any sort of knowledge, would be implicated by that intimate sense. The two-volume book—of 284 and 424 pages, respectively—comprises seven parts, described by the author as “a classification of mental faculties according to the method of natural science”: (1) phenomena of consciousness and faculties; (2) modifiability (sensitivity, affectivity); (3) motion; (4) intellectual faculties I (internal and external perception, relation between them, of the qualities of bodies and of habits); (5) intellectual faculties II (brain sensitivity, sleep and dreams, consciousness, reasoning, memory, imagination, abstraction, composition, generalization, judgment, faculty of the future, faculty of faith, and of ideas); (6) instincts (physical, intellectual, social and moral); and (7) will. Ferreira França’s project was to write two books on the subject: one on experimental psychology—which he achieved in his Psychological Investigations, and the other on rational psychology, which he never wrote. In the introduction to a subsequent edition of Ferreira França´s book, Paim (1967) argued that França’s work, naïve as it could appear more than a century after its edition, clearly represented in psychology the marked eclecticism of an incipient intellectuality that aimed at preparing the ground for political liberalism in Brazil.

The study of psychology in Brazil occurred mainly at the medical schools in the form of doctoral dissertations (Lourenço Filho, 1955). In the beginning, no empirical research or theoretical treatises were pursued, but small papers were presented with general considerations about some psychological aspects of psychiatric disease. The first of these monographs appeared in 1836, at the Medical School of Rio de Janeiro, with an old philosophical theme: Paixões e afetos da alma (Passions and Affects of the Soul). It was a vague association between biology and metaphysics presented by Manuel Inácio de Figueiredo Jaime. The first dissertation using a truly (p. 38) experimental approach was prepared by Henrique Roxo (1877–1969) in 1900, in Rio de Janeiro: Duração dos Atos Psíquicos Elementares nos Alienados (Duration of Elementary Psychic Acts in the Alienated ) and its purpose was to support psychology as a fundamental and basic science.

An examination of the titles of these dissertations (Lourenço Filho, 1955; Pessotti 1975) shows an interesting correspondence between their themes and the new developments of psychology in Europe. For example, from the medical school of Bahia came Algumas considerações psycho-physiológicas a’cerca do homem (Some Psychophysiological Considerations About Man) in 1851, by Cunha Mello; Influência da civilização sobre o desenvolvimento das affecções nervosas (Influence of Civilization on the Development of Nervous Afflictions) in 1857, by C. E. O. Cardozo; Qual o papel que desempenha a civilização nas doenças mentais (The Role of Civilization in the Development of Mental Diseases), in 1888; and Crime e Epilepsia (Epilepsy and Crime), in 1887, by Afrânio Peixoto. The same pattern could be seen in the dissertations from Rio de Janeiro, as exemplified by Psicofisiologia da Percepção e das Representações (Psychophysiology of Perception and Representation), in 1890, by Estelita Tapajós. The most polemic work (Almeida & El-Hani, 2007) was presented by Domingos Guedes Cabral in 1875, to the medical school of Bahia. It was the first Brazilian Darwinist work. Titled Functions of the Brain, Cabral’s thesis was not accepted because it negated the existence of God. Finally, a dissertation from the medical school of Rio de Janeiro seemed to anticipate the term clinical psychology. It was written by Odilon Goulart, in 1891, with the title Estudo Psychoclínico da Afasia (Psychoclinical Study of Aphasia). The term clinical psychology was used for the first time by Lightner Witmer (1867–1956), who transformed his laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania into a psychological clinic in 1896, and founded the journal The Psychological Clinic in 1907 (Hilgard, 1987).

Interestingly, the two medical schools had different approaches to psychology. The school in Rio de Janeiro was more concerned with neuropsychiatry, psychophysiology, and neurology. In contrast, the school in Bahia was more focused in the study of criminology, forensic psychiatry, mental hygiene, social psychology, and pedagogy. By the beginnings of the 20th century, the two approaches converged in Rio de Janeiro, in a program developed to modernize the National Mental Hospital. The reform was lead by two psychiatrists from Bahia: Juliano Moreira (1873–1933) and Afrânio Peixoto (1876–1947) (Lourenço Filho, 1955). They were following the psychiatric French orientation of Pierre Janet (1859–1947), as preached by Henrique Roxo (1877–1969) and Antônio Austregésilo (1876–1960) at the medical school of Rio de Janeiro. These psychiatrists encouraged the installation of laboratories of experimental psychology in Brazil. They were also very receptive to the new ideas of psychoanalysis. Later, in 1927, Juliano Moreira was the first chair of the section of the Brazilian Society of Psychoanalysis, whose headquarters were in Sao Paulo (Perestrello, 1988).

The First Psychological Laboratories

The recognition of psychology as an experimental science found acceptance almost immediately in Brazil. Brazilian physicians had contact with psychological laboratories in the European institutions where they were trained. These contacts encouraged the foundation of psychological laboratories in Brazilian hospital environments. In the same way, the promotion of experimental psychology as a scientific base for pedagogy stimulated the creation of laboratories in normal schools and studies of measurements of intellectual abilities. Some of these laboratories prospered, becoming important centers of research and practice, and a base for the creation of institutes of psychology that were subsequently incorporated into the universities. In Brazil, as in England, psychological laboratories faced plenty of opposition. The same reasons that prevented James Ward (1843–1925) from installing a psychological laboratory at Cambridge University in 1877 (Hilgard, 1987) were present in the first attempt to found a laboratory in Rio de Janeiro in 1897. The discussion was the same, as exemplified by the words of the Brazilian opponent Farias Brito (1862–1917), quoted by Lourenço Filho (1955, p. 267): “it would be ridiculous to subject the faculties of the soul to device analysis.”

The planning and implementation of laboratories progressed through the collaboration of internationally recognized psychologists in planning the facilities (Gomes, 2003). Alfred Binet (1857–1911) collaborated with the Brazilian physician Manoel Bomfim (1868–1932) in planning the laboratory for the Pedagogium, an institution dedicated to the exposition of new methods of education and located in the old Federal District. The laboratory was installed in 1906. George Dumas (1866–1946), a French physician and psychologist, collaborated with the physician Maurício de Medeiros (1885–1966) to install a laboratory in a psychiatric hospital in Rio de Janeiro (p. 39) in 1907. Ugo Pizzolli (1863–1934), an Italian psychologist, came to Sao Paulo to install a pedagogical laboratory in the Normal School. Waclaw Radecki (1887–1953), a Polish psychologist with doctor’s degree from the University of Geneva, arrived in Brazil in time to be invited, in 1923, to direct a laboratory that was built with equipment brought from Paris and Leipzig in a hospital environment in Engenho de Dentro, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Theodore Simon (1873–1961), who had worked with Binet in Paris, and Léon Walther (1889–1963), who had been Édouard Claparède’s assistant (1873–1940) at the University of Geneva, organized a laboratory at the School of Pedagogical Improvement, in Belo Horizonte in 1928. The following year, the laboratory started its activities under the direction of Helena Antipoff (1892–1974), a Russian psychologist with a doctoral degree from the University of Geneva, who fixed her residence in Brazil. Claparède himself came to visit the laboratory in Belo Horizonte (Antipoff, 1975; Campos, 2001b).

The installation of these first laboratories is a beautiful passage in our history. The implementation occurred in applied environments, and the main activities were directed to research tests for mentally ill people or to develop assistance programs for school activities. Even then, the laboratories fulfilled the mission of fomenting research, forming researchers, and offering psychology services. The laboratory in Sao Paulo, later reactivated by Manuel Bergström Lourenço Filho (1897–1970), later became the base for courses in educational psychology and general psychology at the University of Sao Paulo (Pessotti, 1975). The laboratory in Engenho de Dentro became the base for the creation of the Institute of Psychology, currently part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Centofanti, 1982). The laboratory in Belo Horizonte contributed to the training of professors who later started to teach psychology at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Pessotti, 1975).

Manoel Bomfim was never a great enthusiast of experimental psychology and neither was Nilton Campos (1898–1963), one of Radecki’s successors and later director of the Institute of Psychology in Rio de Janeiro. This fact perhaps explains the slow development of experimental psychology in Brazil, but it does not mean that those pioneers were not interested in research. Bomfim was to develop a psychological theory that highlighted the importance of language in the mediation between social-cultural influences and individual awareness, which anticipated the concepts that would come to be treated by authors Jean Piaget (1896–1980) and Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934) (Antunes, 1999). Nilton Campos was the first professional to dedicate himself entirely to psychology in Brazil, focusing mainly on the methodological aspects of research (Cabral, 1950). Psychological practice seemed to penetrate Brazil hand in hand with research, although an institution dedicated to the training of psychologists was still lacking.

From Research to Application

Radecki, in 1932, tried to transform the laboratory of experimental psychology into an Institute of Psychology by transferring its activities from a distant suburb of Engenho de Dentro to a more central area in the city of Rio de Janeiro. However, the project did not prosper due to budget issues (Penna, 1985). Centofanti (1982) stated, however, that other causes contributed to the failure of the project: opposition by Catholic groups and opposition by influential psychiatrists who were against the professionalization of psychology in the country.

Those interested in the formation and training of psychologists would have to wait for several years for courses to be organized and dedicated to the field. In this period, research would provide support to the practice, with some groups turning to educational and learning issues, others to offering clinical assistance, and a few others to the field of industry, work, organization, and selection of personnel.

The necessity for developing efficient methods for education and a belief in education as a base for a democratic society provided great incentive to research psychological testing. In 1924, Medeiros and Albuquerque (1867–1934) published a widely debated book on tests, strengthening the discussion on educational reform in Brazil (Lourenço Filho, 1955). In 1925, in Recife, Ulisses Pernambucano (1892–1943) created an Institute of Psychology within the Department of Health and Assistance of the State of Pernambuco. The Institute was mostly devoted to research and the application of psychological measurements (Medeiros, 2001). The research developed by Pernambucano and collaborators, and listed by Medeiros, included Pernambucano reviewed the Medric Binet-Simon-Terman scale and published articles such as “Test of the Standardization of Columbia Test”; “Psycho Technical Study of Some Aptitude Tests”; and “Alfa Test and Florence Goodnough’s Design Test.” In 1928, in Salvador, Isaias Alves (1888–1968), influenced by Medeiros and Albuquerque, provided the beginnings of studies on psychological measurements and, in 1928, published the book Individual Intelligence Test. (p. 40) Between 1925 and 1932, Lourenço Filho developed his research on reading and writing in the laboratory of the Normal School of the State of Sao Paulo and developed the ABC test, which is utilized in several countries in Latin America (Lourenço Filho, 1927/1971).

At the same time, some professors of educational psychology led the educational reforms that occurred in the 1920s in some Brazilian states. This reform movement included the normal school reform by Sampaio Dória (1883–1964) in Sao Paulo in 1920; the general reform of education by Lourenço Filho between 1922 and 1924, in Ceara; and the reform of primary teaching by Fernando Azevedo (1894–1974), between 1927 and 1930, in the Federal District. These reforms culminated in changes being introduced by Anísio Teixeira (1900–1971) in the Federal District, between 1932 and 1935, in primary and secondary schools, and in adult education. Teixeira was inspired by the New School, a theory based on works by psychologists like Claparède and Dewey (see Lourenço Filho, 1930/2002). Teixeira even created a municipal university inspired by the spirit of German universities—the University of the Federal District—that unfortunately lasted for only 4 years. It was suffocated by Catholic groups and private schools. Teixeira transformed the Normal School of the Federal District into the Institute of Education and organized a course for professor specialization and improvement, also instituting tests services and school measurements. For the course on educational psychology, Teixeira invited Lourenço Filho; and, for the head of tests services and school measurements, Isaias Alves, a former student of Edward L. Thorndike (1874–1949). Anísio Teixeira was a disciple and scholar of the educational psychology of John Dewey, with whom he studied in the United States. Researchers in psychology started to influence the practice through important administrative functions. In the educational field, Lourenço Filho was invited by the Ministry of Education to implement the National Institute of Pedagogical Studies (NIPS) in 1938. Thus, reforms in education, although part of practice, furthered research in psychology. Critical pedagogy scholars would describe this phase as the peak of “psychologism” in education (Freire, 1970).

In the clinical psychology field, by the initiative of the Brazilian League of Mental Hygiene, created in 1922, offices of psychology were instituted together with psychiatrist clinics (Lourenço Filho, 1955). Our historians, however, highlighted only one clinic of child orientation in Sao Paulo, that founded in 1938 and headed by Durval Marcondes (1899–1981). The antecedents of that clinic came from a study group of physicians, educators, and engineers from the Institute of Hygiene in Sao Paulo, formed in 1926. Marcondes was the first physician to practice psychoanalysis in Sao Paulo. In the same way, Helana Antipoff left the laboratory of Minas Gerais to direct the Center of Youth Orientation in Rio de Janeiro, together with the National Child Department. Applied psychology was also appearing in other states. In Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil, psychological practice was originated by the psychiatrist Décio de Souza (1907–1970), based on his research (Souza, 1945) and the training he obtained in the United States (Gomes, Lhullier, & Leite, 1999). Research and practice continued to walk together.

Applied psychology in work situations followed economic progress and social transformations in great urban centers (Cabral, 1950). As in other parts of the world, such applications were undertaken by nonpsychologists and without much knowledge of psychological theory. In Brazil, Roberto Mange (1885–1955), a Swiss engineer, was in charge of introducing methods for the rationalization of work and psychological tests in the selection of students for a technical school. However, the relation between practice and research in this field was stimulated by Henri Piéron’s visits (1881–1964) who, in 1927, taught courses on experimental psychology and psychotechnics at the Normal School in Sao Paulo; and by Léon Walther who, in 1929, taught courses on psychology as applied to industry. The evidence of the relation between research and practice is clearly seen in a project that resulted from these visits: the creation of an institute of scientific work organization. The project did not prosper, but later the Institute of the Rational Work Organization (IRWO) was created with similar objectives. These applications in Sao Paulo permitted the development of research and professional training for this field. Psychological techniques were being widely used also in services for railroad personnel in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

In Rio, Radecki’s laboratory participated in the selection of pilots for the Army Air Service, and in 1936, the Administrative Department of Public Service started to utilize psychological tests. However, the consolidation of research and training in the field came with the creation of the Institute of Selection and Professional Orientation (ISPO) of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1947. The first main organizer and director was the experienced professional and scientist Emilio (p. 41) Mira y López (1896–1964) (Penna, 1985; Rosas, 1995).

In this period, psychology began to be taught at the university. The University of Sao Paulo was created in 1934, and it was the first in Brazil to follow German Wilhelm von Humbolt’s (1767–1835) model of higher education: a university based on the principle of free and universal education, combining both teaching and research. The next, in 1935, was the University of the Federal District, also a research institution. The University of the Federal District had a short life (only 4 years), and was incorporated by the University of Brazil, which was mainly an aggregation of the higher-education institutions in Rio de Janeiro. The country was not ready for academic freedom. However, the University of São Paulo became the most important higher-education institution in Brazil because of the incentives it received from the state of São Paulo. Both universities had professors who came from France. In Rio de Janeiro, psychology was taught by the Belgian physician André Ombredane (1858–1958), a former assistant of George Dumas, and specialized in medical psychology. In Sao Paulo, psychology was taught, from 1935 to 1944, by Jean Maugüé (1904–1985). He was interested in the basic topics of psychology in affect, perception, memory, and personality, but he was critical of experimental psychology and did not encourage this area of inquiry. He was succeeded by the American social psychologist Otto Klineberg (1899–1992), who arrived in 1947 and radically changed the direction of the program. Maugüé was a celebrated monological lecturer who impressed his students with the depth of his presentations. In contrast, Klineberg was more participative, motivating students to question and discuss. He organized a sequence of courses in which students could address the different topics, in the following order: experimental psychology, theories and systems, social psychology, differential psychology, personality, and psychopathology (Cabral, 1950; Klineberg, 1975).

The inclusion of psychology in the curriculum of the bachelor degree and teaching licensure in philosophy contributed to the training of psychologists in the 1940s and 1950s (Gomes, Lhullier, & Leite, 1999). The students were so interested in psychology that some programs offered internship practice in hospitals, as was the case at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. Paradoxically, the university seems to have collaborated more intensely in the development of psychology as a practical ability, than as a field of empirical experimentation and investigation. The universities did not have resources to invest in equipment, and the old laboratories transferred to them were not renovated.

Aniela Ginsberg (1902–1986) presented an interesting indicator of the quality of research undertaken by Brazilian psychologists at the beginning of the 1950s in a commemorative edition of the Report of Psychology from the Society of Psychology of Sao Paulo, in 1975. Ginsberg described a conference held in Curitiba, in 1953, The First Brazilian Congress of Psychology, and financed by the state of Parana. Ginsberg (1975, p. 82) said:

The government of the state offered to each active participant (that presented a paper) the transportation ticket and free hosting, which increased the number but not the average level of the communications, although facilitating the contacts among psychologists from different states. Some good papers, though, appeared and almost all active psychologists at this time attended the conference.

We may infer from the report that the number of psychologists was increasing, but not the amount and quality of research. Therefore, the event was important for planning and for putting into motion the necessary political programs for the recognition of the profession and the creation of graduate programs. Ginsberg (1954) presented a detailed report about the event. In the 1950s, psychological training initially was offered in postgraduate courses at the specialization level.

Professional Psychology Made Official

Discussions about regulation of the psychological profession had taken place in the Brazilian Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC; Society for the Advancement of Science) meetings during the 1940s and 1950s (Pfromm Neto, 19791981). One landmark in that period was the establishment of the Associação Brasileira de Psicologia (ABP; Brazilian Association of Psychology) in 1954, by initiative of Annita de Castilho Marcondes Cabral (1911–1991) of the Universidade de Sao Paulo. The first president was Carolina Martuscelli Bori (1924–2004), a behavioral psychologist from the same university. The ABP did not have a long life, practically disappearing during the 1970s.

Debates at SBPC and ABP fostered a movement toward the recognition of psychology as a profession and concurred with the establishment of a workgroup that proposed a law to provide its official regulation. (p. 42) This workgroup was formed by Professors Lourenço Filho (Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Rio de Janeiro), Carolina Bori (University of Sao Paulo), Father Antonius Benko (Pontificial Catholic University, Rio de Janeiro), Enzo Azzi (Pontificial Catholic University, São Paulo), and Pedro Parafita de Bessa (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte). It is noteworthy that all of them were working in Brazil’s southeastern state capitals. The southeast has been the country’s most economically developed region as a result of gold and diamond exploration in Minas Gerais since the 18th century; the establishment of Rio de Janeiro as the capital and home for the royal family in the 19th century (although that would change with the inauguration of Brasilia in 1960); and São Paulo as the main coffee producing center, as well as the country’s first center of industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As with the economy, the most renowned universities of the period were centralized in that region, although other regional centers, such as Recife, in the northeast, and Porto Alegre, in the south, were home to considerable developments in psychological science and application.

From the efforts of the work group, a first version of the bill came about in 1958 (Lourenço Filho, 1971). After further discussions and revisions, led by the ABP and other experts mainly from Sao Paulo, on August 27, 1962, Federal Law No. 4119 recognized the profession of psychologist in Brazil. It stated that psychology programs were to be hosted by the College of Philosophy, at that time, a kind of liberal arts and sciences university entity that offered a bachelor’s degree and teacher’s licensure. The bachelor’s degree was planned for training on research skills. The teacher’s licensure included a supervised teaching practice, mainly for the high school level. The first two diplomas were granted after a minimum of 3.5 years of training. However, in the case of psychology, a new kind of degree was created: the professional licensure. This degree allowed its holder to teach; to do psychological assessment, professional orientation, and selection; to perform psychopedagogical orientation; and to treat adjustment problems. Training normally took at least 4.5 years but, until now, was typically done in 5 years. The degree included a mandatory internship, or supervised practice period, which in most cases would encompass or be a choice among the already traditional applied areas of industrial, clinical, and school psychology. The original curriculum for all psychology programs in Brazil included the following mandatory subject matters: physiology, statistics, general and experimental psychology, developmental psychology, personality psychology, social psychology, general psychopathology, psychological assessment and counseling techniques, and professional ethics. Elective topics included group dynamics and human relations, psychotherapeutic theories and techniques, and industrial psychology. Thus, professional psychology training conformed to Brazilian higher-education tradition in offering a professional education, like medical, law, or engineering, immediately after secondary education or high school. The concept of master’s and doctoral degrees as programs with proper curricula, specific requirements, and a qualifying exam based on a research proposal for a master’s or doctoral thesis or dissertation, was yet to come.

Although the profession was regulated only in 1962, many professionals held specialist diplomas in psychology from programs that had existed since the 1940s and 1950s, and had been practicing psychology long before the first psychologists trained under the new legislation would graduate. Those specialists, as well as other professionals who had been working as psychologists, had to submit to an accreditation process overseen by the National Secretary of Education. Further regulation of the psychology profession led to the establishment of a Federal Council and Regional Councils of Psychology in 1971. These councils oversaw the accreditation process, which in Brazil is very simple: It is only requires that the candidate present a psychologist’s degree obtained from an accredited program.

The types of degrees and internship requirements have not changed significantly for many years. Only recently have new areas and approaches to internship emerged, and curriculum adaptations to social and regional demands were implemented because of new curricular guidelines released in 2000. These guidelines extinguished the bachelor’s degree in psychology, replacing it with a psychology teacher’s licensure and the degree of psychologist that allows professionals to register with the Councils of Psychologists and receive a license to work. The professional program actually requires much more work than an American undergraduate program, and it is similar to a master’s degree from a U.S. university. It is strongly oriented to practice, with an emphasis on internship. The objective is that students should get a considerable overview of the field and general practice in different areas.

Professional Training: Vicissitudes of a Rapid Expansion

In the beginning, the prospects for the development of a psychological profession in Brazil seemed (p. 43) positive (Figueiredo & Seminério, 1973). There were a large variety of research practices, the application contexts were increasing with the country’s industrialization and educational reforms, and a mass of prospective students was eager to practice the new profession. Last, but not least, most of the same group who conducted research was responsible for the applied psychology services in industries and schools, and they were teaching and supervising licensed professionals as well as psychology students. The path was one that led to a positive combination between research and practice. However, reality led psychological training in Brazil to follow a less positive agenda.

The concern with a good training in psychology, which could contemplate a bond between teaching and research, was present in the first programs in psychology. It was greater or smaller, depending on the conditions of the development of the university in the region. However, the immediate and overpowering expansion of offering programs compromised the relation between teaching and research. There were three programs in 1962, 40 in 1974, 73 in 1984, and 111 in 1996, and over 400 at present. Few universities followed the example of pioneering institutions in searching for the guidance of foreigner professors. Most institutions counted on the collaboration of religious orders, professionals from similar fields, or professionals interested in psychology to start these programs. The tradition of the professional school model became dominant, and research was disappearing not from the curriculum, but from the classroom.

A broad description of psychology developments in Brazil during the 1970s was presented by Osvaldo de Barros Santos (1918–1998) in a symposium sponsored by the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science, in Brasilia. Santos’ presentation was published the following year in Revista Psico of the Pontiphical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (Santos, 1977). The author revealed that, on December 31, 1975, there were 4,951 licensed psychologists and 61 professional psychology training programs with 8,795 students. Table 3.1 shows the specialties declared by the professionals (professionals could list more than one specialty). The information is incomplete, but very elucidative of the development of professional psychology in Brazil at that time.

Due to a subset of factors apparently peculiar to Brazil’s intellectual training and mainstream educational philosophy, the theoretical and doctrinaire emphasis prevailed in the consolidation of psychology teaching in Brazil (Matos, 1988). The theoretical emphasis was associated with a trend to accept and legitimize psychology´s professional practices by affiliation to a psychological doctrine (psychoanalysis, humanism, or even behaviorism). There was little concern to assess or verify empirically the efficacy or effectiveness of such practices (Langenbach & Negreiros, 1988). This is also true even in the field of psychological testing, which has a long tradition of research in the country (psychological tests were the first tools of applied psychology in Brazil). Psychological assessment occupied an important share of the curricula in the 1960s and 1970s, but decreased considerably in the 1980s. From a total of 146 tests commercialized in Brazil in 1999 by 11 editors, only 28.8% of these instruments reported reliability, validity, and normative studies in their manuals (Noronha, Primi, & Alchieri, 2004). Fortunately, in 2003, the Brazilian Council of Psychology initiated a program to evaluate the status of the psychological tests that were being used in Brazil. The Council maintains online4 a list of tests that present good psychometric characteristics and that can be used by psychologist.

Table 3.1 Distribution of professional specialties of psychologists




Clinical Psychology



Organizational Psychology



Teaching Psychology



Educational Psychology



Psychological Assessment



Social Psychology



Experimental Psychology






Other Areas






In the 1980s, concern for the social needs of the country and the commitment of the society to re-establish democratic order also seemed to have interfered in the relation among teaching, research, and practice (Gomes, 2003, 1996). Social activism, often considered a red flag, determined scientific production for a given reason. Such impacts were well succeeded in the social activism, but confused the relation between tradition, theoretical trends (p. 44) that promised social change and defense of human rights (e.g., critical theory, feminist theory, psychosociology), and alternative methodological approaches (e.g., qualitative methods, participatory action research, ethnomethodologies). At the same time, a clash arose between the quantitative research associated with the evils of capitalism and the qualitative research associated with subjectivity and social justice. These critical factors led to social psychology being replaced by a critical-historical social theory. The constraint in identifying it with the social psychology or with quantitative research in general was fairly strong during the 1980s and 1990s, when many colleagues preferred exchanging the research field for other fields, from traditional social psychology to other areas. Fortunately, these fields seem to be reappearing in the country today.

At the same time, teaching suffered because of the lack of qualified professors, and from a lack of basic infrastructure as such laboratories, study and research rooms, and libraries (Gomes, 1996). In addition, many professors neglected to assess students, considering such practices inefficient and unnecessary (Gomes, 2003). Throughout this period, a remnant of the liberal educational trends of the 1970s, an influence of humanistic pedagogy, was transformed into radical permissiveness. In the 1990s, with the growing number of master’s and doctoral programs offered this general situation started to change.

Master’s Degree and Doctoral Programs

Brazil’s higher-education system is historically made up of professional schools, which are considered graduate level institutions. There is no undergraduate concept. Therefore, graduate programs came immediately after secondary education, offered within a professional school. The first professional programs in psychology were organized at the end of the 1950s and in the early 1960s. Soon after, master’s degree programs emerged as “postgraduate level” education. The first master’s program inaugurated in Brazil was in clinical psychology, in 1966, at the Pontiphical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Following it, in 1970, was experimental psychology, in the school of psychology and human development at the University of Sao Paulo. The University of Sao Paulo also offered the first doctoral degree program in experimental and school psychology in 1974. The current configuration of the graduate programs results from the last major reform of higher education in Brazil, implemented between the late 1960s and early 1970s (Gauer & Gomes, 2002). Main consequences of the reform were the adoption by federal universities of the departmental structure and stimulus plans for full-time professorship. For postgraduate education, the reform defined the master´s and doctoral courses and their respective degrees as the standard for stricto sensu international graduate studies, which requires the completion of a master’s thesis and a doctoral dissertation. Note that, in Brazil, the term thesis is for comprehensive work at the doctoral level, and for a dissertation at the master’s level.

The expansion of the master’s and doctoral programs in Brazil was associated with the development of two federal government agencies: Coordenação para o Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Ensino Superior (Foundation for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel Coordination for Improvement of Higher Education Personnel - CAPES), and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (National Council for Research and Development - CNPq). The two agencies, founded in 1951, have played an important role in the qualification of higher-education teaching and research. The agencies started an ambitious line of scholarship financing to send students abroad to obtain master´s and doctoral degrees. The first impact of this effort was restricted to some selected universities from the most developed regions of the country. Conceptual issues about graduate programs and the role of science and technology also limited the impact of these early programs. The curriculum framework was not properly clarified to bring a comprehensive view of the field and to increment a systematic training in research methods. In general, these programs were made up of different courses based on the doctoral dissertations of the faculty. Thus, the courses pertaining to the curriculum of a program were not necessarily related to each other. At that time, this curricular situation was defined as a “patchwork quilt.” There was, however, a deficiency of instrumentation, accentuated by a lack of definition of research lines. Even so, some good results were produced by these programs in the training of creative and productive researchers, and that was important for the reforms introduced subsequently. However, there was a clear concentration of research in a few centers of excellence and a loss of interest in research in most professional programs in psychology. Even today, there are not enough doctors in psychology to attend to the demands of several regions of the country.

Fortunately, the growth and changes in master’s and doctoral programs have had a positive effect on the relationship between teaching and research so far. (p. 45) Examples were the cognitive psychology course at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, created in 1976, and the development psychology course at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, founded in 1988. These two programs could be characterized by a small number of faculty members; a well-clarified curriculum, combining research techniques with statistics and qualitative methods; lines of research that are clearly defined to explore and advance specific areas, such as cognition or topics in development psychology; and an emphasis on faculty continuing education and publication requirements. Also, they reinforced the importance of the relationship for students of in the five initial years of professional training (a graduate program in Brazilian terms) with the master’s and doctoral programs (postgraduate programs) through research. The postgraduate programs usually have the means to finance the participation of graduate students in research groups with master’s degree and doctoral students.

General Organization of Psychology in Brazil

As mentioned before, professional psychological practice in Brazil is supervised by the Federal Council of Psychology and the 17 administratively and financially autonomous regional councils. The functions of the councils include determining the orientation of the field, serving a disciplinary role, monitoring professional practice, and promulgating ethical principles. The first ethics code was released in 1975. The Federal Council also functions as a court of professional ethics and acts as a consultative agency in matters relating to psychology. The regional councils have analogous functions, and they actually register all psychologists who work in their respective regions. University professors and researchers do not need to register unless they teach practical subjects or supervise students in applied settings.

The academic and scientific activities are coordinated by psychological societies and associations. In fact, these organizations played an important role in professional regulation and the establishment of the Federal Council. Three of these associations should be mentioned: the psychological societies of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul, and the Brazilian Association of Psychology in Rio de Janeiro. After the professional consolidation, these organizations organized conferences and workshops around the country. As mentioned already, the first Brazilian association did not have a long life; the states societies still exist, but they have become professional associations with little interest in research and placing more emphasis on clinical discussions. The first society that had an important function in the development of psychological science after the regulation of the profession was a regional society in the city of Ribeirão Preto, in the state of Sao Paulo. This society was organized in 1971 with a regional coverage but became the most important outlet for scientific discussion and the clarification of psychological science. In 1992, the regional society was officially transformed into a national society, the Brazilian Society of Psychology. However, this association was organized in such a way that the original group from Ribeirão Preto held all the power and acted in such a way that prevented it from becoming a truly national society. Thus, several groups that could have developed divisions (like those of the American Psychological Association [APA]) had no other choice but to create specific scientific societies in several fields such as psychological assessment, social psychology, organizational psychology, educational psychology, and others. The Brazilian Society still exists but could not continue publishing a journal, and its meetings are attended by less than 1,000 participants. Many specific area societies organize meeting that attract from 1,000 to 4,000 participants.

The fight for the work rights of psychologists is carried by the unions. These organizations are not very strong in Brazil because most psychologists work as autonomous professionals and are not employed by private organizations. Psychologists who work for public organizations (city, state, or federal) belong to specific unions.

Psychology Journals in Brazil

The first serial publication in psychology in Brazil, Arquivos Brasileiros de Psicotécnica (Brazilian Archives of Psychotechnique), started in 1949, edited by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro. Later, it was renamed Arquivos Brasileiros de Psicologia Aplicada (Brazilian Archives of Applied Psychology), and it was the most important psychological journal in Brazil. Today, more than 80 journals are dedicated to psychology in Brazil. Some of them publish also in English and Spanish, and some accept submissions only in English. Differently from most countries, university departments have historically edited most Brazilian psychology journals. Few publications come from scientific societies, but this trend is growing, as we will see in the next section. Because university departments usually encompass professors and laboratories from several fields of (p. 46) psychology, most journals tend to be of a general scope. In a single issue of a major Brazilian psychology journal, one might find an experimental pharmacological trial with rats, a psychoanalytic case study, and a theoretical essay.

In the last decade, a system was developed to evaluate psychology journals.5 A national commission, whose members were nominated by CAPES and ANPEPP started to evaluate Brazilian psychology journals. This system has helped improve the editorial process of many journals, and also has helped to index them in several data banks, which is important in the retrieval of information. The journals assessment is also used to evaluate postgraduate program scientific production as well as to evaluate researchers. Agencies will usually take into account the number of publications and the evaluation of the journals in which they appear when making decisions about grants. The journal evaluation commission had a tremendous impact on the field, improving the quality of articles and publications. The next evaluation will comparatively analyze Brazilian and foreign periodicals. Each journal will receive a rank and be classified according to several criteria (mostly indexed articles and impact). The Brazilian psychology journals may be accessed freely from two websites: Scielo (Scientific Electronic Library Online6), a Brazilian service that includes journals from major Latin American countries, Portugal, and Spain; and PEPsic (Electronic Psychology Journals7), a service offered by the Brazilian Council of Psychology. PEPsic also includes collections of thesis and dissertations.

Theoretical Affinities

An overview of the history and the present situation of psychology in Brazil would be incomplete without an analysis of the theoretical affinities of different groups of professionals and researchers. Brazilian psychology, both scientific and professional, seems to be at a turning point, moving from an age of schools to a period of specialized maturity. This trend is relatively late when compared to more mature psychological communities, such as that found in the United States. It is characterized as a movement from all-encompassing theories and systems guidance of training, research, and practice, toward a more pragmatically oriented, specialized, and diversified (although not theory-free nor necessarily eclectic) approach to scientific psychology. The identification of that movement is corroborated by the creation of subdiscipline associations and periodicals. In line with that interpretation, the following is an attempt to describe the current status of some of the theoretical approaches to psychology predominant from the 1960s to the 1980s, and a preliminary appraisal of the major areas of interest of Brazilian psychologists as reflected by their societies and periodicals.

Brazilian society has generally taken psychotherapy to be synonymous with psychoanalysis. This may be confirmed at any time in the media, where psychoanalysts are the favorite guests in debates on any subject connected with mental health or even contemporary trends in people’s social behavior. There is also a traditional confusion between psychology and psychotherapy, which has led psychology in Brazil to be understood by the general public as psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

Whatever semantic confusions the general public embraces, they are not devoid of historical reasons that emerged from the academic context. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, many philosophers, educators, and doctors, in the spirit of the times of the early 20th century, brought psychoanalysis into the university as the comprehensive theory of psychology. The curricula of the nascent professional discipline of psychology often came to be mainly psychoanalytic, since those same scholars had been involved in their planning. That happened both through these scholars directly working on psychology curriculum projects, and indirectly, through their students’ work.

Despite the possible impact from the behaviorist approach represented by Sao Paulo scholars, who were actively involved in regulating the profession (see previous sections on professional regulation), psychoanalysis still prevailed as the dominating approach. Even so, psychologists encountered some restrictions to receiving psychoanalytical training. For a long time, some psychoanalytical societies accepted only physicians. That situation began to change thanks to the Lacanian movement. Through Argentina and France, the ideas of Jacques Lacan (1901–1981) influenced Brazilian psychoanalysis from the early 1970s onward. One main tenet of that approach was the opening of the psychoanalytic field to other professionals, not just medical doctors, and psychologists were the most interested of them all. Presently, psychoanalytic training, even in traditional societies, is done mainly by psychologists. Psychiatrists are shifting to pharmacological treatments and to cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Today, although many psychology curricula still have numerous psychoanalytic courses, psychoanalysis is seldom the only, or even the prevalent theoretical orientation. As with other major theoretical (p. 47) approaches emphasized in the 20th century, it seems to have a relatively large, but somewhat stagnated community within psychology. There are some graduate courses of psychoanalytic orientation in Brazil, and most of their production is theoretical, rather than applied. An example is the journal Ágora: Studies on Psychoanalytical Theory, an online publication, accessible in Scielo (

The behaviorist movement in Brazilian psychology has its origins with Fred S. Keller’s (1899–1996) visit to the Universidade de Sao Paulo and to the Universidade de Brasília, to help the planning and development of laboratories and courses (Keller, 1975). In fact, whereas most psychology courses in Brazil were psychoanalytic, the others were predominantly behavioristic in their orientation. However, the expansion of a behavioristic movement in Brazil seems to have been circumscribed to those two universities visited by Keller and to the circle of influence of their faculty. Behaviorism has a relatively small, but stable academic community. A few other universities came to that orientation through the influence of faculty trained or supervised at those institutions visited by Keller. Examples of that trend are to be found both in the north, such as at the Federal University of Para at Belem, and in the south, in two state universities of Parana, at Maringa and Londrina. The behaviorists are represented in Brazil by the Brazilian Association for Psychotherapy and Medical Behaviorism, founded in 1991. This society publishes a journal, the Brazilian Journal of Behavior Analysis that is supported by the postgraduate programs that offer training in the area.

One important trend currently influencing the field of behaviorism in Brazil is cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. Whereas behavioral therapies were never predominant due to a number of reasons—including the popularity of psychoanalysis and misguided political and ideological conceptions that labeled them as right-wing instruments of oppression—cognitive-behavioral therapies have considerable influence in the last one or two decades. This approach is represented by the Federal Brasileira de Terapias Cognitivas (Brazilian Federation of Cognitive Therapies) and by the journal Revista Brasileira de Terapia Comportamental e Cogntiva, created in 1999 (available on line at PEPsic -

Humanism received a great deal of attention from the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Carl Rogers (1902–1987) visited Brazil in 1977, 1978, and 1985 for workshops on his client-centered approach (Gomes, Holanda, & Gauer, 2004). Pierre Weil (1924–2008), who introduced humanistic and transpersonal approaches to the country starting in the late 1960s, moved to Brazil and became professor of the Federal University of Minas Gerais at Belo Horizonte. Presently, there are a few established graduate-level research centers and a small number of clinics of humanistic orientation throughout the country. However, humanism in Brazil presents much the same trend as behaviorism, best characterized as maintained by a relatively small but stable community of research and application. An example of this movement is the publication Revista da Abordagem Gestáltica, created in 1994, accessible by PEPsic (

Social psychology mostly dominated by the historic-critical approach constituted a strong movement and specialty organization in Brazil. This orientation attracts a considerable number of psychologists and faculty around the country, and they have a biannual meeting that is attended by up to 4,000 participants. They also have a very active society, the Associação Brasileira de Psicologia Social (ABRAPSO; the Brazilian Social Psychology Association), organized in 1980, and they publish the journal Psychology and Society. The journal’s articles highlight research and theory at the interface of psychology and society, taking a posture toward social psychology that is critical, transformative, and interdisciplinary. Along with social psychology, there is a growing interest for community interventions, institutional analysis, feminist studies, political psychology, and subjectivity.

In health psychology, three different movements can be identified: collective health that brings psychologists to an interdisciplinary discussion about public policy for the health–illness care process; health psychology, a growing field of application and employment for psychologists, mainly by state agencies; and hospital psychology, a specialty that has been developing in Brazil since the 1950s and that has a notable appeal for students and newly graduated professionals. Hospital psychology seems to be a Brazilian peculiarity; it is a specialty that prepares psychologists to work in hospital environments. These fields do not have clear theoretical affiliations. Collective health and health psychology follow the general psychological view of Brazilian social psychology. Hospital psychology uses either a psychodynamic or even a cognitive-behavioral approach. One outlet for the research in this area is the journal Psicologia Hospitalar, created in 2001.

The new areas of neuroscience, neuropsychology, and neuropsychological evaluation have attracted the attention of Brazilian psychologists. In 2005, (p. 48) an interdisciplinary conference was organized to present and discuss research about the interface between brain and mind, the Brazilian Conference on Brain, Behavior, and Emotions. The meeting has gathered professionals from psychology, medicine, pharmacology, and basic researchers on physiology and biochemistry. This event is already on its fourth edition.

Future Directions

A possible sign of maturity of the discipline is the growing specialization and diversification of areas of research and application. One such indicator is the change from general psychology periodicals to specialized ones. That accompanies another movement, which is the creation of numerous scientific societies, also specialized in those areas, as seen in Table 3.2. Psychological testing has regained attention. There is a postgraduate program entirely dedicated to psychometrics and psychological assessment at the University of San Francisco–Itatiba, Sao Paulo, and a national association (the Brazilian Institute for Psychological Assessment [IBAP], that publishes the journal Avaliação Psicológica (Psychological Assessment, and organizes a biennial meeting that attracts researchers from all over Brazil, Portugal, Spain, and several other Latin American countries. Research in neuropsychology has been conducted by departments, particularly, biochemistry and physiology. However, there is a well evaluated postgraduate program in psychology at the University of Sao Paulo dedicated to biopsychology. Neuroscience also has become an important field, and there is a growing interest in neuropsychological assessment.

Psychology is a strong profession in Brazil and a developing science (Hutz, McCarthy, & Gomes, 2005). There are more than 160,000 licensed (p. 49) psychologists in Brazil. Until a few years ago, young psychologists had a higher income than most professionals working in health or social care who had comparable years of education and training (social workers, nurses, public school teachers), although this is not true today. Also noteworthy is the fact that Brazilian psychologists are underpaid when compared to their colleagues in the United States and Europe. Most psychologists in Brazil work for about $US20 (or even less) per hour. However, the number of psychologists will keep growing over the next years.

Table 3.2 Psychological subdisciplines with scientific and professional societies and specialized periodicals in Brazil





First volume

Social Psychology

ABRAPSO: Associação Brasileira de Psicologia Social


Psicologia e Sociedade



SBNp: Sociedade Brasileira de Neuropsicologia


School and Educational Psychology

ABRAPEE: Associação Brasileira de Psicologia Escolar e Educacional


Psicologia Escolar e Educacional


Professional Counseling

ABOP: Associação Brasileira de Orientação Profissional


Revista Brasileira de Orientação Profissional


Hospital Psychology

SBPH: Sociedade Brasileira de Psicologia Hospitalar


Revista da SBPH


Psychological Assessment

IBAP: Instituto Brasileiro de Avaliação Psicológica


Avaliação Psicológica


Developmental Psychology

SBPD: Sociedade Brasileira de Psicologia do Desenvolvimento


Organizational Psychology

SBPOT: Sociedade Brasileira de Psicologia Organizacional e do Trabalho


Psicologia: Organizações e trabalho


Political Psychology

ABPP: Associação Brasileira de Psicologia Política


Psicologia Política


Health Psychology

ABPSA: Associação Brasileira de Psicologia da Saúde


Mudanças: Psicologia da Saúde


Cognitive Therapy

FBTC: Federal Brasileira de Teorias Cognitivas


Revista Brasileira de Terapias Cognitivas


An important and rapid development of research has been observed in the last decade, and the offer of postgraduate training will continue to rise over the next decade. A possible new trend is the offering of professional postgraduate programs for improvement of the applied services. In fact, the social arena has attracted a great deal of attention in the last decades. Many students will prefer to work for nongovernmental agencies in poor neighborhoods than for multinational corporations. Therefore, training programs to work with community psychology, youth and families, ecological development, and populations at risk will be on the rise in popularity over the next years.

Perspectives are that psychology will continue to capture the attention of the media and raise the interest of young students in years to come. Large national and regional meetings will attract more students, professionals, faculty, and researchers. The national system to fund research and student training has been growing every year and apparently will continue to increase the amount of grants available in the foreseeable future.


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                                                                                                        (1.) Darwin`s Beagle Diary (1831–1836), see The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online transcribed by Kees Rookmeaker from the facsimile published by Genesis Publications, 1979, Edited by John van Wyhe.

                                                                                                        (2.) Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de Condillac (1714–1780).

                                                                                                        (3.) François-Pierre-Gothier Maine de Biran (1766–1824).

                                                                                                        (4.) For the status of psychological tests in Brazil, see Sistema de Avaliação de Testes Psicológicos (SATEPSI),