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An Example of a Phrenology Head

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An Example of a Phrenology Head
Phrenology head
Image from Webster’s Dictionary circa 1900

During the late 1700s, a physician names Frances Gall proposed that the bumps on a person's head could be linked to their intellectual faculties and personality. While this is now viewed entirely as pseudoscience, phrenology actually became quite popular for a time.

In an edition of Webster's Dictionary dated circa 1900, phrenology was defined as:

"1. Science of the special functions of the several parts of the brain, or of the supposed connection between the faculties of the mind and the organs in the brain. 2. Physiological hypothesis that mental faculties, and traits of character, are shown on the surface of the head or skull; craniology."

The phrenology head seen above shows 35 different regions of the head, which were linked to the faculties listed below:

  1. Amativeness

  2. Philoprogenitiveness

  3. Conentrativeness; structiveness

  4. Adhesiveness

  5. Combativeness

  6. Destructiveness

  7. Secretiveness

  8. Acquisitiveness

  9. Constructiveness

  10. Self-esteem

  11. Love of Approbation

  12. Cautiousness

  13. Benevolence

  14. Veneration

  15. Firmness

  16. Conscientiousness

  17. Hope

  18. Wonder

  19. Ideality

  20. Wit

  21. Imitation

  22. Individuality

  23. Form

  24. Size

  25. Weight

  26. Coloring

  27. Locality

  28. Number

  29. Order

  30. Eventuality

  31. Time

  32. Tune

  33. Language

  34. Comparison

  35. Causality

During a skull reading, a phrenologist would carefully feel the individual's head and make note of bumps and indentations. The phrenologist would compare these findings to that of a phrenology bust in order to determine what the surface of the skull had to say about the individual's natural aptitudes, character, and tendencies.

Obviously, while phrenology heads and charts can be a fun and interesting way to look at a curious chapter in psychology's history, they are not something to be taken seriously. Scientists discredited phrenology by the mid-1800s, although phrenology readings continued to have moments of popularity during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, phrenology is regarded as a pseudoscience along the same lines as palm reading and astrology.

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