Development of Psychology in Pakistan by Prof. Abdul Hayee Alvi

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Abdul_Hayee_Alvi_1BEFORE PAKISTAN:

The students of Psychology are no doubt aware of the fact that Psychology as an independent system emerged from Philosophy toward the end of the 19th century. However, Psychology as the study of the Spirit or Soul or as the knowledge of the Mind is as old as its mother discipline, the Philosophy. The Muslim Philosophers had in the past, made significant contributions to this field of knowledge. Even in India articles of Psychological interest were published in Urdu magazines like “Deccan Review” in 1903 and “Makhzan” (Lahore) in 1908.

Luckily, Psychology as an empirical and experimental discipline grew up in a very favorable environment. The first department of Psychology in India was established in 1916 at the University of Calcutta. The University of the Punjab had this department in 1925. The same year the Indian Psychological Association was officially announced. Psychology as a part of Philosophy was already introduced, in the Punjab, both at the Intermediate and B.A. level. Titchner’s Primer and Woodworth’s Mental Life, or Stont’s Manual, were the recommended texts. The general trend at that time was that of structuralists.

Teachers Training Institutions, especially the Central Training College, Lahore, were the first to apply Psychological Principles in Education. It was through these institutions that the concepts of Mental and Objective Tests entered the field of General Psychology. The Central Training College was especially active in Psychologizing      education through public lectures and activities of the New Education Fellowship – an International Body to make use of Psychological Principles. The colleges also had a small Laboratory to demonstrate some Psychological phenomena. The Punjab Education Journal in English and Amozish in Urdu were the two Journals devoted to Psychology and Education.

In short, this young science grew up in a very favorable environment. Prof. G.C. Chatterje’s demand, who was the Head of the Philosophy Department at Govt. College, Lahore to start M.A. Psychology classes met no objection. As a result, M.A. classes were started at the Govt. College with the collaboration of F.C. College, Lahore. This joint venture well represented the British as well as the American point of view. The Govt. College’s Department was re-named as the Department of Philosophy and Psychology, and adequate laboratory was soon set up.

The first teacher of Experimental Psychology, Qazi Muhammad Aslam had the degree in Philosophy but had spent several months at the University of Calcutta to get training in Experimental Psychology under Prof. San Gupta, a well known figure in Psychology. Later on, he went to Cambridge for higher studies where he studied under F.C.Bartlett, a Psychologist who was very well known for his original work on Memory and whose book on Remembering has since become a classic. Bartlett had succeeded Sir C.S.Myers who had organized the National Institute of Industrial Psychology in London. Mayer’s was quite famous for his two volumes book on Experimental Psychology – probably the first of its kind. It has been the sole text for a very long time. Dr. Isac Latif of the Formen Christian College Lahore was a student of E. B. Holt of Princeton University, but on his return had become a Psychoanalyst. This new department could not attract many students in the beginning, hardly more than three or four every year. That was manly due to lack of job opportunities.

A significant event of the second decade is the adaptation of Binet Simon Scale of Intelligence by Dr. C. Rice of the F.C. College, Lahore in 1926. The revision known as the Hindustani – Binet Performance Scale was standardized in Punjabi as well as in Urdu on a samples of about 800 individuals of various ages drawn from the population of Urban and Rural areas of Districts of the Punjab. The complete scale along with its manual in which the whole procedure was described, was published by the Oxford University Press, Bombay in 1927. It is unfortunate that no further work has since been done on this Scale, after Dr. Rice left Lahore for Allahabad. Very few Psychologists were now familiar with this useful work on individual test of intelligence. It remains buried in the pages of history of somewhere in the library shelves.


The group tests of intelligence devised by the National Institute of Industrial Psychology were adapted by the newly created department of the Government College. The fact, a study was conducted to find out the correlation between the intelligence of the students and the marks obtained in their matriculation examination. This was certainly the first study of its kind in the Punjab. The college had a well equipped laboratory in the Physics wing. Actually very little has been added to the laboratory after that.

The third decade witnessed Psychology entering the life of the general public. Its circle of influence did not remain limited to the students of Psychology only alone but non-professionals also looked towards this science for solving their own problems. While in colleges William Mc Dougall, the founder of the Harmic School, was widely read, outside that circle Freud was more popular. People enjoyed reading Freud and tried to apply his concepts in their daily life. Popularity of Freud was probably due to the publication of “Contemporary Schools of Psychology” and the activities of the Indian brands of the Psycho Analytical Society founded as early as 1928 in Culcatta.

The Society had a regular program for training Psycho Analysts. Students of the Psychology will be interested to know that a Journalist from Lahore who had no formal training in Psychology was successful analyst. His two books on Psycho Analysis were quite popular. He even analyzed the action of Mr. Gandhi’s assassination by pointing out the presence of unresolved Oedipus complex. Another famous figure in Urdu Literature Psychologically discussed love affair of a very well known Muslim Scholar. It was first published in Kitab in 1949 and then in 1949 in Adbi Dunya.


This small group of Punjabi Psychologist were not sitting idol. The then modern Psychology was probably first introduced to the Urdu knowing public by a Psychology student of the Government College Lahore (who became the first Indian Psychologist to be elected as a fellow of the British Psychological Society in 1942), by writing series of articles on modern Psychology, including Psycho analysis from 1936 onwards for the “Services” a quarterly journal of the Anjaman- e- Tarqqi- e- Urdu. His book on psychoanalysis was published in 1945 following by another book on Nafsiyat-e- Jazbat in 1947. Articles of Clinical natures appeared in the special numbers of the Hmdard-e-Sehat, Delhi in 1938, 1939 and 1940.

The young services of Psychology was recognized by the Indian Service Congress right form its beginning. The researches conducted by the Psychologists were regularly presented in its section of Psychology. In its 26th session held in Lahore in 1939 a paper based on the fixed study of an Aboriginal Tribe in the Punjab was presented. That paper, by a Punjabi Psychologist, under the title of Psychoanalytical study of some customs of the Sansi Tribe was published in the Indian Journal of Psychology in 1939 and reprinted in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

During the same decade Burt’s group test of Intelligence was semi standardized in Urdu under his guidance. The psychoanalytically oriented monthly called “Nafsiyat” the first issue of which appeared in 1945 soon became very popular but for some reasons it was discontinued after or so.

From the academic point of view, the Behaviorism for some times became the center of attention. However its sphere of influence remained limited to some Psychologist and even they soon lost interest when Watson got compulsory retirement from the Johns Hopkins University, never to hold any academic position. Behaviorism was replaced by the Gestalt School. However, the Gestalt point of view did not find any publicity except for Harrower’s Book Wiz. “Psychologist at Work” published in 1937, which served as a reference book for the B.A classes.

To review the period before independence, one can say that Psychology in the Punjab had a very stimulating environment. During the Second World War, the Army Service Selection Board, following the traditions of Great Britain and America, dependent heavily upon Psychological assessment procedure. However, in spite of this tremendous progress, Psychology was still regarded as a part of Philosophy and Psychologists were treated as Philosophers. Sometimes they were thought of as fortune tellers or palmists. The Philosophical Congress had and still has included psychology as a system within Philosophy. As a result Psychology at the college level was taught by the Philosophers, who were not competent to emphasize the experimental point of view.


           When Pakistan appeared on the world map as an independent country in 1947 the Psychologists living in Pakistan continue to advocate the cause of Psychology with much more enthusiasm. Through various programs like Fulbright, Ford Foundation etc. The young Psychologists got an opportunity to study Psychology in the most well equipped laboratories of the world. They brought back with them the latest ideas which enabled them to bring Psychology at par with other countries.

When Pakistan Association for Advancement of Science was formed soon after partition, a Psychologist from Lahore was among its founder-members. Like the Indian Science Congress the Pakistan Science Conference gave full representation to Psychology; but due to lack of interest in the Science Conference by Psychologists, the Psychology section went entirely into the hands of educationists and social scientists. Same happened with the Science Society of Pakistan. That was mainly due to the fact that Psychologists were feeling the need of having their organization, the idea which matured in 1964 in the form of Pakistan Psychological Association.


The main consumers of Psychology had been the field of education. A child guidance clinic which existed before in the Ewing Hall of the F. C. College was recognized and a Journal of Clinical Psychology was started as early as 1949. Unfortunately due to some conflict between the editorial staff the clinic and the Journal could not survive long. The year 1949 saw public lectures on the application of Psychology to everyday life being arranged in the Central Training College, Lahore. The first book on Educational Psychology in Urdu was published in 1949 and Zehni Sehat the following year. Quite a longer number of books on different topics, a both originals and translations have appeared since then.

           “PSYCHE” is appearing regularly from Lahore since 1978.


Psychological literature in Pakistan is, no doubt, growing richer and richer. The period beginning from 1950 can be regarded as the golden period of Psychology. The progress can be judged from the fact that the Universities of Karachi, Sind and Peshawar have established full fledged Psychology departments. The Department of Philosophy and Psychology of the Government College, Lahore were separated in1962 and the same year a new department viz. the Department of Applied Psychology in the University of the Punjab was established. Many affiliated colleges started M.A classes in Psychology and Psychology became an independent subject of study at the Inter and B.A. level. Another landmark in the history of Psychology is that the National Institute of Psychology, Islamabad came into existence in 1978. The advanced Centers of Clinical Psychology at the Universities of the Punjab and Karachi in 1984 are the outcome of the President of Pakistan’s keen interest in Psychology.

The Public Service Commission and the Army Service Selection Board were among the first to apply Psychological procedure for the selection of their personnel. However, it is interesting to note that these two organizations had in the beginning, non-psychologists working as psychologists. Another point worth mentioning is that Psychologists were consulted in solving some problems of national importance. The National Commission on Education in 1958 recognized the need for offering Psychological services to the students at the school and college level. The commission on medical education also gave due importance to Psychology. In 1959 the Bureau of National Re-constriction invited the leading Psychologists of the country to discuss the role of Psychologists in National Development. As a result a study was conducted to assess the attitudes of different classes of people towards Pakistan, which later on appeared in the proceedings of the Indian Ocean Services Conference.


Remarkable progress is made in the field of test construction. Every department of Psychology is engaged in the construction of some type of Psychological test. For example, some significant work has been done in the department of Applied Psychology on the adaptation of some important personality tests like EPPS, Thorndike’s Dimension, and Cornell Index and so on. Some original tests like Tashkhis’s Nama have also been standardized. Another important test worth mentioning is the adaptation and standardization of the complete battery of the DAT by the Vocational Cell of the Labor Department of Government of the Punjab under the guidance and supervision of the staff of the Applied Psychology Department. The norms are based on a very large number of students, males and female, belonging to all districts of Lahore region. A student of the Karachi University has adopted MMPI in Urdu, using an adequate sample of normal and abnormal groups.

The progress of Psychology can also be judged from the psychological Journals which are appearing since1950. The Journal of Psychology renamed as the Psychology Quarterly from the Government College, Lahore began its publication from 1962 and an Urdu Journal called “Zehan” from the same College from 1978. The Department of Psychology of the University of Karachi is publishing the Pakistan Journal of Psychology from 1978. These Journals generally publish research articles. The Zehn is giving due attention to the Muslim Contributions to the Psychology, especially their psychotherapeutic techniques. A popular quarterly magazine in English and Urdu called “Psyche” is appearing regularly from Lahore since 1978. In view of its great demand by the public it is now to be converted into a monthly magazine.


20th Century is going to be that of Psychology

This in brief is the story of development of Psychology in Pakistan – A bright fortune can be predicted from the fact that the younger generation is taking keen interest in its development. Some young Psychologists have gone so far as to bring psychologists of all Eastern countries together in the form of Asian Psychological Association. An ad-hoc committee, to consider the possibility of this organization is formed and the spade work has already been done. Another significant to be noted is that the Psychologists, especially the younger ones are fully participating in the organizations like Psychiatric Association Islamic Conference on Mental Health etc. All these activities and the numbers of researches the departments of Pakistani Universities are producing nearly prove the old prediction that the 20th century is going to be that of Psychology.