Welcome to the Department of Psychology

Profile of the department

The Department of Psychology at the University of Bonn offers a wide range of basic and applied psychological subjects, including theoretical and research-related elements as well as practical applied psychology content. The close interlinking of basic and application-oriented research has been part of the essence of psychology in Bonn for many years, which is also reflected in the fact that the Institute of Psychology iis the only institute in North Rhine-Westphalia that teaches and researches in four psychological application subjects (work, organisational and business psychology, clinical psychology, educational psychology and legal psychology) in addition to the basic subjects.

Since the winter semester 2007/2008, we have been offering a Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) degree programme which, together with the Master of Science (M. Sc.) degree programme that began in the winter semester 2010/2011, replaces the previous Diplom degree programme in Psychology. Through an integrative curriculum, psychology as an empirically oriented science of human behaviour and experience is to be taught through theoretical and research-related elements as well as through practical content of applied psychology in order to optimally qualify students for practice and scientific research.

In March 2008, the department moved into two extensively renovated buildings, which are attractively furnished and have state-of-the-art teaching facilities. Students will find excellent study conditions here.

A university outpatient clinic for psychotherapy, well-equipped oculomotor and experimental laboratories, a gene laboratory and a video laboratory for carrying out behavioural observation with the latest technology and software are further features of our de.






PhD students

History and the present

Our department´s history from its beginnings in the 19th century to the present day.

Beginnings in the 19th century

The tradition of psychology in Bonn dates back to the 19th century. The first psychology course was held by the philosopher Carl August Brandis in the winter semester of 1838/39 ("Unterredungen über Psychologie") with nine participants.

But it was Götz Martius, who was first a private lecturer and then an associate professor of philosophy in Bonn, who first taught "modern" experimental psychology in the spirit of his teacher Wilhelm Wundt. Following Wundt's example, Martius used private funds to set up a small experimental laboratory, which he was able to accommodate in two rooms of the Institute of Physics. From 1889, Martius gave courses in experimental psychology every semester, which were usually attended by 5-10 students. Martius worked in Bonn primarily in the field of acoustic and optical perception, for which he had the most necessary equipment at his disposal, such as a tachistoscope, kymographion, pendulum apparatus and three-tone apparatus. He first published his experimental work in Wundt's "Philosophische Studien" and after the turn of the century mainly in Meumann's "Archiv für die gesamte Psychologie". For Martius, psychology was the basic science of philosophy; in his opinion, only the clarification of psychophysical processes could provide information about the explorability of philosophical fields.

Foundation of the "Psychological Seminar" in 1898

Martius went with all his apparatus to Kiel when Benno Erdmann from Halle was appointed to a vacant chair of philosophy in Bonn in 1898. Erdmann brought his "psychophysical apparatus" with him, with which he had already worked experimentally in Breslau and Halle. On the basis of his laboratory, he was able to found the "Psychological Seminar" on 1 April 1898. The annual budget was 300 marks, but could often be topped up with grants.

Erdmann's good reputation among his colleagues was primarily based on his Kant studies, but as a student of Helmholtz and temporary colleague of Wundt, he was also interested in experimental psychology. His highly regarded "Experimental study on reading", which he had completed in Halle together with R. Dodge, was widely recognised in specialist circles, especially as it represented an important contribution to the psychology of children's learning. This work was the prelude to more intensive experimental research by Erdmann and his students in Bonn, most notably Erich Becher, Jacob Rülf and Johann Baptist Rieffert. As a logician, Erdmann always endeavoured to achieve a clear methodological separation between the problem areas of philosophy and psychology. He was primarily concerned with the connection between mental and physical phenomena and with apperception, whereby he advocated his own decided theory of psychophysical parallelism. Under Erdmann, experimental courses for beginners and advanced students were regularly held in the laboratory of the Psychological Seminar, which was renamed "Philosophical Seminar A" in 1901. In addition, one of the philosophy professors gave a lecture in psychology every semester.

When Erdmann moved to Berlin in 1909, Wundt's student Oswald Külpe from Würzburg, who had founded the highly regarded school of "thought psychology" there, was appointed as his successor. Külpe continued his work in Bonn with great success: he was able to achieve considerably higher annual funding and was given five additional rooms for experimental work. Important work on the psychology of thinking was carried out in Bonn; Karl Bühler and Otto Selz, who published his "Laws of Productive Thinking" in 1912, should be mentioned in particular. It was not only the psychology of thought, but also the cooperative and sociable atmosphere that characterised the work of Külpe and his "Würzburgers" that attracted many students and scholars to Bonn, although Külpe moved to Munich at the end of 1913 due to the better material conditions.

He was followed in Bonn by Gustav Störring, also a former Wundt student. Störring further intensified the experimental work on the one hand and promoted the medical side of psychology on the other. The trained psychiatrist regularly gave lectures on psychopathology. Störring's main areas of work were motivational processes, memory and characterology. He tried to heed Wundt's harsh criticism of the introspection method of the Würzburg School by only applying it to simple problems in his experiments on volitional decision making. Although Störring was not one of the leading scholars in either psychology or philosophy, a large number of studies on individual psychological research questions were carried out under his direction in the laboratory of Bonn.

The Institute in the Third Empire

After long disputes over the reoccupation of Störring's chair, the ministry appointed Erich Rothacker in 1929, who did not actually have a reputation in psychology. Rothacker took over the management of the Philosophical Seminar A and separated the laboratory from it in 1931 as an independent "Psychological Department". In the same year, the ministry appointed Störring student Siegfried Behn as co-director of the Psychological Deparment. Rothacker mainly endeavoured to expand his intellectual-historical and interdisciplinary anthropological research, but also became known for his book "Schichten der Persönlichkeit" (1938). Rothacker's anthropological orientation, which was very popular at the time, made him one of the leading humanities scholars in Germany from the late 1920s onwards. He left the experimental training to the assistants at the institute and Behn, who worked theoretically and experimentally in the fields of aesthetics ("Der deutsche Rhythmus und sein eigenes Gesetz", 1912), education and psychology. In 1937, as a convinced Catholic and member of the Centre, Behn lost his old philosophy professorship, which had included education, as well as his position as a lecturer at the Pedagogical Academy and co-director of the Psychological Institute. He was transferred to a purely philosophical chair.

War and post-war period

The institute was almost completely destroyed during the bombing raids on Bonn in 1943, 90% of the books were lost. The reconstruction was initially led by Behn after Rothacker, who was considered by many to be a leading National Socialist at the university, was suspended by the military government in 1946. As early as 1947, however, he was reinstated to his position due to the change in denazification criteria and through the efforts of colleagues and former students, which he held until his retirement in 1954.

Friedrich Sander, who succeeded Rothacker as head of the institute, was given a purely psychological professorship. This made structurally visible a process that had actually been ongoing since the middle of the 19th century, namely the emancipation of psychology from philosophy. The holistic psychologist Sander (theory of "actual genesis") had been an assistant to Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig and promoted the experimental side of psychology. However, as a National Socialist, he was initially dismissed from university service after the war, but was later reinstated to a "professorship that would be cancelled in the future". It was only later that his work and his actions during the Third Reich were analysed in more detail, including inhuman, National Socialist statements that are completely incompatible with the ethical standards of modern psychology. This reappraisal ultimately led to the revocation of his honorary membership of the Professional Association of German Psychologists (BDP e.V.), which he had received in 1959 on the occasion of his 70th birthday [Brücher-Albers, C. (2018). Withdrawal of honorary membership. reportpsychologie, 43, 176].

Only his successor Hans Thomae, who had already studied in Bonn from 1938-1939 and had worked as an assistant at the Institute of Psychology from 1950-1952, was given a full professorship in psychology in Bonn when he moved from Erlangen to the Rhine in 1960. Thomae made a name for himself in Bonn as one of the leading personality and developmental psychologists in the Federal Republic of Germany, having already made a name for himself as head of the psychological section of the longitudinal study on German post-war children (1951-1962). At the Bonn Institute, he was able to establish the longitudinal orientation with the gerontological study "BOLSA". By successfully combining the phenomenological-qualitative with the empirical approach, Thomae was also able to provide an adequate method for researching "life-span development", which does justice to the process character of personality and is therefore still authoritative in german developmental psychology today.

Growth of the department in the 60s and 70s

In the 1960s, the Department of Psychology began a process of growth, which was reflected in the establishment of additional departments: in 1963 with the appointment of Adolf Martin Däumling (Clinical and Applied Psychology), in 1969 with the appointment of Reinhold Bergler (Social, Organisational and Business Psychology) and in 1969 with the appointment of Prof. Dr. Ursula Lehr (Developmental and Educational Psychology). During this time, the Institute's profile was clearly characterised by ageing research and practice-oriented clinical training. The process of growth and differentiation ultimately led to the Institute being divided into several departments.

The Department of Psychology today

Today, the institute has eight units:

These eight units employ numerous academic counsellors and research assistants as well as other research assistants working on externally funded projects. The Department of Psychology currently has around 400 students studying for a major (Bachelor's/Master's), around 400 for a minor (Bachelor's) and around 50 doctoral students studying for a major in psychology.


To fulfil its educational and research tasks, the D of Psychology has a specialist library with over 32,000 monographs and 90 current specialist journals, a test library with over 500 psychological test procedures, laboratories for genetics, electroencephalography (EEG), psychophysiology, oculomotor skills, experimental psychology and diagnostics as well as an observation room (including video recording facilities). Computer systems for research and teaching, a connection to the university computer centre and, last but not least, a modern equipment pool from the computer investment programme for student training are available.

Wird geladen