The 99 Most Influential Psychologists and Their Contributions to the Field

Influential Psychologists

In 2002, Review of General Psychology published a list of the 99 most emminent psychologist of the 20th century.  Factors they used to rank the list included things such as journal citation frequency, introductory psychology textbook citation frequency, and survey response frequency.  And this rank-ordered list is what the journal came up with.  The following is a list of the 99 most influential psychologists of the 20th century and their major contribution to the field.

1) BF Skinner

Burrhus Frederic Skinner, better known as BF Skinner, was a man of many talents.  Besides being a world-renown psychologist, he was also an inventor, author, and social philosopher.  As the most prolific psychologist of the 20th century, his contributions to the field have been abundant.  Perhaps the most influential contribution BF Skinner made to the field is his philosophy of radical behaviorism.   Skinner also discovered and perpetuated the rate of response as a dependent variable in psychological research and also invented the cumulative recorder to measure rate of responding as part of his highly influential work on schedule of reinforcement.

2) Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget was a psychologist and philosopher (aren’t they all?) from Switzerland who rose to fame from his research and on cognitive development and epistimology.  Piaget’s socialogical model of development and model of intellectual development served to lay the groundwork for understanding intellectual development in children and adolescents.

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Influential Psychologists

3) Sigmund Freud

Perhaps the most well-known psychologist to those outside of the field, Freud is the founding father of psychoanalysis (the basis of psychotherapy and treatment).

Most famous contribution to psychology:

4) Albert Bandura

5) Leon Festinger

6) Carl Rogers

7) Stanley Schachter

8) Neal Miller

9) Edward Thorndike

10) A. H. Maslow

Most famous contribution to psychology

In a 1943 paper titled A Theory of Human Motivation, Maslow theorized that human basic needs can be categorized in a hierarchy of needs.  We later come to know of this hierarchy as the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


11) Gordon W. Allport

12) Erik H. Erikson

13) Hans. J. Eysenck

14) William James

15) David C. McClelland

16) Raymond B. Cattell

17) John Watson

18) Kurt Lewin

19) Donald O. Hebb

20) George A. Miller

21) Clark Hull

22) Jerome Kagan

23) Carl Jung

24) Ivan Pavlov

25) Walter Mischel

26) Harry Harlow

27) J.P. Guilford

28) Jerome Bruner

29) Ernest Hilgard

30) Lawrence Kohlberg

31) Martin E.P. Seligman

32) Ulric Neisser

33) Donald Campbell

34) Roger Brown

35) R.B. Zajonc


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Netflix enthusiast, horrible speller, jiujitsu hobbyist, weekend drinker, and occasional poker player. Favorite quote is "[o]ut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."