Father of Georgian psychology Dimitri Uznadze and his “Theory of Attitude and Set”
31 July, 2017
Father of Georgian psychology Dimitri Uznadze and his “Theory of Attitude and Set”
Dimitri Uznadze, a famous Georgian psychologist, philosopher and public benefactor, was born on December 2, 1886 in Kutaisi, a province in Western Georgia. He was a founder of scientific school of Psychology, co-founder of the Tbilisi State University (TSU) and academician and co-founder of the Georgian Academy of Sciences (GAS).

After being expelled from high school for participating in the 1905 revolution, Uznadze fled to Switzerland and then Germany, where he studied with Wilhelm Wundt at Leipzig University. Uznadze earned his PhD in 1909 for his dissertation, Vladimir Solovev: His Epistemology and Metaphysics.

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Uznadze returned to his hometown to teach high school history, psychology, and logic. He established there a school for girls, named “Sinatle” (Light) where he served as headmaster in 1915.

When Uznadze moved to Tbilisi in 1917, he worked with other Georgian scientists and philosophers to found the Tbilisi State University (TSU). TSU remains the oldest university in the Caucasus region. Other founders of this University were outstanding Georgian scientists Ivane Javakhishvili, Ekvtime Takaishvili, Shalva Nutsubidze, Akaki Shanidze, Giorgi Akhvlediani, Andrea Razmadze, Iosif Kipshidze, Petre Melikishvili, etc. From 1918 – 1950 Uznadze was Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology of TSU.

Uznadze passed away on October 9, 1950, in Tbilisi. He is buried in the garden of the Tbilisi State University.

Main fields of scientific activity of Dimitri Uznadze were: philosophy, history of philosophy, theory of upbringing, experimental pedagogics, etc.

He was also author of well-known Theory of Attitude and Set, which is considered to be one of the most important works in psychology worldwide. Dimitri Uznadze developed this theory to explain the feasibility of the human behavior.

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It is enough to note that after the death of the scholar, in New York, his fundamental monograph “Theory of Attitude and Set” was published in English (D.N. Uznadze, "The Psychology of Set", New York, 1966).

Still in 1939 his work about the psychology of set was published in authoritative international magazine named "Acta Psychologica". From this time exactly, the scientific work of Georgian psychologist became the subject of the world psychologists’ attention. So, Dimitri Uznadze is fairly considered to be the “father” of the psychology of set.

This behavioral theory identifies a set of conditions fundamental to psychological processes. This set, or system, prepares a person psychologically to act in response to a given situation
and comprises behavior, personality, and the conscious and unconscious.

Because the unconscious plays a central role in set theory, Uznadze’s views are often compared to those of Sigmund Freud, who also emphasized the role of the unconscious mind, though many find it challenging to compare Uznadze’s experimental psychology with Freud’s standard psychoanalysis.

Dimitri Uznadze tried to study the issue of conducted behavior. Every behavior is leaded by mind and continues expeditiously, what means that the living organism is able to carry out the activities suitable to its "goals" in the environment. There must be mental mechanism, which will provide the implementation of this process. After a certain research, firstly theoretically and then empirically, Uznadze found this mechanism and called it “mood”.

The mood is the whole condition of the subject that expresses its readiness to perform concrete behavior. The mood arises from the human’s need and its satisfactory situation and determines all kinds of mental activity.

The mood itself is unconscious. It consists of both subjective and objective factors. Subjective factor is the one’s requirement, necessity. Objective factor is the situation, environment, which will satisfy the one’s requirement.

A simple example of Dimitri Uznadze’s theory: If a man is about to drink water, there must be relevant requirement for it and the one must be in suitable environment which contains the satisfactory object of his requirement, this means he must have a wish to drink water and he must see water at the same time. Only after this he will have a mood and he will fulfill the act of drinking water.

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Dimitri Uzunadze offers a three-membered model in this case. He criticizes the two models of behavior: mechanistic and vital. Both of them are two-membered: according to mechanistic opinion, the behavior is caused by the environment. Otherwise, according to vital opinion, the behavior is caused by the human’s mind.
However, Uznadze offers three-membered model, where both previous models are integrated.

In modern language, Uznadze’s model is called “mediator” - the need and the situation together brings the mood, and the mood itself leads to behavior. The mood in this case plays the mediator's role with behavior.

The mood, itself, is a readiness for any behavior. The behavior cannot be fulfilled if a person has not developed relevant mood for it. This readiness cannot be developed only on the basis of requirement, being in a proper situation or relevant environmental conditions are necessary as well.

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Portrait of Dimitri Uznadze by Lado Gudiashvili. 1945

Because of its importance and novelty, “Theory of Attitude and Set” remained as the independent direction of Georgian psychological school in the history of psychology.

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