The Creative Principle in the Model of Building Russian Psychological Science by Professor G.I. Chelpanov

Serova Olga Evgenevna Candidate of Psychological Sciences, Lead Research Officer Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education

Abstract. The article highlights various aspects of the activities of the founder of scientific psychology in Russia G.I. Chelpanov. The creative orientation of the scientist's personality is emphasized as the dominant beginning of his creative asceticism in the field of Russian psychological science. The data of analytical consideration of the creative contribution of G.I. Chelpanov in the development of fundamental psychological research. On the basis of documentary sources, the history of G.I. Chelpanov as the inventor of technical means for teaching and popularizing psychology among young people. The value of scientific-theoretical and organizational creative innovations of G.I. Chelpanov to solve the problems of modern scientific psychology, emphasizes their spiritual and moral content.

Keywords: history of psychology, history of Russian psychology, G.I. Chelpanov, personality creativity, scientific creativity, metaphysical aspects of psychological research, universal psychological device

Georgy Ivanovich Chelpanov (1862-1936) - the creator of the original meanings of Russian psychological science, a thoughtful reading of the theoretical heritage of which can significantly clarify a number of problems facing modern psychology, and also serve to "revive among scientists-researchers that" strong and creative love for truth - sacrificial and persistent ", which has always been filled with the soul of Georgy Ivanovich Chelpanov himself" [3, p. 245].

Words by V.V. Zenkovsky about creative love for truth [2], cited by a modern researcher, like no others, reveal the personal dominant of G.I. Chelpanov. Creativity was the principle of his life, and Chelpanov built Russian psychology as a science ready for the creative rethinking of scientific stereotypes and the semantic integration of psychological knowledge from different eras. But due to negative sociocultural reasons, the integral scientific and theoretical model of the development of psychology, developed by G.I. Chelpanov, is practically unknown to the world scientific audience. In Russia, the fate of Chelpanov's legacy was also not easy: for more than half a century, Chelpanov's philosophical and psychological ideas were subjected to inadequate interpretation, since they contradicted the ideologically determined principles of the "new" post-revolutionary science. But thanks to the work of historians, the name of Georgy Chelpanov is again returned to its rightful and honorable place - the founder of the scientific tradition of Russian psychological science. As a result of historical and psychological research aimed at restoring the true historical picture of the formation of Russian science and carried out in the period 2011-2020 [5, 6, 14], the existential-ontological meaning of the scientist's ideas and their actual significance for the scientific comprehension of the innermost psychological depths of the soul human life, to understand the true and transitory in the history of scientific thought and to determine the real value of the scientific achievements of Russian psychologists on the scale of world psychology.

The set of ideas reflected in the general psychological, psychological, pedagogical, psychological and social works of G.I. Chelpanov, is a program for the creative development of psychology as an integrative and independent science, with its own subject and research methods, including those drawn from the field of natural science. Chelpanov was sure that due to the peculiarities of the very subject of psychological study in the research field of scientific psychology, experimental and analytical methods do not exclude, but complement each other [9]. Psychology was conceived by him as a philosophical discipline, included in the circle of the sciences of the spirit. Therefore, Chelpanov approved the humanitarian meaning of the goals and objectives of Russian psychology and the moral requirements for experimental psychological research. The scientist defended the need for a synthesis of two methodological approaches - the humanitarian, historically rooted in the Russian intellectual tradition, and the natural science, characteristic of the Western European intellectual tradition, but with the leading role of the humanitarian principle. Consolidating creative intuition was a feature of the methodological foundation on which G.I. Chelpanov built a scientific school of Russian psychology.

Chelpanov was one of the first to recognize in the content of the era the perspective of scientific psychology as the leading direction of global knowledge. He also provided scientific arguments for the development of a new scientific field - social psychology [12]. The reliability of the scientist's scientific forecasts was due to the experience of semantic synthesis of a large amount of data, which was characteristic of his thinking, obtained in the analysis of theoretical attitudes that distinguished world scientific schools and specific researchers. The specificity of Chelpanov's creative approach in developing a theoretical research model was to identify the cognitive meaning of each theory of basic content and determine its significance in the general explanatory system of world psychological knowledge.

Analysis of a major theoretical work by G.I. Chelpanov's "The Problem of Perception of Space" (1896-1904) [11,12], in which the creative foundations of his scientific worldview were fully revealed, allows us to speak of a large scientific contribution of the scientist to the solution of fundamental problems of psychology. In our short article, we can only designate its main facets in the naming order:

  1. substantiated the integrative spiritual-physical nature of psychological phenomena, which are the result of a single activity of consciousness - extra-empirical and empirically conditioned;
  2. a psychological model of space perception and a diagram of the functional role of various systems of the perceptual complex of a person in the process of forming the image of space (visual, auditory, tactile modality) have been developed; 
  3. the importance of physiological structures as necessary secondary conditions for the emergence of psychological phenomena is noted; 
  4. it is proved that the process of formation of the concept (image) of space is not only determined by objective conditions, but is also a product of the activity of consciousness itself, the internal conditions for the perception of space and the mechanisms of complication of its forms are described; 
  5. shows the existence in consciousness of a priori, independent in their origin from empirical human experience, psychological elements that have a spiritual-logical nature and act in the form of ideals as necessary prerequisites for the adequacy of perception, to which only one of them corresponds at the level of cognitive abilities - this is faith; 
  6. approved the philosophical basis of psychology - the principle of transcendental realism, following which psychology should be based on an understanding of the inner integrity of the spiritual and physical nature of a person. 

In the scientific picture G.I. Chelpanova's perception of space, accordingly, has a spiritual aspect. It is a living, dynamic phenomenon, a creative act of re-creation through the symbolism of the psychological image of infinity and the unity of absolute being.

Chelpanov is the founder of the first national specialized center of scientific psychology - the Psychological Institute in Moscow (1912), within the walls of which Professor Chelpanov educated a galaxy of scientists selflessly devoted to psychology [8]. In Russia, through the efforts of Chelpanov, a unified system of scientific psychology and scientific and psychological education was formed, creatively using the institutional and structural achievements of Western European and American science for the development of Russian psychology and culture [9].

As director and organizer of scientific work of the Psychological Institute G.I. Chelpanov put at the disposal of research scientists a material and technical base that meets the best world standards. In this regard, Cornell University professor E.B. Titchener wrote to G.I. Chelpanov: "Your facilities and equipment rival if they do not surpass those of the existing laboratories of the world" [4, p.32]. It is no coincidence that the first experimental studies of Russian psychologists were distinguished by a very high level of performance and their results were reflected in well-known European publications.

A very interesting and little-known page in the scientific life of G.I. Chelpanov is his creative activity as the inventor of technical means for teaching and popularizing psychology. In one of the last works - the monograph "Essays on Psychology" (1926) - the scientist was presented with a unique device invented by him - "Russian universal psychological apparatus of prof. Chelpanov ". The device was designed to carry out basic psychological experiments known at the beginning of the XX century. The simplicity of the design, which distinguished the apparatus, provided wide possibilities for its use not only in laboratory, but also in domestic conditions.

The scientific archive of the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education (Moscow) contains materials that reveal the history of this invention [1]. The documents were kept in the family archive of Georgy Ivanovich's daughter Natalia Chelpanova-Paren (Paris) and were transferred to the archives of the Institute by his granddaughter Tatyana Mayard-Paren. In the collection of the archive: a patent for an invention (1930), an inventor's certificate (1933), a certificate from the People's Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR about the beginning of work on the implementation of the apparatus (1933), an illustrated description of the apparatus compiled by the author (1935). The documents allow you to get an idea of those specific research and pedagogical tasks that were supposed to be solved through the use of the apparatus in a variety of conditions.

The "universal combined psychological apparatus" was a single set of the following devices: a color turntable, a kymograph, a chronoscope, a mnemometer, a tachistoscope, an ergograph. Each of them was among the most used in experimental psychology at the beginning of the XX century. Thus, Chelpanov's apparatus was a small psychological laboratory, the tools of which made it possible to reproduce typical experiments related to various branches of psychology (sensation, perception, memory, will, feeling, mental work, etc.). Knowledge of the patterns of mental processes formed the scientific foundation of such disciplines that were actively developing in the time of Chelpanov and focused on practice, such as psychotechnics and pedagogy. On this basis, new theories of giftedness, color discrimination, fatigue, personality types, correlation of mental and physical phenomena, etc. were built. So, when studying giftedness, the psychologist had to investigate the type of reactions of the individual, the features of his sensory perception, observation, attention, performance, memory, etc. In order to train psychologists and teachers, such studies could be carried out on the Chelpanov apparatus using a chronoscope, tachistoscope, mnemometer, ergograph. The solution to the main problem of psychotechnics - increasing labor productivity - directly depended on measuring fatigue during physical and mental effort, and the time of its onset and the characteristics of its course were best studied using the same ergograph that was included in the Chelpanov apparatus.To study the typological characteristics of a personality, it was necessary to use several devices in a complex manner: to determine the types of attention - a tachistoscope, types of memory - a mnemonometer, types of reaction - a chronoscope. When combining a pneumograph and a kymograph, it was possible to register the body processes associated with a change in respiratory activity during the experience of a feeling of pleasure/displeasure and to identify correlations within psychophysical processes. With the help of a color wheel, specific professional abilities and limitations, associated, for example, with the presence of the phenomenon of "color blindness" or the level of a person's threshold of sensitivity, were confirmed. In general, on the Chelpanov apparatus, it was possible to carry out 56 types of experiments to study color sensitivity, motor activity, measure the time of simple reactions, memory, attention, fatigue, and so on. in the context of socially significant psychological tasks.

Chelpanov's universal psychological apparatus had a high marketing appeal: its price was low, it was distinguished by its portability, mobility, originality of the engineering solution, the design of the apparatus was ingeniously simple, and therefore every person who was keen on psychology could learn how to use it correctly or eliminate any malfunctions.

Practical accessibility in use helped to ensure the pedagogical functionality of the apparatus: attractive for any secondary school, it was able to bring knowledge of experimental methods of psychology to the most remote corners of Russia. Chelpanov strove to ensure that scientific psychology became the property of student youth of any age group and ensured continuity in the work of secondary and higher education. The educational value of the apparatus consisted in the ability to prepare students for professional scientific work.

Despite the high scientific and practical significance, the fate of the Chelpanov invention was difficult. In the conditions of social upheavals and the ideological defeat of science, the new apparatus, declared by the author as an invention back in 1926, could be patented only four years later, the author's certificate for it was obtained three more years later, then for another three years there was an agreement on different instances about its serial production. In 1934, it was decided to launch the device into production, but the first production samples were released only in 1936. But the author himself did not have time to see them... It is known that the psychological apparatus of Chelpanov was distributed throughout the pedagogical institutions of Russia, and one copy of it was transferred by the Russian psychologist A.P. Nechaev as a gift to the University of Sydney (Australia). And one more important remark: having exchanged a patent for a copyright certificate, G.I. Chelpanov transferred his invention to the ownership of the state and deliberately refused any material benefits associated with its implementation into practice.

A universal psychological apparatus, the work on which G.I. Chelpanov devoted the last years of his life and with the help of which basic psychological measurements could be carried out in everyday conditions, became a real embodiment of his tireless concern for the development and dissemination of scientific and psychological knowledge in Russia.


As follows from the above, the founder of scientific psychology in Russia G.I. Chelpanova was distinguished by the brightness of her personal creativity. His professional activity is a continuous creative endeavor both in theory and practice. The creative principle was also laid down in the science of psychology, which he built, a dynamic science that vividly responds to the pressing needs of thought and life, and therefore is very consonant with the movements of the human soul itself, in which everything that the world breathes resonates with. The words spoken by A.A. Smirnov - one of the direct students of G.I. Chelpanov, who preserved the scientific traditions of the Psychological Institute laid down by the teacher, that the one who "deals with psychology seriously will never leave it" [7, p. 10].

Turning today to the creative heritage of Chelpanov, we are amazed at his innovation and relevance, first of all, from the point of view of understanding the scale of the ontological possibilities of scientific and psychological research. The development by Chelpanov of the philosophical and theoretical foundations of psychology as a fundamental science, in which the integrative relationship and interdependence of spiritual-logical, psychological and psychophysical structures are postulated, is directed towards the future in terms of its implementation. At the present stage, the scientific paradigm is changing, the process of forming the structure of thinking is underway, which adequately recognizes the multilevel tendencies of the emerging new world. In this regard, the content of the scientific works of G.I. Chelpanov and the achievements of his organizational and pedagogical works represent a promising and logically flawless material for the formation and filling of both the scientific-theoretical and institutional fields of psychology of the third millennium.


  1. Guseva E.P., Serova O.E. On the activities of G.I. Chelpanov on the creation of technical means for teaching and popularizing psychology (based on materials from the archive fund) / G.I. Chelpanov. Essays on Psychology. M. – Obninsk: IG – SOCIN, 2009. P. 231-238.
  2. Zenkovsky V.V. Georgy Ivanovich Chelpanov / V.V. Zenkovsky. From my life. Moscow: House of the Russian Diaspora, 2014. P.283-285.
  3. V.M. Lettsev Life and career of G.I. Chelpanova: the fight for psychology // G.I. Chelpanov. Essays on psychology / ex. ed. E.P. Guseva, O.E. Serov. M. – Obninsk: IG – SOCIN, 2009. P. 238-245.
  4. Speeches and greetings at the opening ceremony of the L.G. Shchukina Psychological Institute at the Imperial Moscow University. M., 1914. 47 P.
  5. Serova O.E. The problem of space perception in the scientific heritage of G.I. Chelpanova / G.I. Chelpanov. Coll. op.: in 6 V. V. 1. Book  Representation of space from the point of view of epistemology. M: PI RAO; MGPPU, 2011. P. 330–350.
  6. Serova O.E. Modern general methodological tendencies in the psychological teaching of G.I. Chelpanova / Chelpanov Readings 2016: Dialogue of Scientific Schools of the Psychological Institute– L.S. Vygotsky, B.M. Teplov, G.I. Chelpanov / Collection of materials of the All-Russian Scientific and Practical Conference, Moscow, November 15, 2016 / Almanac of the Scientific Archive of PI RAO / Scientific. ed. O.E. Serova, E.P. Gusev. M. – SPb.: Nestor-History, 2016. P. 158-179.
  7. Serova O.E., Guseva E.P. Life in science: to the 125th anniversary of the birth of A.A. Smirnova / A.A. Smirnov and modern trends in psychological science: a collection of scientific materials / under gen. ed. O.E. Serova. M.: Triumph, 2020. P.5-11.
  8. Serova O.E., Guseva E.P., Kozlov V.I. Psychological Institute in Moscow: Russian Center for Psychological Science, Culture and Education. M. – SPb.: Nestor-History, 2013. 2nd ed., rev. and add. 248 P.: ill.
  9. Chelpanov G.I. About American Psychological Institutions (From a Travel to America) / Questions of Philosophy and Psychology. 1911. Book. 108. P. 234–258.
  10. Chelpanov G.I. On the analytical method in psychology / Psychological review / ed. G. Chelpanov and G. Shpet. M., 1917. V.1. Book 1. Art. 1. P.3-18. 11.
  11. Chelpanov G.I. The problem of the perception of space in connection with the doctrine of a priori and innateness. Part 1: Representation of space from the point of view of psychology / G.I. Chelpanov. Kiev: Type. I.N. Kushnerev and Co, 1896.
  12. Chelpanov G.I. The problem of the perception of space in connection with the doctrine of a priori and innateness. Part 2: Representation of space from the point of view of epistemology / G.I. Chelpanov. Kiev: Type. I.N. Kushnerev and Co, 1904.
  13. Chelpanov G.I. Social psychology or "conditioned reflexes" / G.I. Chelpanov. M.: Russian scribe 1926. 40 P.
  14. Serova O.E., Gostev A.A. National Cultural Traditions of Russian Psychology How ‘Creative Heritage’ can Influence the Future of a Global Science // Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Education, Science and Social Development (ESSD 2019), advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 298, P. 450-453.


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    Для цитирования: 

    Serova O.E. The Creative Principle in the Model of Building Russian Psychological Science by Professor G.I. Chelpanov // Process Management and Scientific Developments: Proceedings of the International Conference Birmingham. United Kingdom: Birmingham, 2021 – Part 2. – Pp. 98-105.


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