Brief history of psychology in Romania and APR

International scientific prerequisites of psychology can be traced back to having roots in the Ancient History, shortly followed by the development of philosophy and sciences. Before formal psychology was a norm, as a science and as a practice, psychological phenomena were mainly studied and taught by philosophers and scientists.

As a term, “psychology” got its first use in Marko Marulic’s Treaty – Psichiologia de ratione animae humanae -, yet from the original paper no single copy survived. Christian Wolf writes two papers that managed to pass the test of time also as literal text, which represents the first existing papers using the term psychology: Psychologia empirica (1732) and Psychologia rationalis (1734). The term has been later on used in different specialty papers and encyclopedias.

Formally, psychology as a science was born at Leipzig, through Wilhelm Wundt’s experimental laboratory, founded in 1879. Today, psychology is a fundamental science, having direct implications in the good, collective societal functioning, hence the social prestige it carries, as well as the elitist standard psychology schools around the world nowadays have.

In Romania, there have been some old preoccupations for psychology, and the Romanian cultural class, as well as researchers, wrote and taught psychology-related topics, more or less connected with their own professional domain. The scientific growth of psychology in Romania, however, went through different stages, which we will shortly present in the following (for details, see cited bibliography).


1. Founding School/ Gold Generation – Pre-communist period

Romanian psychology was born in direct connection with Wilhelm Wundt’s Leipzig laboratory, through his former Ph.D. candidates:

  • Eduard Gruber – founded at Iași University, in 1893, the first experimental Romanian psychology laboratory and was the first to introduce psychology courses in the laboratory’s teaching curriculum. At that date, only 10 countries in the whole world had a psychology laboratory. Before Gruber’s interest in psychology, his research interest was in linguistic/ literacy area and he got his Ph.D. in 1893 under Wilhelm Wundt’s supervision, in “colors luminosity”. Following Gruber’s death, the laboratory was abolished in 1896 and it didn’t manage to create a strong, independent psychology school in Romania, having a functional activity for only 3 years. In Iași, however, through Mihai Ralea (humanist, with a Ph.D. in literacy/ philosophy and law/ political sciences, in France), an independent Psychology and Esthetics Department was founded in 1925. Later on, in the Pedagogy Department, a new team of psychologist  emerged around Vasile Pavelcu (Ph.D. in Psychology, in France), and the combination of Ralea’s laboratory and the teaching department created a strong humanist psychology school (ex. Ralea, Pavelcu and collaborators), psychology having therefore strong connection with literacy, law, philosophy, and pedagogy.
  • Constantin Rădulescu-Motru – introduced at Bucharest University, in 1897, the first academic courses regarding experimental psychology in the Philosophy, History and Esthetics  Department. In 1898/1900 this department becomes Experimental Psychology Department and in 1906 he founded a psychological laboratory, associated with the Department.  From 1909, academic structures got reorganized and professor Constantin Rădulescu-Motru becomes titular at Psychology, Logic and Knowledge Theory  Department. Constantin Rădulescu-Motru gained his Ph.D. in 1893, under Wundt’s supervision, with a topic regarding “Kant and the causality in nature”. He founded the Psychological Research Society (1934) and 3 professional and speciality  journals : Experimental Psychology and Practice Journal (in 1931 – probably the first specialty journal from Romania, but which seems to only have activity for one year); The Psychology Annals Journal (1934 – 1943) and the Psychotehnic Journal (1937 – 1941). The teaching series held by Alfred Binet at Bucharest University, in 1895, at the invitation of minister Take Ionescu, courses which Constantin Răudescu-Motru also audit,  had also an important role in the development of experimental/ scientific Romanian psychology. Having this context, a powerful psychology school developed in Bucharest, having a humanistic background (Constantin Răduescu-Motru and collaborators), psychology being here in close theoretical and organizational connection with philosophy (sometimes encouraged/ practiced by Constantin Rădulescu-Motru).
  • Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă – founded at the Cluj-Napoca University, in 1919, the Psychology Department, and in 1921/1922, he founded the first Romanian psychology institute – The Experimental, Compared and Applied Psychology Institute -, embedding researching, teaching and practicing as general practices. He gained his Ph.D. in Psychology at Leipzig, having Wundt’s supervision, in 1911/ 1912, with the topic of the”affective tonality of colors”. Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă founded in 1938 the longest lasting Romanian psychology journal from that period – The Theoretical and Applied Psychology Journal (1938 – 1949). Also, in 1931 he lays the basis of the first professional psychological Romanian organization, the Psychological Society. A strong and powerful experimental psychology  school emerged in Cluj-Napoca (ex. Goangă, Roșca, Mărgnineanu and collaborators), in which psychology is promoted as a self-independent science and practice (Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă strongly encouraged and practiced a scientific based, independent psychology, not a part of other sciences, but in collaboration with others sciences).

In the pre-communist era, the Romanian psychology was perfectly embedded in the international psychology mainstream- eg. Romanian psychologists published papers in the diaspora and being members of international specific organisations-, Romania becoming therefore in 1938 a candidate for the organization of the 12th International Psychology Congress held by International Union of Psychological Science.

2. Linking School – Communist Period

In the communist period, the old Founding School was abolished (ex. psychologists such as Nicolae Mărgineanu or Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă were imprisoned), mainly because the communists didn’t want them to interfere with the implementation of the communist ideology (eg. the forming of the new people). The persecution was drastic, especially in the first years after the establishment of the communist regime. Even so, later on, by the impact of exceptional academicians, which were better integrated in the communist regime – Mihai Ralea and Alexandru Roșca -, Romanian psychology manages to survive and even grow scientifically and professionally in some manner, despite the ideological pressures, but later on falls down again due to communist ideology implementation.

In the academic circle, at Cluj-Napoca, professor Alexandru Roșca leads the Department of Psychology from 1946 until 1977, when psychology is abolished and is forbidden as a specialization in Romanian universities; through Goangă-Roșca doctoral tradition, a stringent academic bond was formed with Leipzig founding school. At Bucharest, the head of Psychology Department becomes Mihai Ralea (1948 – 1964), followed until 1977 by Gheorghe Zapan and the poet Mihai Beniuc. At Iași, the Psychology – Pedagogy Department is headed by Vasile Pavelcu until 1970 and later on, until 1977 by other pedagogy colleagues.

In Romanian Academy (RSR Academy), Mihai Ralea establishes in 1956 the Psychological Institute (headed then from 1965 until 1970 by professor Alexandru Roșca), and in 1955 he establishes The Psychology Journal (from 1964 there was also Revue Roumaine de Sciences Sociales). The Institute had as the main goal to offer scientific/ methodological guidance for psychologists in Romania, including those in psychological affiliated institutes (ex. hospitals, schools, transportation etc.). The Institute was transferred in 1970 to Social and Political Science Academy and from 1978 it functions as Pedagogy and Psychology Research Institute, affiliated to Ministry of Education, focusing mostly on educational psychology. The Institute was abolished in 1982 because of a scandal regarding transcendental meditation and because of this, the psychology units are deprived from scientific/ methodological guidance. APR took most of the responsibility to take forward the role of offering guidance for psychological science and the role to look after the relationship between psychological science and practice, a role which we maintain and improve upon even today.

All of the scientific and practice progress was annulled again from 1977 when the academic psychology departments/ specializations were abolished (including removing psychology from the work nomenclature), and in 1982 the psychology domain research is abolished through the diminishing of the Pedagogy and Psychology Research Institute. Psychology was removed from the school handbooks starting from 1972. This abolishing is again explainable by the fact that even the new psychology, supported even by the communist regime, didn’t become as submissive as the communist regime wanted it to be and psychology persisted to remain an honest science, refusing to be a big part of the communist ideology in forming the new people and in the implementation of the new socialist/ communist order.

In the communist era, Romanian psychology begins to show a lower independence and lower power, compared with the one it once had in the international area, without being, however, an outlier in the period of Mihai Ralea and Alexandru Rosca, as well as in the time of their collaborators. Subsequent, after 1977 psychology becomes more and more isolated and obsolete, mainly because the difficulty to access specialty resources and due to the lack of implication in the international academic circle.

3. Modern School – Post-Communist Era

In 1990 the psychology specialization/ departments activity was again resumed in the old academic universities around the country – Cluj Napoca (Ioan Radu), Bucharest (Paul Popescu-Neveanu) and Iași (Adrian Neculau) -, which broadened then in many more Romanian universities. Through the Goagă-Roșca-Radu doctoral school, there still is a strong academic and traditional/ generational relationship between the university in Cluj Napoca and Leipzig Founding School.

Also, in 1990 the Psychology Institute was resumed in the structural plan of Ministry of Education, Institute which returned in the same year in the Romanian Academy plan under the name of Mihai Ralea Psychology Institute (from 2001 formed, together with the Philosophy Institute, the Constantin Rădulescu-Motru Philosophy and Psychology Institute”).

Today, Romanian psychology is well reintegrated in the international psychology area, trying to regain its prestige and the impact following the Gold Generation.


The Romanian Association of Psychologists (APR) – APR was founded in 1964, having activity until today. Immediately following its foundation, from 1964, APR becomes a member of the International Union of Psychological Science. Through some of its founding and leading members (ex. Alexandru Rosca), APR inherited the academic tradition of the psychological societies founded by Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă (Society for Psychology – 1931) and Constantin Rădulescu-Motru (Psychological Research Society – 1934). APR was initially formed by psychologists which worked in universities, research units and in applied domains. Initiated by professor Mihai Ralea, alongside professors Tatiana Slama-Cazacu, Alexandru Roșca and other colleagues, APR was headed and developed by professor Alexandru Roșca until 1990, time in which he was the president of APR (alongside other colleagues, including vice president Valeriu Ceaușu, which had a more active role in the association). The annual meetings were usually held at Romanian Academy Psychology Institute (between 1978 – 1982 at the Pedagogy and Psychology Research Institute, Ministry of Education and from 1982 in other locations). During the annual meetings – usually organized in October – scientific presentations were held and new members were admitted to the association. After the Communist Revolution in 1989, APR was forced to reorganize due to the new legislative system and at the initiative of some psychologists, APR was reorganized (initially having even local branches) and the new president was elected to be professor Mihai Golu (he headed APR until 1999). In 2000 professor Nicolae Mitrofan was elected president, which remained APR’s president until 2017 (leading APR from 2005 together with professor Mircea Miclea). From 2017 the new president of APR is professor Daniel David.

To reach its main goal, that to stimulate and promote science-based psychology and a bidirectional relationship between psychological science and practice, APR proposed organizing periodically, at an interval no longer than 4 years, national conferences (even though this periodically planned conferences, objectively, couldn’t be organized). The national conferences organized until now are the following:

1966 – Bucharest National Psychology Conference

1968 –  Bucharest National Psychology Conference

1971 –  Bucharest National Psychology Conference

1979 –  Bucharest National Psychology Conference (National Psychology Colloquium)

  • In 1972 psychology was abolished from high school curriculum and in 1977 eliminated as a university specialization, as well as from the work nomenclature, therefore this “conference” became a “colloquium”, in order no to attract authorities attention.

1984 – Bucharest National Psychology Conference (National Psychology Colloquium – Romanian Psychology)

  • Alongside ‘70s retaliation, in 1982 Pedagogy and Psychology Research Institute was abolished, therefore this ‘conference’ also became a ‘colloquium’.

1994 –  Bucharest National Psychology Conference

2002 – Neptun National Psychology Conference (where the planning) for the College of Romanian Psychologists took place)

2004 – Călimănești-Căciulata National Psychology Conference (where the implementation of CPR project took place)

2006 – Cluj-Napoca National Psychology Conference

2008 – Timișoara National Psychology Conference

2010 – Iași National Psychology Conference

2012 – Brașov National Psychology Conference

2019 – Cluj-Napoca National Psychology Conference (planned)


1. Classic References (selection)
Bejat, M. (1972). Geneza psihologiei ca ştiinţă experimentală în România. Bucureşti: Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică.

Herseni, T. (1980). Cultura psihologica româneasca. Bucureşti: Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică.

Ralea, M. şi Botez, C. (1958). Istoria psihologiei. Bucureşti: Editura Academiei R.P.R.

Roşca, A. şi Bejat, M. (1976). Istoria ştiinţelor în România. Psihologia. Bucureşti: Editura Academiei R.S.R.

2. Recent References (selection)

David, D., Moore, M. şi Domuta, A. (2002). Romanian psychology on the international psychological scene: A preliminary critical and empirical approach. European Psychologist, 7, 153-160.

Kiss, J. F. (2013). Istoria psihologiei în Romania: Tipare şi factori ai evoluţiei în perioada totalitară şi postdecembristă. Bucureşti: Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică.

Mânzat, I. (2012). Istoria psihologiei universale. Bucureşti: Editura Univers Enciclopedic

Roşca, M. (2007). Când şi de ce a apărut sintagma „Şcoala clujeană de psihologie”? Anuarul Institutului de Istorie „Gheorghe Bariţiu” din Cluj-Napoca, Series Humanistica, V, 137–162.

3. Note: We thank our colleagues Ioan Berar (Cluj Napoca), Lumința Iacob (Iași), Nicolae Mitrofan (Bucharest – head of APR between 2000 – 2017) and Ilie Puiu Vasilescu (Bucharest, general secretary of APR between 1990 – 1999) for some clarifications regarding the historical evolution presented, derived from the professional history at which these colleagues took part.