Pierre Janet and the Enchanted Boundary of Psychical Research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Among the founders of French psychology, Pierre Janet (1859 –1947) is recognized for
both his scientific and institutional roles. The psychology born at the turn of the 20th
century was initially partly receptive to, but then engaged in, a battle with the “psychical marvelous,” and Janet was no exception. He was involved in the split between psychology and parapsychology (or “metapsychics” in France), developed at that time, playing several successive roles: the pioneer, the repentant, and the gatekeeper. At first, he was involved in so-called experimental parapsychology, but quickly chose not to engage directly in this kind of research any longer. Janet seemed to become embarrassed by his reputation as psychical researcher, so he increased his efforts to side with the more conventional thought of his time. Janet’s attitude, in this, is an example of how
French nascent psychology has explored “marvelous phenomena” before recanting. Yet
this aspect of Janet’s work has been rarely commented on by his followers. In this
article, we describe the highlights of his epistemological journey.


External organisations
  • University of Lorraine
  • University of Northampton
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences


  • psychical research, parapsychology, history, pierre janet
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-125
Number of pages26
JournalHistory of Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May
Publication categoryResearch