History of the Department

Istanbul University, which is among the first ten universities founded in Europe, provides education to nearly 55,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The university consists of 19 faculties, 16 institutes, 13 higher occupational schools, and 59 research and teaching centers. The Faculty of Letters, which includes the department of psychology, is one of the oldest faculties and has 8,000 students at present. The faculty consists of 21 departments and 57 divisions within the departments.

The first formal psychology classes in our country were given by Georg Anschütz in the Philosophy Division of the Department of Letters in 1915 at Istanbul University which was known as “Darülfünun” at that time (Toğrol, 1987). Anschütz was an academic at Hamburg University in Germany and he came to Turkey to teach psychology as well as to establish a separate psychology division and laboratory at Istanbul University. However, he had to return to Germany after three years of teaching in Istanbul. The psychology education given at the Department of Letters of Darülfünun during these early years was based on the German experimental psychology tradition. Soon after Anschütz returned to Germany, the General Psychology Division was officially established in 1919 and Mustafa Şekip Tunç, who received his education at the Jean Jacques Rousseau Institute in Jenava was appointed chairman (Toğrol, 1956). Subsequently, general psychology tutoring was initiated by M. Ş. Tunç who is regarded as the first Turkish psychologist. Tunç, via his translations and articles, popularized psychology in Turkey (Arkonaç, 1995; Turhan, 1958).

Before and during the Second World War, the German experimental psychology tradition continued to influence our department. Prof. Wilhelm Peters, who had immigrated to England from Germany (University of Jena) began working at Istanbul University in 1937 following an invitation to serve here. He was appointed director of the Pedagogy Institute and head of the Experimental Psychology Division of the Faculty of Letters, both of which were newly founded at that time. Prof. Peters had established the first psychology laboratory and the first psychology library in Turkey at Istanbul University. Just before Peters’ arrival, Mümtaz Turhan, who eventually became a leading psychologist in Turkey, began working as an assistant at the Pedagogy Institute following completion of his Ph.D. at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. Turhan brought the Gestalt tradition to the Experimental Psychology Division and became the chairman in 1952 after Prof. Peters resigned from his post (Toğrol, 1956). Prof. Peters and his collaborator M. Turhan played important roles in the development of experimental psychology and the establishment of psychology as a science in Turkey (Arkonaç, 1995).

Prof. Turhan’s research interests eventually shifted to social psychology and, in 1944, he conducted studies on cultural changes at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with Sir Frederick Bartlett. Turhan contributed to the development of social psychology in Turkey and developed an original social psychology model (Arkonaç, 1995; Özakpınar, 1970). After Prof. Turhan, Prof. Beğlan Toğrol served as the head of the Experimental Psychology Division until 1981.

Following M. Ş. Tunç’s retirement in 1953, Prof. Sabri Esat Siyavuşgil chaired the General Psychology Division. Prof. Siyavuşgil took several important steps such as bringing the Rorschach test to Turkey, founding the Şişli Psychotechnic Laboratory, and establishing a criminology institute (Arkonaç, 1995). After the death of Prof. Siyavuşgil, Prof. Nezahat Arkun led the General Psychology Division until 1981. The Experimental Psychology and the General Psychology Divisions were then merged under the name of Department of Psychology of Istanbul University when the Higher Education Council Law was put into force in 1981 (Arkonaç, 1995). Since then, professors Beğlan Toğrol, Alev Arık, Esin Cantez, Nursel Telman, and Sibel Arkonaç served as head of the department. Prof. Ayşe Ayçiçeği-Dinn is the current head of our department.

Since 1915, many pioneering studies in psychology have been carried out at Istanbul University. In addition to the contributions mentioned above, members of the department have translated many important psychology texts into Turkish. For example M. Ş. Tunç translated William James in 1931 and 1934 as well as Freud in 1940. Moreover, E. S. Siyavuşgil translated Piaget in 1938 and Binet in 1939. These were among the first of many important translations.

The first two Turkish psychology journals entitled Studies in Psychology and Pedagogy from Pedagogy Institute and Istanbul Studies in Experimental Psychology were issued within Faculty of Letters of Istanbul University. Studies in Psychology and Pedagogy from Pedagogy Institute was issued in 1940 and in 1952 in two volumes and also contained reports of early studies conducted in the psychology laboratory. Experimental Psychology Studies was first published in 1956 by the Experimental Psychology Division and continues to be issued under the name of Psychology Studies by the department.

The psychology department, which was formally established in 1915, continues to contribute to the advancement of psychological science in our country. At present, there are a number of ongoing research projects and our staff members continue to publish scientific papers. Currently, our department consists of 14 faculty members and 3 research assistants. Moreover, 33 research assistants enrolled in Academic Member Traning Program (ÖYP) offered by Turkish Council of Higher Education are studying and working in our department. We currently have 356 students enrolled in department programs.


Arkonaç, S. (1995). İstanbul Üniversitesi Psikoloji Bölümü 80. Yıl. Türk Psikoloji Bülteni, 2, 91-95.

Özakpınar, Y. (1970). İlk Garplı Türk. Tecrubi Psikoloji Çalışmaları, 8, 23-24.

Toğrol, B. (1987). History of Turkish Psychology. Tecrubi Psikoloji Çalışmaları, 15, 1-7.

Toğrol, B. (1956). Psychology in Turkey. Tecrubi Psikoloji Çalışmaları, 1, 3-5.

Turhan, M. (1958). Mustafa Şekip Tunç. Tecrubi Psikoloji Çalışmaları, 2, VII-VIII.

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İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi

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