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Professor of Theory and History of Psychology Annette Mülberger: We should look back!

21 June 2021
Annette Mülberger

Since January 2020, Annette Mülberger has been working at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences. As a Theory and History of Psychology professor she argues that looking at the past can help to understand contemporary issues.

Looking back

Annette: “We live in a fast-paced and future-oriented society. Scientists need to constantly innovate. How can you be sure that something is new if you do not know about the past? The past is our collective experience. We can learn a lot from it.”

By looking at the past, you for example discover that 'new' ideas in psychology often are not so new at all and have been tried before. Looking at the past thus helps to avoid reinventing the wheel and provides insight into how the field of psychology has evolved over the years.


Annette: “Psychologists often assume history is boring because they think of history as a descriptive chronology. But historical documents can tell us much more than only that something happened in the past. Questions about why certain events took place are also part of the work of the historian. To find this out is a challenging and exciting task!”

As a scientist in the field of Theory and History of Psychology, it is important to be open-minded and to put yourself in the shoes of the people of the past, Annette believes. “It takes some patience and empathy.”

A complicating factor is that you no longer can interview these people and therefore have to reconstruct their way of thinking. Some people think that is not ‘real’ scientific research, but Annette thinks this is too short-sighted. “It really helps us to focus on bigger questions dealing with the dynamics of science and society at large.”


Before moving to Groningen, Annette lived in Germany and Spain respectively. Annette chose Groningen because of the good reputation of the Theory and History of Psychology department, but also because of the beautiful spots in the city and the friendly people.

Because of her many years abroad, Annette became a real polyglot: she publishes in seven languages ​​(English, Spanish, German, Catalan, French, Italian and Portuguese). Annette: “Each language is a highly valuable cultural product. I think it is very important that languages ​​are kept alive in this globalizing world. I find it a pity that scientists no longer seem to care about publishing in different languages than English.”

The plan is to add an eighth language to the impressive list soon. “I am currently learning Nederlands and hope that I will master it soon. So please speak Nederlands to me!”, says a smiling Annette.

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Last modified:21 June 2021 4.14 p.m.
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