Gardner Murphy was a 20th century psychologist who studied personality and social psychology. However, he is best known for his research into parapsychology.

Professional Life

Gardner Murphy was born in Chillicothe, Ohio on July 8, 1895. He studied at Yale University and received his bachelor’s degree in 1916 and his masters from Harvard University in 1917, where he received the Hodgson Fellowship in psychology from 1922–1925. He continued his studies at Columbia University to earn his PhD.

Murphy taught psychology at Columbia from 1921–1940, beginning as a lecturer; he was promoted to instructor in 1925 and to assistant professor in 1929. Murphy accepted a full professorship with City College in New York, where he also served as chairman for the department of psychology from 1940–1952. Next, he became director of research with the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, where he remained until 1968. During this time, he published In the Minds of Men and Human Potentialities. From 1968–1973, Murphy returned to teaching psychology at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Murphy was a board member of the American Psychological Association, and eventually rose to the position of president of the organization in 1944. He was a member of the American Society for Psychical Research and served as vice president and president of the society. Murphy participated in the First International Utrecht Conference on Parapsychology in the Netherlands in 1953, put on by the newly established Parapsychology Foundation of New York City. Some of Murphy’s research was funded by the foundation. His final book, The Paranormal and the Normal, was published posthumously, in 1980.

Contribution to Psychology

Murphy was among the first researchers to conduct scientific experiments on telepathy, clairvoyance, and other extra-sensory powers. Murphy was also directly responsible for the creation of the psychology department and the parapsychology laboratory at Duke University.

Murphy argued that a collective consciousness might support the theory of reincarnation. According to Murphy, a person's mind or soul could survive in an “interpersonal field.” He further contended that this field might explain some paranormal phenomena, but that an individual consciousness or personality would not continue to exist in this field. Instead, a person's mind would be assimilated into the collective consciousness.

For Murphy, paranormal phenomena were as scientific as any other psychological phenomena, and he argued that there were scientific benefits to recreating contexts in which paranormal events were likely to occur. He also argued that personality could play a role in an individual's experience of paranormal events.

Murphy was a prolific author and is credited with the publication of many psychology books. Much of what he wrote is still considered cited as valuable research and essential to teaching in the field of parapsychology. Murphy also wrote articles highlighting his theories on social and clinical psychology, personality, parapsychology, and humanistic psychology.


  1. Gardner Murphy. (1995). Dictionary of American Biography. Retrieved from
  2. Gardner Murphy. (2002). Contemporary Authors Online. Retrieved from