Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

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Leona Tyler was born May 10, 1906 in Chetek, Wisconsin. Her father, Leon M. Tyler was an accountant and house restoration contractor. Her mother, Bessie J. Carver Tyler managed the home. Both Tyler's parents graduated high school, but neither attended college.

Bessie was a strong influence on Tyler's life. Bessie wanted all four of her children to go to college. When women were granted the right to vote, Bessie was that as a decree that men and women were equal, therefore, she treated Leona as an equal to her brothers except on social activities. Tyler's mother's principles provided the basic foundation for Tyler's spirituality and moral principles.


Tyler skipped several grades and graduated high school at the age of fifteen and college at the age of nineteen. In high school a female assistant principal warned Tyler "don't let them send you to a teacher's college, go to a university." This so affected Tyler, that she entered junior college in her hometown before enrolling at the University of Minnesota two years later. Tyler was most enthusiastic about chemistry, but she lacked the equipment for the advanced courses in chemistry due to the lack of mathematics and science during high school. She then obtained her B.S. in English literature while taking advanced mathematic courses her last two years of college.

After graduating she taught English and other subjects in junior high schools in Minnesota and Michigan. Tyler was influenced by the diversity of the student accounts in their writings. She enrolled in the University of Southern California for a summer class on individual differences in 1937. "Her instructor, Donald D. Paterson, a faculty member from the University of Minnesota, helped her develop a research project on the interests of adolescent girls and strongly encouraged her entry into the master's program in psychology at the University of Minnesota. Tyler, who was committed to the peace movement, found psychology appealing and hoped that studying psychology would answer her questions on how to further her goals of the peace movement" (O'Connell and Felipe, 1990).

Tyler taught one more year at Muskegon Heights, Michigan and collected data for her master's thesis. Tyler did not like disciplining her students; so leaving the teaching profession was a welcome relief for her.

At the University of Minnesota, she minored in statistics and "continues work on developing an interests test for adolescent girls for her dissertation, completing her Ph.D. in psychology in 1940" (1990). Tyler began her university teaching career at the University of Oregon as an instructor in 1940. In 1941, without and examples to follow, Tyler organized the counseling service for Veterans of World War II. Later the counseling service became the university counseling center at Oregon. She then spent on third of her time counseling.

In 1947, Tyler wrote The Psychology of Human Differences. She "found that her teaching, writing and counseling all interacted to stimulate reevaluation and integration of ideas about human nature. Both research and writing activities provided a desirable professional balance for Tyler, for she found that research involvement alone can overly narrow one's focus, while text and book writing encourages consideration of a wide range of information" (1990).

Tyler developed her own view of behavior. She began "blending concepts of Carl Rogers, individual differences, and psychometrics, psychoanalytic theory, behaviorism, developmental stage theory, and existentialism" (1990). Her thinking shifted from behavioristic to cognitive during this time.

In 1969, Tyler wrote The Work of the Counselor.

Tyler conducted a longitudinal study of first graders that "stimulated ideas about theory and research related to interests and general development" (1990).

Over the years 1967-1968, she wrote the latest revision of Developmental Psychology with Florence Goodenough.

"Tyler incorporated the stage theories of Piaget and Erikson into her work before the writers became influential in the United States. Tyler thought the most important developmental concept was that successive stages are qualitatively rather than quantitatively distinct" (1990). She focused on the construct of organized choices in the late 1950s. In 1958, she "proposed that individuality is based on the choices people make and the cognitive structures people use to organize their experiences" (1990). She made this proposal at her presidential address to the Western Psychological Association. This changed the direction of the field from psychometrics to developmental and learning processes.

Also in 1958, she question why students make different choices. She developed a card sort technique called the Choice Pattern Technique. On the cars she chose occupations for the content of cards.

In 1962, Tyler received the Fulbright scholarship to work at the University of Amsterdam. Her work in the Choice Pattern Technique was included in The Work of the Counselor.



"Based on certain biological facts, her theory poses that all creatures are characterized by multipotentiality. At each point of development many possibilities exist for what one may become or choose to become. Development, therefore, consists of transforming a wide range of potentialities into a limited number of actualities. This development occurs over time in only on direction. As a result, some opportunities are necessarily missed and only some potentialities are actualized, whether consciously or unconsciously, driven by internal and environmental pressures" (1990).

Tyler later applied her theory of possibilities to the choice behavior of scientists in Thinking Creatively (1983). This "suggested perceptions of choices for scientific inquiry are distorted or limited by professional education and discipline based on conformity" (Lachman, 1984).

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