Why we should be reading Vittorio Benussi.

Reviews the book, Vittorio Benussi in the History of Psychology by Mauro Antonelli (2018). Mauro Antonelli is Professor of the History of Science and Technology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Milano-Bicocca as well as lecturer in Philosophy at the Alexius Meinong Institute of the Karl-Franzens-University of Graz. His new book, Vittorio Benussi in the History of Psychology, treats of the life and work of the Austrian-Italian psychologist Vittorio Benussi. Benussi was a seminal figure in the early days of the Graz school and a founding father of the Italian Gestalt movement. According to Edwin Boring in A History of Experimental Psychology, Benussi was “the most productive and effective experimental psychologist that Austria had” (Boring, 1950, p. 446). Antonelli, in his study, sets out to expand and correct the extant historical record and portrait of Benussi by fleshing out details drawn from the whole of his career, including his ongoing contributions to experimental psychology in the years (after 1919) when Benussi left Graz and settled in Padua, Italy. Benussi begins his book by giving a brief account of how scientific psychology developed in the German speaking world. Presenting his thesis of “Austrian Psychology” (Antonelli, 2018, p. 17), the first chapter of Antonelli’s book, “The Austrian Path toward Gestalt Psychology: From Brentano to Benussi, via Meinong,” also gives a detailed but readable account of some of the important philosophical ideas that contributed to the birth of scientific psychology in Germany and Austria. After an outline of Benussi’s life history, in Chapter 2, “Vittorio Benussi: A Difficult Life, a Tragic Fate,” Chapter 3 of Antonelli’s book, “The Graz Period,” traces the engagement between Benussi and the Brentano School more sharply. Foremost, Benussi was an empiricist and, as such, was always aware of how theory and speculation could, at times, get in the way of correct observation and proper determination of the facts. In Chapter 3, Antonelli quotes Benussi’s “Scientific Autobiography” of 1926, in which it is emphasized how a kind of methodological restraint connecting theorizing to experimentation is an essential characteristic of all experimental work. In Chapter 4, we are treated to an exploration of the far less documented Padua period of Benussi’s research. The central developments during this period include Benussi’s research on hypnotic states, the connections between emotions and kinaesthesia, and his continuation of work begun in Graz on the psychology of testimony, that is, the detection of lies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)