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Sarah Carolyn Fisher



Training Location(s):

PhD, Clark University, (1913)

MA, University of Illinois, (1910)

AB, Lombard College, (1909)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Los Angeles State Normal School (University of California, Los Angeles), (1915-1957)

Psychological Clinic of the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts, (1920-1929)

Media Links:

University of California Biography of Fisher


Flow Chart of the History of Psychology Developed by Fisher



Career Focus: Perception; experimental psychology; clinical psychology; social psychology.


Sarah Carolyn Fisher was born September 17, 1889 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After obtaining her primary and secondary school education in Bridgeport, she moved with her family to Illinois. She attended Lombard College, receiving an A.B. degree in 1909; a year later Fisher completed a Master's degree at the University of Illinois.


Fisher pursued her doctoral studies at Clark University. While a student, she published her first article, "Arithmetic Reasoning in Children," in the Pedagogical Seminary in 1912. The article provides a thorough survey of a number of experiments and theories that had been carried out at the time on the higher thought processing abilities of so-called "normal" children.


Fisher received her Ph.D. in psychology in 1913 at the age of 24. For her dissertation, Fisher carried out an experiment involving introspection, in which participants were required to describe their conscious processes during a task involving the association of nonsense figures and nonsense words. The dissertatition, titled "The Process of Generalizing Abstraction and its Product, the General Concept," was published in 1916 as a 213-page monograph. A follow-up to this research was published in 1917 under the title, "An Analysis of a Phase of the Process of Classifying." The project consisted of an experimental study exploring the mental contents involved in the process of classifying novel perceptions.


Fisher's first appointment was at Wellesley College, where she was an instructor in psychology for a year (1913-1914). She spent the next year as an assistant professor at Clark University (1914-1915) before obtaining a position as lecturer at the Los Angeles Normal School in 1915. The Normal School became part of the University of California system in 1919 and was renamed the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1927. Fisher spent her career at UCLA, working her way up the ranks from lecturer to assistant professor and, finally, to associate professor of psychology. From 1920 until 1929, Fisher also held a position as Director of the Psychological Clinic of the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts. She retired in 1957.


Fisher published relatively little during her career. Among her publications is a 1925 article about G. Stanley Hall, written at the request of E. B. Titchener of Cornell University. In the article, titled "The psychological and educational work of Granville Stanley Hall," Fisher describes Hall as being one of the first of the early American psychologists to break from philosophy and continues on to provide a thorough account of his career.


In 1956, Fisher co-authored a paper with two colleagues from UCLA, Chester Hull and Paul Holtz. The paper, published in The American Journal of Psychology, presents three experiments carried out to explore the question of whether or not experience could affect the perceived colour of a stimulus.


Although she taught social psychology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, Fisher published only once on the topic: "Relationships in attitudes, opinions and values among family members." This monograph, which appeared in 1948, made use of Form B of Goodwin B. Watson's Survey of Public Opinion as well as Gordon W. Allport and Philip E. Vernon's Study of Values. The study found that parents tended to be more emphatic than their children in their agreement or disagreement to many items.


Sarah Carolyn Fisher passed away at the age of 95 on September 11, 1985 at her home in Hollywood, California. In a commemorative article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times following Fisher's death, Bertram H. Raven, Head of UCLA's department of psychology at the time, said: "At a time when psychology was essentially a male profession, Carolyn Fisher was one of several women who served as a very important role model to both male and female psychology students, many of whom went on to illustrious careers."


by Jennifer Bazar (2010)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:
By Sarah Carolyn Fisher

Fisher, S. C. (1916). The process of generalizing abstraction; and its product, the general concept. Princeton, NJ: Psychological Review Co.


Fisher, S. C. (1917). An analysis of a phase of the process of classifying. The American Journal of Psychology, 28(1), 57-116.


Fisher, S. C. (1925). The psychological and educational work of Granville Stanley Hall. The American Journal of Psychology, 36(1), 1-52.


Fisher, S. C. (1948). Relationships in attitudes, opinions, and values among family members. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Fisher, S. C., Hull, C., & Holtz, P. (1956). Past experience and perception: Memory color. The American Journal of Psychology, 69(4), 546-560.

About Sarah Carolyn Fisher

Fisher, Sara Carolyn (1889-?). (2000). In M. Ogilvie, & J. Harvey (Eds.), The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science (Vol. 1, p. 450). NY: Routledge.


Gengerelli, J. A. (1987). Sarah Carolyn Fisher (1889-1985). American Psychologist, 42(4), 402.