The first period of work was by necessity characterized by a broad range of extensive inquiry. This also followed from the deliberate way of organizing the team so as to include representatives of different areas of psychology, namely theoretical psychology (Garai, 1969a), developmentaly psychology (Járó, 1973, 1975a, b, c, d; Járó et al., 1975), social psychology (Garai, 1969b), psychology of art (Erős, 1972, 1973), and neuro-psychology (Keleti, 1970; Köcski, 1969a, 1969b, 1971, 1972, 1974). The advantage of this composition was that the members of the team could combine their diverse stocks of knowledge in the study of the complex problematic of personality.
The orientation of the team started with seminars on readings of the literature in personality psychology in the strict sense. The typological approach being excluded from the team’s range of interest for reasons presented above, attention was concentrated on dynamic theories of personality. The major part of Lewin’s field theory and the following two of Freud’s propositions were integrated into the team’s principles of approach: (1) All the psychic and somatic manifestations of the individual should be taken as symbols and decoded with reference to the positions occupied in a system of relationships (which in Freud is the Oedipal triangle; see Garai and Köcski, 1978, Köcski and Garai, 1978); (2) Development is not something that merely happens to the individual, but a process to which the personality allocates much of its motivational energies either in an attempt to promote or to hinder that process in order to break up or preserve the actual relationship structures.
The next phase in elaborating fundamentals was dominated by efforts to select a certain body of material from social psychology that could be integrated into personality psychology. As a consequence of Garai’s study visit to France in 1971 and his participation in the general meeting and conference of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology in 1972, the Department became acquainted with the theoretical and methodological critique which Western European social psychologists were applying to the American tradition of the discipline, as well as to their own pre-1968 work. This critique had a decisive influence on the views of the Department (cf. Garai, 1972c), due to a large extent to the contrast with the background against which it was perceived, namely that of a general lack of critique characteristic of social psychology in Hungary at that time. It was especially at the first Hungarian Social Psychological Conference in 1972 that this contrast was quite clearly noticed by the Department, thus setting the tone of members” contributions to the conference where their “harsh” opinions inevitably roused general objection and resulted in their complete isolation.
Besides surveying different branches of psychology, the Department examined other approaches which could be integrated into a theory of personality psychology. Though this study was meant to concentrate the multifarious research orientations, it in fact extended the field of inquiry to areas outside psychology.
Work was directed first to embrace the approach of philosophical anthropology and other philosophical domains that had implications for the study of personality. An important point to add to the views of the Department was found in Sève’s conception (1969) suggesting that the activity of personality depends on extrinsic motivation that can only be understood by virtue of those spatial and mainly temporal structures that are determined by the existing relationships of production. (For a critical analysis of Sève’s book, see Erős, 1972). Studying Marx’s Grundrisse and expounding its psychological implications resulted in the construction of a production-centered psychology of personality which was initially elaborated in economic-philosophical categories only. An examination of Kant’s thoughts in the Critique of practical reason led to an investigation of the logical patterns that organize the cognitions rationalizing a person’s decisions. This work eventually led to awareness of the categorization paradox (Garai, 1976b).
In the search for theoretical synthesis, the Department examined the possibilities offered by mathematical systems theory. Attention was focused on the structure that characterizes the systems studied by this theory as opposed to that of cybernetic systems. These mathematical systems turned out to have special formal mechanisms which, unlike cybernetic feedback and information, provide for development and not for equilibrium in systems (Garai, 1971, 1973a). These mathematical systems turned out to have special formal mechanisms which, unlike cybernetic feedback and information, provide for development and not for equilibrium in systems (Garai, 1971, 1973a). In their search for synthesis, the Department members also turned to philosophy of science and examined the way in which other sciences, especially physics and biology, had found the means to encourage processes of integration during periods of crisis. Further, concrete investigations were made to find out to what extent the different psychological theories, which are the most concerned with personality can be fitted together into one logical system. This work in particular and, in general the entire activity of the Department, was favourably influenced by a Marxian group of French psychologists (Pécheux, Plon, Poitou and others) whose critique of social psychology is based on Lacan’s version of psychoanalysis.
These “meta-scientific” studies also had a direct bearing on one important area of the problematic which the Department was going to explore. It was postulated that in the objective process of the development of productive forces there emerge certain tasks which are in the spirit of the time with no one in particular being responsible for having formulated them; and these tasks, mediated by the specifically human fundamental need, have a motivating impact on persons occupying certain positions in the social structure. The hypothesis was put forward, together with an attempt to demonstrate it, in a paper analyzing János Bolyai’s discovery of non-Euclidean geometry (Garai, 1970). This paper, presented at the 13th International Congress on the History of Science, argued for the hypothesis by analyzing a remarkable fact: the two thousand year old geometrical problem had been solved at the beginning of the 19th century simultaneously but independently by the Hungarian mathematician J. Bolyai and the Russian mathematician Lobatchevski.