Today’s scholars know James’s psychology primarily through his great Principles of Psychology (1890), but those who studied the subject at the turn of the century were more apt to learn his view through his Psychology: Briefer Course (1892). Indeed, professors at colleges and universities throughout the United States use this book—which their students labeled “Jimmy” to distinguish it from the larger “James”—in their classes, and more than six times as many copies of the Briefer Course were sold by 1902 as were sets of Principles.
Despite its title, the Briefer Course is more than a simple condensation of the larger work. For example, to the material from Principles James added several chapters on the physiology of the senses that helped mesh his psychology with the other sciences of the period. The earlier chapter title “The Stream of Thought” is replaced here with “The Stream of Consciousness.” Psychology: Briefer Course remains a useful and highly readable introduction to James’s views on psychology and is an essential source for anyone interested in studying all of his psychological writings.