Anitra Karsten

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Anitra Karsten

Anitra Karsten (born December 11, 1902 in Turku , † October 29, 1988 in Frankfurt am Main ) was a Finnish psychologist who worked for Kurt Lewin at the Humboldt University in Berlin . The first empirical study on the phenomenon of " psychological satiety " comes from her . She later made a name for herself as a gerontologist .

life and work

Anitra Karsten was born in Finland into an educated middle-class family who were ready to encourage their intellectual development. In 1922, at the request of her parents, she moved to Berlin to study at university. After initially studying literature, she switched to the Psychological Institute of the University of Berlin, which at that time was shaped by the founders of Gestalt psychology Wolfgang Köhler , Max Wertheimer and Kurt Lewin . She began studying psychology with Kurt Lewin, where she and a number of other Lewin students - u. a. Tamara Dembo , Bluma Zeigarnik and Maria Ovsiankina - whose experimental research program involved investigations into action and affect psychology . In this context, the pioneering study Psychological Saturation , which was published in 1928, emerged as her dissertation .

From 1929 Karsten worked in Berlin as a freelance advertising psychologist ; In 1936 she received her first lectureship in advertising psychology at the newly founded Higher Reich Advertising School, which she held until 1939. In parallel to these professional activities, Karsten took part in research by the shape-theoretical musicologist Erich Moritz von Hornbostel at the Psychological Institute in Berlin on questions of the unity of the senses .

During the war years Karsten lived in Sweden and Finland: first she worked as a cultural advisor for Finland in Stockholm, then as an advisor to the Ministry of Information in Helsinki.

After the war Karsten taught psychology at the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration in Helsinki, but also at kindergartens, for nurses, home managers and social workers. In 1948 she turned to age research , a subject that was still little worked on at the time. Her work in this area is also shaped by Lewin's field theory as she got to know it during her time in Berlin.

In 1949 she received a one-year research grant from the International Association of University Women for a research stay in the USA, for which she chose the University of Ann Arbor in Michigan (now University of Michigan ). The main focus of her research during this year was the problem of prejudice , a topic that she would continue to follow in her research life. In addition, this year in the USA made it possible for her to meet friends and teachers from her time in Berlin again, including Wolfgang and Lili Köhler, Kurt Lewin, Maria Rickers-Ovsiankina and Tamara Dembo.

In 1960 Anitra Karsten returned to Germany from Finland because she saw no prospect of a chair in psychology in Finland. After visiting professorships in Erlangen and Marburg, she finally received a scholarship to research the “situation of old people in the countryside in Germany” and a teaching position at the Faculty of Economics in Frankfurt. In 1964 she was appointed visiting professor for gerontology at the University of Frankfurt. In aging research, she shared the view of Charlotte Bühler and Hans Thomae that the process of aging encompasses all of life. In 1982 she founded the “University of the 3rd Age” - an institution for university advanced training for older people and for the young to learn from the older.


selected Writings

  • 1928: Mental satiety. In: Psychological Research, 10, pp. 142–254.
  • 1953: The prejudice. In: Psychological Contributions, I, pp. 149–161.
  • 1960: Perception of Aging. In: Psychological contributions, V, pp. 102-104.
  • 1961: Old age and retirement. In: Soziale Welt, vol. 3, pp. 229–236.
  • 1963: Motivation and Affective Events. In R. Meili, H. Rohracher (ed.): Textbook of experimental psychology . Huber, Bern, pp. 281-326.
  • 1964: The task of age research. In: Blätter der Wohlfahrtspflege, 12, pp. 380–386.
  • 1965: Problems of Aging Research. In: Psychologische Rundschau, 1, pp. 1–27.
  • 1969: Satisfaction and personality structure in old age. In: Publ. D. Ges. F. Gerontology, Vol. 2. Darmstadt, pp. 99-102.
  • 1983: Basic concepts of social gerontology . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-170-07299-4 .


  • Anitra Karsten , in: Ludwig Pongratz u. a. (Ed.): Psychology in Self- Representations, Volume 2. Verlag Hans Huber, Bern / Stuttgart / Vienna 1979, pp. 77-108.
  • Hellmuth Metz-Göckel : Anitra Karsten: Mental satiety. In: S. Volkmann-Raue, H. E. Lück (Ed.): Important psychologists. Biographies and writings . Beltz, Weinheim 2002, ISBN 3-407-22136-3 , pp. 285-300.
  • Ernst Plaum : "Psychological saturation" - a concept of the Lewin school that has not received enough attention. In: Gestalt Theory 13 (3), 1991, pp. 159-164.
  • Esther Ringling: Prof. Dr. Anitra Karsten (1902–1988) - her life, her life's work. In: G. Böhme, S. Dabo-Cruz (Hrsg.): Gerontology in educational theory and practice: 20 years Frankfurt University of the 3rd age. Schulz-Kirchner, Idstein 2003, ISBN 3-824-80369-0 , pp. 65-91.
  • Maria Seidenschwann : Anitra Karsten (1902–1988). From the discovery of psychological satiety to the pioneer of age research. In: Phenomenal 4 (1-2), 2012, ISSN  2410-2504 , pp. 86-88.
  • Marianne Soff: From mental satiety to exhaustion of the will to work. Kurt Lewin and Anitra Karsten as pioneers of burnout research . In: Gestalt Theory 33 (2), 2012, pp. 183-200.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Anna-Liisa Sysiharju: Anitra Karsten December 11, 1902 - October 29, 1988 . Psykologia 24 (1989): 1, pp. 46-47.
  2. see the autobiographical text by Karsten 1979 and Metz-Göckel 2002, Ringling 2003 and Seidenschwann 2012.
  3. Anitra Karsten: Mental satiety. In: Psychologische Forschung, 10, 1928, pp. 142-254.
  4. This is about early synesthesia research: tones, brightnesses and smells should be related in such a way that they are perceived as “equally” bright and high; The basis was the work of Hornbostel: The unit of the senses , in: Melos, Zeitschr. f. Music, iv, 1927, pp. 290-297.
  5. see Chronicle of the University of the 3rd Age and G. Böhme, S. Dabo-Cruz (Hrsg.): Gerontology in Educational Theory and Practice: 20 Years Frankfurt University of the 3rd Age. Schulz-Kirchner, Idstein 2003.