Vittorio Benussi

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Vittorio Benussi

Vittorio Benussi (born January 17, 1878 in Trieste , † November 24, 1927 in Padua ) was an Austro-Hungarian and Italian philosopher and psychologist and worked for Alexius Meinong in Graz. He was one of the most important experimental psychologists at the turn of the century and had a great influence on the development of the Italian school of Gestalt psychology .

Benussi tried to find experimental confirmations for the production theory of the Graz School . After his return to Italy he was a co-founder of the so-called School of Padua.


After graduating from a grammar school in Trieste, Benussi began studying philosophy at the University of Graz. After briefly studying German and Italian philology, stimulated by meeting Meinong, he began studying psychology. To complement his studies, he took courses in mathematics, physics, physiology and anatomy. He spent the winter semester of 1889/90 in Rome and attended lectures by Sante de Sanctis , the founder of psychology and neuropsychiatry for children in Italy. De Santis was the only one in Italy at the time who offered lectures on psychology. At that time there was no department in psychology in Italy.

Two years after returning to Graz, he was working on a dissertation on the subject of the Zöllner figure. Doctorate with distinction in an experimental psychological investigation . In 1905 he completed his habilitation on the subject: On the psychology of design comprehension. The Müller-Lyersche figure . He then worked until 1918 as a librarian at the University Library in Graz and as an employee of Meinong in the psychological laboratory. Deputy head of the laboratory until 1914 was Stephan Witasek . Witasek died a year later, and Benussi took over the management of the institute.

In 1907 he married Wilhelmine Liel , who also worked as an assistant at the psychological laboratory.

From 1905 to 1918 he taught experimental psychology at the University of Graz, and from 1920 to 1927 at the University of Padua . In 1927 Benussi committed suicide.

Works (selection)

Benussi became known for his experiments on the psychophysiological approach to credibility assessment from 1914 with his work: "The breathing symptoms of lies. He asked some of his test subjects to lie, others should tell the truth, and still others should evaluate whether these people Telling the truth. Surprisingly, the observers considered true statements to be false more often than making the reverse mistake. Benussi also found when observing breathing that the test subjects inhale longer than exhale before making a true statement and then exhale more strongly afterwards The test persons exhale a lie more strongly, then inhale longer. So if the inhalation was prolonged in relation to the exhalation during the first breaths after the testimony, he suspected a lie. The reverberation of the truth is accordingly an extended expiration, the reverberation of the lie one Extended inspiration (Benussi criterion). Was communicated to the candidates t that everyone was known to tell the untruth, so people breathed like those who were supposed to tell the truth. Benussi concluded that it is not the cognitive work involved in lying that has an influence on breathing, but rather the emotion "fear of being recognized or seen through".

The works in detail:

  • About the Zöllner figure. Dissertation, University of Graz, 1901 (handwritten)
  • Psychology of the conception of time. Winter, Heidelberg 1913. (Reprint: Edition Classic, VDM Verlag 2007, ISBN 978-3-8364-3793-6 )
  • La suggestione e l'ipnosi come mezzi di analisi psichica reale. Zanichelli, Bologna 1925, OCLC 252323999 .
  • Suggestione e psicanalisi. (posthumous, 1932)

Benussi's scientific papers are at the Instituto di Psicologia of the Università Statale in Milan.


  • Liliana Albertazzi: The Time of Presentness. A Chapter in Positivistic and Descriptive Psychology. In: Axiomathes. 10 (1-2), 1999, pp. 49-74.
  • Liliana Albertazzi: Vittorio Benussi. In: L. Albertazzi, D. Jacquette, R. Poli (Eds.): The School of Alexius Meinong. Asghate, Aldershot 2001, ISBN 1-84014-374-6 , pp. 1-35.
  • Vittorio Benussi: Sperimentare l'inconscio. Scritti (1905-1927) . Cortina editore, 2006, ISBN 88-6030-035-5 .
  • Vittorio Benussi: The breathing symptoms of the lie. In: Archives for Psychology. 31, pp. 244-273.
  • Barry Smith: Austrian Philosophy . Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago 1994, ISBN 0-8126-9256-X .
  • Max Steller: Psychophysiological statement assessment. Verlag für Psychologie Hogrefe, Göttingen 1987, ISBN 3-8017-0259-6 .


  1. Max Steller: Psychophysiological statement assessment. Verlag für Psychologie Hogrefe, Göttingen 1987.
  2. ^ Vittorio Benussi: The breathing symptoms of the lie. In: Archives for Psychology. 31, pp. 244-273.
  3. Alexander Elster, Rudolf Sieverts : Concise Dictionary of Criminology. Volume 1: Superstition - Forensic Biology. DeGruyter Verlag, 1964, DNB 456905030 .

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