psychohistory n.

Isaac Asimov’s term for: a hypothetical science using a combination of history, psychology, and statistics to make long-term predictions about large groups or populations

The 1934 quotation shows the earliest example of a sense in psychology, ‘the analysis or interpretation of historical events from the point of view of psychological or psychoanalytic theory’.

SF Encyclopedia

  • [1934 Reunion 1 34

    Judged by this profound philosophical test, so many of the glibly clear solutions of psycho-history are unsatisfactory.]

  • 1942 I. Asimov Foundation in Astounding Science-Fiction May 42/1 page image Isaac Asimov bibliography

    After the Fall will come inevitable barbarism, a period which, our psychohistory tells us, should…last from thirty to fifty thousand years.

  • 1945 I. Asimov The Mule in Astounding Science-Fiction Nov. 37/2 page image Isaac Asimov bibliography

    As I understand it, your investigations into the mathematics of psychohistory have been intended to duplicate Hari Seldon’s work and, eventually, trace the projected course of future history.

  • 1951 I. Asimov Foundation Trilogy–Foundation i. i. 3 Isaac Asimov

    Undoubtedly his greatest contributions were in the field of psychohistory.

  • 1980 J. E. Pournelle New Beginnings: The Proper Study of Mankind in Destinies Spring 44 page image Jerry Pournelle bibliography

    Hari Seldon’s psychohistory probably isn’t possible; but something short of it may yet be developed by people trained in scientific method and equipped with modern tools.

  • 1996 New Scientist 20 Jan. 44/2

    Donald Kingsbury’s ‘Historical Crisis’ challenges the Asimovian concept of psychohistory, a mathematical scheme for predicting the future of societies.


Research requirements

antedating 1942

Earliest cite

Isaac Asimov, in Astounding.

Research History
There are prior non-sf usages, but this is almost certainly the first usage in the sf sense.

Last modified 2021-01-22 10:33:02
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.