PSYCHOLOGY: Lottie gets her Ph.D at Goettingen, Laura shies away June 1900

At Goettingen, Lottie Steffens was “put at the head of a large round table with 12 professors, each one specializing in a different subject. They asked her questions out of turn, interrupting each other and on all different subjects. Somehow Lottie kept her head. Her only comment…was that she fell out of bed that night! Lottie’s sister, Laura Steffens, who also had been studying at Goettingen did not dare take the examination after she saw what happened.”

Psychology. Laura & Lottie Steffens study Psychology at Goettingen, 1896

Following the example of their older brother, Lincoln Steffens, Laura and Lottie went to Leipzig university in 1896. Laura studied psychology, attending lectures by the distinguished Wilhelm Wiundt among others. Moving to Gootingen in the spring of 1897, she became a student of Georg Muller in the Psychological Institute. Her dissertation research on the process of memorizing verse reported in her 1900 paper was an investigation of normal modes of learning, part of Muller’s broad program of exploring part versus whole learning. Using a number of subjects, both German and English speakers, she studied the modifications of the normal modes that individuals adopt and the question of whether the normal mode is the most efficient. 

Laura also moved from Leipzig to Goettingen and studied under Georg Muller. Her paper on the physiology and sensory psychology of weightlifting reported studies that might well have fulfilled the research requirements for a doctoral candidacy. However, she did not take the degree examination..
Ladies in the Laboratory: West European Women in Science 1800-1900.
West European Women in Science, by Mary R. S. Creese