- The study of variations in size, shape, and proportion of the cranium. Phrenology was a pseudoscience of the 18th and 19th centuries based on the belief that a person's character could be learned by looking with care at the shape of their head and noting each and every bump and depression in their skull. The individual mental faculties were believed to be contained in neat compartments in the cerebral cortex and the size of these faculties were supposed to be reflected by the configuration of the skull. The best known model of phrenology was that of Gall who marked off the places of twenty-six organs on the head. The term "phrenology" was cobbled together from the Greek "phren" (the mind or the seat of reason and passion) and "logos" (a treatise, discourse or study). Phrenology has also been called craniognomy and craniology. Irrespective of name, it is an absurd concept.
* * *An obsolete doctrine that each of the mental faculties is located in a definite part of the cerebral cortex, the size of which part varies in a direct ratio with the development and strength of the corresponding faculty, this size being indicated by the external configuration of the skull. SYN: craniognomy. [phreno- + G. logos, study]
* * *phre·nol·o·gy fri-'näl-ə-jē n, pl -gies the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character
* * *n.the study of the bumps on the outside of the skull in order to determine a person's character. It is based on the mistaken theory that the skull becomes modified over the different functional areas of the cortex of the brain.
* * *phre·nol·o·gy (frə-nolґə-je) [phreno- + -logy] the theory, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, that mental faculties could be determined by the location of bumps and other topographical features on the skull.
Medical dictionary. 2011.