Dr. Alfredo Lagmay originally wanted to take up medicine “to heal and assuage pain” but lack of resources constrained him for doing so. He took up Psychology instead. He was a working student and was assigned to different offices of the University of the Philippines in Diliman. After the Second World War, he shifted to Philosophy and graduated Cum Laude in 1947. He was appointed instructor at UP in the same year and took up his master’s degree in Philosophy while teaching. In 1950, he went to Harvard University on a UP Fellowship grant to take advanced studies in Psychology. He obtained his master’s degree in 1951 while still at Harvard and went on to take further studies until he finished his doctorate in experimental psychology in 1955. He returned to the University of the Philippines and resumed teaching as an assistant professor of Psychology. He also became Chair of the UP Department of Psychology upon his return.
With his Harvard training under Dr. BF Skinner, Dr. Lagmay greatly influenced the development of scientific psychology in the Philippines. He introduced behavioral studies in psychology and published numerous researches on experimental analysis of behavior modification, relaxation and related states, and hypnosis. For his numerous contributions to the Philippine scientific community, Dr. Lagmay was appropriately conferred the National Scientist Award in 1988, the highest award given to Filipino scientists.
Dr. Lagmay was also a recognized institution builder. From a small department of some five faculty members then squatting in the College of Education, he built the UP Department of Psychology into its present respectable status, with over 30 faculty and 500 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate courses. He was department chair for 22 years, between 1955 and 1977. Dr. Lagmay was also the founding father of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP). Established in 1962, PAP now represents eight major areas in the practice of Psychology in the Philippines and continues to promote Psychology as a scientifically-oriented discipline. He was elected as president of PAP three times. Dr. Lagmay was also an original member of the National Academy of Science and Technology. He also served as chairman of the Philippine Social Science Council.