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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Understand the importance of Wundt and James in the development of psychology
  • Appreciate Freud’s influence on psychology
  • Understand the basic tenets of Gestalt psychology
  • Appreciate the important role that behaviorism played in psychology’s history
  • Understand basic tenets of humanism
  • Understand how the cognitive revolution shifted psychology’s focus back to the mind

Psychology is a relatively young science with its experimental roots in the 19th century, compared, for example, to human physiology, which dates much earlier. As mentioned, anyone interested in exploring issues related to the mind generally did so in a philosophical context prior to the 19th century. Two men, working in the 19th century, are generally credited as being the founders of psychology as a science and academic discipline that was distinct from philosophy. Their names were Wilhelm Wundt and William James. This section will provide an overview of the shifts in paradigms that have influenced psychology from Wundt and James through today.

Wundt and structuralism

Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920) was a German scientist who was the first person to be referred to as a psychologist. His famous book entitled Principles of Physiological Psychology was published in 1873. Wundt viewed psychology as a scientific study of conscious experience, and he believed that the goal of psychology was to identify components of consciousness and how those components combined to result in our conscious experience. Wundt used introspection    (he called it “internal perception”), a process by which someone examines their own conscious experience as objectively as possible, making the human mind like any other aspect of nature that a scientist observed. Wundt’s version of introspection used only very specific experimental conditions in which an external stimulus was designed to produce a scientifically observable (repeatable) experience of the mind (Danziger, 1980). The first stringent requirement was the use of “trained” or practiced observers, who could immediately observe and report a reaction. The second requirement was the use of repeatable stimuli that always produced the same experience in the subject and allowed the subject to expect and thus be fully attentive to the inner reaction. These experimental requirements were put in place to eliminate “interpretation” in the reporting of internal experiences and to counter the argument that there is no way to know that an individual is observing their mind or consciousness accurately, since it cannot be seen by any other person. This attempt to understand the structure or characteristics of the mind was known as structuralism    . Wundt established his psychology laboratory at the University at Leipzig in 1879 ( [link] ). In this laboratory, Wundt and his students conducted experiments on, for example, reaction times. A subject, sometimes in a room isolated from the scientist, would receive a stimulus such as a light, image, or sound. The subject’s reaction to the stimulus would be to push a button, and an apparatus would record the time to reaction. Wundt could measure reaction time to one-thousandth of a second (Nicolas&Ferrand, 1999).

Questions & Answers

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1. Learning about how the mind works (interpreting our thoughts/logic/reasoning) can be applied to philosophy; 2. Learnsing the anatomy & physiology of our brain & body can be applied to biology; 3. Studying a person's behavior & their social interactions with other people correlates with sociology.
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*Our* own individual perceptions of how things work will only be *our* truth unless convinced otherwise by evidence from outside resources.
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Antwi Reply
psychology is a systematic study about human brain,mind, thinking pattern, and cognition.
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Source:  OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 03, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11629/1.5
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