Essay: Psychology History

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Introspection was a method introduced by Wundt and then used by early psychologists such as Titchener. Wundt's method of introspection was often classified as structuralism, the breaking down of consciousness into its basic elements. We no longer believe that Wundt should be classified as a structuralist. Describe his research agenda and the methods of his research that he introduced to psychology, explaining the degree to which they did and did not involve the breakdown of consciousness into elements.

Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) was a German physician, philosopher, and psychologist and, in many academic circles, known as the father of experimental psychology (Butler-Bowdon, 2006). Wundt, in fact, insisted that psychology should be a separate discipline at a time when it was seen as only a subcategory of some aspects of medicine, and believed it was more empirical than philosophy and more focused on the cognitive mind than physiology.

It was, in fact, Wundt's student, Tichener, who descriped Wundt as a structuralist, expcially the methodology used in his Prinicples of Physiological Psychology. One of the core issues of Wundt, though, when explaining his scholarly methodology, is an understanding that it evolved over a lengthy, 65-year career. This, at times, makes it difficult to pin Wundt into a single modality.

For example, Wundt shows tendencies as a foundationalist who focused on understanding the intricacies of knowledge from a more atomistic, coherent, understanding of the Universe (Boring, 1970). As he aged, though, Wundt understandably allowed the robustness of the emerging scholarship in psychology to influence his thoughts and writings.

His approach, though, to scientific inquiry was called Ganzheit Pscyhologie, or Holistic Psychology. This approach was often misunderstood in the United States because of a lack of appropriate translations, and even some misinterpretations by Wundt's students. The basic idea of Holistic Psychology, though, uses introspection to first investigate psychological phenomenon. It is the science of studying experiences that allows the mind to be uncovered -- albeit without spending an inordinate amount of philosophizing on the relationship between the soul and the body. According to Wundt, no one could observe an experience better than the person having the experience, and the method of introspection was therefore key in the study of psychology (Schultz, 2007).

Introspection does not merely involve self-reflection but for Wundt was a rigorous process that involved extracting the most simple of sensations and feelings from the conscious experience. The goal was to describe an experience without interpreting what was happening. What had to be described was the intensity, the duration, the mode (what sense was involved e.g. hearing), and quality (e.g. A shape) of the sensation. Along with reporting the dimensions of the sensations, the feelings that accompanied the sensations were also to be analyzed. Thus, for Wundt, the core method of uncovering psychological truth was in describing feeling. Feeling could be described on the following three dimensions: pleasant or unpleasant, tension or relaxation, and activity or passivity (Wundt, 2009).

2. One of the outcomes that emerged from evolutionary theory in psychology was comparative psychology. Explain why an evolutionary approach fostered a comparative psychology and describe some of the studies carried out by comparative psychologists.

There remains continual controvery over the term "comparative psychology," with one camp holding that it is the study of the behavior of other… [END OF PREVIEW]

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