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History & Systems of Psychology
Chapter 9 – Voluntarism & Structuralism

Experimental Psychology
Wilhelm Wundt studied with Helmholtz at the University of Heidelberg, spent his own career at the University of Leipzig, where Weber & Fechner were working
Advances of prior experimental psychologists were synthesized into a unified program of research by Wundt at Leipzig
1879 – formal founding of first psychology laboratory by Wundt at Leipzig, often seen as the formal founding of (experimental) psychology

Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920)
Program of research stressed selective attention, i.e., will or volition – formed school of thought called voluntarism
Goal of psychology –
Understand simple conscious phenomena (basic processes of the mind) through experimental methods
Believed complex conscious phenomena (higher mental processes) could only be understood through naturalistic observation, i.e., sociology, religion, arts, etc.

Wundt, cont.
Primary experimental method to study simple conscious processes – introspection, but of a particular kind – used lab instruments to vary conditions & recorded responses to stimuli
Two types of simple conscious processes:
Sensations: occur when sense organ is stimulated & impulse reaches brain, describe in terms of modality, intensity, & quality
Feelings: accompany sensations, describe on 3 dimensions (pleasantness, excitement, strain)
Also did reaction time studies to investigate mind

Wundt, cont.
Perception is passive process governed by stimulation, physical makeup of the person, & person’s past experience
Perceptual field is interaction of these factors with all stimuli in environment
Apperception is part of perceptual field the person is attending to – an active & voluntary process (hence “voluntarism”)
Creative synthesis – arrangement & rearrangement of elements of consciousness according to the person’s will; vs. associationism

Edward Titchener (1867-1927)
Studied with Wundt, brought experimental psychology to USA, established first major program at Cornell
School of thought – structuralism
Focus on raw sensations, most basic elements of consciousness; wanted to develop a classification of elements & ID’d more than 40,000 sensations
Elements combine through association (law of contiguity), no apperception or creative synthesis

Herman Ebbinghaus (1850-1909)
An example of early experimental psychology used to study higher mental processes – learning & memory.
Ebbinghaus used memorization of nonsense syllables under varied conditions to discover much about learning & memory.
Rapid initial forgetting
Effects of overlearning
Meaningfulness
Distributed practice
The famous number 7