Compare and Contrast Wilhelm Wundt’s and Edward Titchener’s Systems of Psychology.

Topics: Wilhelm Wundt, Edward B. Titchener, Mind Pages: 6 (1922 words) Published: August 29, 2013
Compare and contrast Wilhelm Wundt’s (1832-1920) and Edward Titchener’s (1867-1927) systems of Psychology.History of Psychology

Michael Ronan

Q. Compare and contrast Wilhelm Wundt’s (1832-1920) and Edward Titchener’s (1867-1927) systems of Psychology.

Wilhelm Wundt was born in Mannheim, Germany on the 16th of August 1832. He grew up surrounded by a very intellectual family. Wundt was very distant from both his parents and a very lonely child in his early years in general. When his father suffered a stroke his assistant thought Wundt until the age of 13. At the age of 13 he entered into a Gymnasium. He failed his first year but graduated at the age of 19. (Nutty 2011) After graduating he went on to study medicine. After medicine he went on to study physiology under teachers such as Hermann Von Helmholtz. He was awarded a doctorate in 1855 and from 1857-1864 he lectured physiology at Heidelberg. In 1864 he was made professor of Heidelberg. In 1879 the University of Leipzig recognised Wundt’s laboratory and this is known worldwide as the beginning of psychology as a science. “In 1920, he wrote Erlebtes and Erkanntes, his autobiography. A short time later, on August 31, 1920, he died.” (Nutty 2011) Edward Titchener was born in Chichester, England on the 11th of January 1867. He studied philosophy and classics at Oxford and then became a research assistant in philosophy. Titchener studied under Wundt for two years and received his degree in 1892. He then returned to Oxford to lecture in biology. He went to teach psychology and direct the laboratory at the new Cornell University until his death in 1927. (Nutty 2011)

“Titchener identified with Wundt’s personal and professional style and with the elementary dimensions of his psychology. Titchener did not admire Wundt’s larger philosophical vision especially his emphasis on social, cultural, and linguistic studies. Rather, Titchener identified with the hard-core scientific work in Wundt’s laboratory.” (King et al 2009) Much of Wundt’s first experiments in his laboratory in Leipzig were investigations into the senses or sensation and perception. He spent much of this time studying vision. The main way Wundt used to investigate psychological phenomenon was through introspection. Wundt thought of psychology as the science of experience and studying psychological phenomenon so to him this involved studying conscious experience. (King et al 2009) Wundt was smart, by choosing experience to be the focus of his study of psychology he avoided talking about the relationship between the soul and the body. In doing this he was able to distance himself from philosophical ideas to do with the mind. To Wundt the best person to observe an experience was the person having it and this made introspection key in his studies in psychology. (King et al 2009). Introspection did not merely involve self-reflection for Wundt, it 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 analysed. Feeling could be described on the following three dimensions: pleasant or unpleasant, tension or relaxation, and activity or passivity. Wundt’s students had to be thoroughly trained in introspection and not all of them were able to master the skills required to do it. Before a student’s introspection accounts were taken seriously they would have had to make around 10,000 introspection observations. Introspection was used mostly in conjunction with measures of reaction time and word associations. (King et al 2009) One survey found that out of 180 laboratory reports on experiments from the...

Bibliography: * Nutty, F. (2011) ‘The New Psychology’, History of Psychology, Waterford Institute of Technology, unpublished.
* D.Brett King, Wayne Viney, William Douglas Woody (2009). A History of Psychology Ideas and Context. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson. P.232-254.
* New World Encyclopaedia (2008), Edward B. Titchener [online], available: [accessed 1 December 2011].
* Thomas, Nigel J.T. (2010), Mental Imagery, The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, [online], available: [accessed 1 December 2011]
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