WILHELM WUNDT


FATHER OF

EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
 
 

Timeline

1832-  Wilhelm Maximillian Wundt was born in Neckarau near Mannheim

1852-  Moved to Heidelberg where he received his medical doctorate in 1856

1855-  Worked with Mueller and then Helmhotz at Heidelberg

1864-  He was appointed professor at Heidelberg

1867-  Taught physiological psychology

1873-  He published the first volume of his main work entitled The Principles

            of Physiological Psychology

1874-  He was appointed to the chair of inductive philosophy at the University of

            Zurich

1875-  Appointed to the University of Leipzig, where he remained for forty-five

            years

1875-  Wundt was given his first laboratory consisting of one room

1879-  Opened his first full laboratory with more room and equipment

1883-  Founded the first psychological journal under the title Philosophische

            Studien (Philosophical Studies)

1897-  Was given his own building

1920-  Died in Grossbothen near Leipzig
 
 

Biography

    Wilhelm Wundt was born on June 16, 1832 in Neckarau which was a small town near Mannheim Germany.  Wilhelm came from a family that had deep roots in the intellectual world.  Wilhelm's uncles and aunts were physicians and professors of physiology.  Wundt's father was an Evangelical pastor.  Wilhelm was an only child due to his siblings' death from malaria.  Since his youth Wundt was labeled as a daydreamer which left him alone and out casted from the other children.  When Wundt's parents heard of this they sent him to live with his aunt and older brother Ludwig at Heidelberg.  Here Wilhelm began to flourish and graduated at the age of nineteen.  Wundt then attended medical school at Tubingen where he became interested in his uncle's course in brain anatomy.  After three years he passed his final medical examinations summa cum laude.  Then he began his work in experimental research.  In 1879 Wundt was given the first experimental psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig.  He stayed at Leipzig until his death on August 31st, 1920 in the town of Grossbothen near Leipzig.
 
 

The First Laboratory

    When Wundt first started out at the University of Leipzig he was looking for storage space.  He had a large collection of apparatus that he had put together over the years to go along with his lectures.  In 1876 he finally received the space and continued teaching experimental psychology .  In 1879 he had students assisting him in his research.  In the same year Max Freidrich and Ernst Tischer, and G Stanely Hall joined Wundt to conduct studies on reaction-time.  In 1883 Wundt was given four times the space for his new laboratory along with a forty percent salary increase.  The University now recognized the laboratory as the Institute of Experimental Psychology.  Sometimes even Wundt would have to be the in the studies.  Soon students from around the world were flocking to earn their PhD's in experimental psychology.

The Founding of Modern Psychology

    Wundt's interest in consciousness led him to the conclusion of what he called the actuality principle.  This asserts that consciousness refers more to activity than to substances.  Wundt saw this as a way of avoiding Descartes' mind-body approach.   Wundt saw psychology as more of a separation from physiology than from philosophy, which has how it was commonly perceived.  Wundt's use of the word physiologischen , or physiological, misled some historians because in the mid 1800s Germany, this term referred to the experimental treatment of subject matter and not to physiology as we know it today.  Wundt's main idea of consciousness has to do with what he called volition or self-control.  This idea concentrated on purposely selecting your attention.

    Wundt started his psychological studies believing that perception was mainly the work of sensory organs.  He eventually decided that central synthesis, and not this view, was correct.  He claimed that mental representations like thoughts and memories were all part of one central process.  He did mot believe that memory was simply retrieving past thoughts, rather it recreates past experiences.  He felt that mental activities were not lasting but instead parts of one's individual's personal will.  He expanded this idea throughout the remainder of his career.

Folk Psychology

    Wudt also studied volkerpsychology.  This method used historical rather than experimental methods.  Folk psychology more closely resembles anthropology in that it deals with language, culture, religion, and myths.  He believed that this was an essential part of understanding human nature.  Wundt thought that although experimental methods were important and necessary in the study of psychology,  it could not be the only method of investigation.  Language,  Wundt said, was one of the most important parts of mental processing like thinking and did not think that one could learn about these things through experimentation.  He wrote a two-volume work on this subject titled Lectures on the Human and Animal Mind.  This work covered such things as speech, religion, and culture.

Voluntaristic Psychology

    Wundt began demonstrating differences between controlled actions and automatic actions.  this began the voluntarist school of psychology in Europe.  This school founded on apperception referring to the actions occurring in the center of the visual field.  This deals with what we pay attention to in our field of view.  He made a distinction between perception and apperception.  Perceived ideas are grouped together in a mechanical and automatic process. Where as apperceived ideas are grouped  in a way in which Wundt called creative synthesis taking place at the center of attention.  This is a more conscious process which allows more creative responses to occur than just than by using just past experiences.  The way in which we apperceive stimulus was determined by Wundt to be a process that cannot be predicted.  This belief  is more closely related to Descartes' view "will",  in contrast to Helmhotz, mechanistic view.

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