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Wundt. Voluntarism and Introspection. Voluntarism, not volunteerism. Voluntarism : the power of the will to organize the mind’s content into higher-level thought processes.

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Voluntarism and Introspection

Voluntarism, not volunteerism

  • Voluntarism: the power of the will to organize the mind’s content into higher-level thought processes.

  • An associationist model, from simple elements to larger compounds, but it does not simply progress mechanically, the will has an organizing effect.

The contents of the mind

  • Basic immediate experience (ex: the experience of “redness” or “discomfort”)

  • Wundt wanted to catalog all possible basic immediate experiences, and form a “periodical table of elements” as chemistry did.

  • The way to observe consciousness is through the method of introspection.

The method of introspection

  • Introspection or internal perception (intro = inside, spectare: looking)

  • Observation of simple processes under very careful conditions that can be replicated

  • Observers were extensively trained (10,000 observations before they were considered trained)

The Method of mental Chronometry

  • Invented by Donders

  • Makes use of reaction time

  • The more complex mental operation takes more time.

Elements of conscious experience

  • Sensations: the result of the stimulation of a sense organ. Classified by:

    • Intensity, duration, sense modality

  • Feelings: the affective tone of a sensation

Sensations (1)

  • General sense:

    • Pressure, heat, cold

  • Sound

    • Simple noise, simple tone

  • Smell and taste

    • Smell: hard to categorize

    • Taste: sour, sweet, bitter, salty

Sensations (2)

  • Light

    • Achromatic (black/white)

    • Chromatic (colors)

      • Dimensions: tone, saturation, brightness


  • Pleasant /unpleasant

  • Excitement/depression

  • Tension/relaxation

Psychical compounds

  • Ideas (composed of several sensations)

  • Composite feelings (several feelings mixed together)

  • Emotions (typical form in which affective processes occur). Emotions have a temporal quality: beginning, middle, end.

  • Volitions (changes in ideas and feelings that bring an emotion to a close)

General consciousness

  • Interconnects the psychical compounds

  • When connections are broken, unconsciousness or sleep results

  • The process of synthesis is creative, growth oriented, and leading toward the development of opposites

The field of consciousness

  • Everything that is in the field of consciousness at one time.

  • Includes:

    • What is subject to apperception, and is perceived clearly

    • What is subject to Apprehension, and is not seen clearly --background material, existing as a potential for apperception.


  • Apperception is a volitional process, i.e. it has to do with the will.

  • It is the will that directs the attention and is at the basis of the creative synthesis that leads to the construction of knowledge

Apperception and clinical psychology

  • Projective tests such as the Rorschach and the TAT are based on the concept of apperception.

  • TAT: Thematic Apperception Test

  • Why is it that we perceive reality this or that way?

The End

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