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History of Psychology

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  1. History of Psychology Modern History

  2. History of Psychology “Psychology has a long past, but only a short history” - Hermann Ebbinghaus (1908)

  3. History • We will discuss the history of Psychology • Voluntarism • Structuralism • Functionalism • Behaviorism • Gestalt Psychology • Psychoanalysis • Cognitive Psychology • Neuroscience • Then cover key points in the history of psychology

  4. History • We will discuss the history of Psychology • Voluntarism • Structuralism • Functionalism • Behaviorism • Gestalt Psychology • Psychoanalysis • Cognitive Psychology • Neuroscience • Then cover key points in the history of psychology

  5. Voluntarism • Founder: Wilhelm Wundt • Goals: • To understand how Voluntary Action is formed • To discover the basic elements of thought • To discover how the laws that operate on elements of thought combine to form more complex mental processes

  6. Voluntarism • Founder: Wilhelm Wundt • Goals: • To understand how Voluntary Action is formed • To discover the basic elements of thought • To discover how the laws that operate on elements of thought combine to form more complex mental processes

  7. The Thought Meter • A pendulum (B) was arranged along a calibrated scale (M), and set to ding at points (d) and (b). • Wundt would get people to watch the scale and note the position of the pendulum whenever they heard a ding.

  8. The Thought Meter • Wundt noted that people were consistently 1/10th of a second off when noting the position of the pendulum at the sound of the ding.

  9. The Thought Meter • From his experiments, Wundt concluded that one could either attend to the position of the pendulum, or to the position of the bell, but not both at the same time. • Furthermore, it took approximately 1/10th of a second to voluntarily change our attentional focus from one thing to another. • Much of Wundt’s research focused on voluntary decisions, hence his paradigm is called Voluntarism.

  10. Voluntary Action • Wundt believed that voluntary action (what we might call choice) was what defined Psychology as a topic of study. • Our behaviors are sometimes chosen, not merely reflexive.

  11. Causation • Wundt held a unique perspective. • He accepted that causation existed, and the physical world was lawful. • e.g., If I line up a row of dominoes and tip the first, they will all fall down, fully obeying the laws of physics.

  12. Causation • Despite accepting Causality, he argued that mental events could not be described in terms of causation. • Why? • To establish causality, we must be able to: • 1) Observe an event (cause) • 2) Observe a second event (effect) that immediately follows • 3) Rule out all extraneous reasons for the second event occuring (e.g., a gust a of wind blew the second domino over!) • However the effects of psychological causes are delayed (remember the thought meter?). • This means a mental event never immediately follows its cause, so we can never be 100% certain which of the previous possibly infinite mental events was the real cause.

  13. Causation • The effects of psychological events can be observed (i.e., we can observe someone making a choice). • However, due to the delay between psychological cause and effect, we cannot study psychology in terms of causation. • Despite this, psychological causes can be introduced and effects can be observed.

  14. Voluntarism • Founder: Wilhelm Wundt • Goals: • To understand how Voluntary Action is formed • To discover the basic elements of thought • To discover how the laws that operate on elements of thought combine to form more complex mental processes

  15. Sensations and Feelings • According to Wundt, sensations and feelings are the two basic types of mental experiences • Sensations: • Can be described in terms of modality (visual, auditory, tactile, etc) • And intensity (how bright, how loud, how sharp) • Feelings: • Accompany sensations, and describe how pleasant/unpleasant, excitable/calming, strained/relaxed the sensation is.

  16. Sensations and Feelings • Sensations begin psychological events. • Example from the Thought Meter: • A bell vibrates, which causes • The sense of a ding, which causes • Some unknown mental event, which causes • Some unknown mental event, which causes • … • Some unknown mental event, which causes • The choice of the participant to shift attention to the position of the pendulum.

  17. Introspection • Wundt utilized experimental introspection to discover elements of thought. • Wundt is often misattributed as using pure introspection in his research. This is wrong!

  18. Pure Introspection • Pure Introspection • Relatively unstructured, freeform self-observation • e.g., “hmm, my stomach is growling. I notice I feel unhappy. When I think back to other times my stomach has been growling, I have been unhappy then too! I wonder if these things are related?”

  19. Experimental Introspection • Experimental Introspection • Directed, binary, and replicable • Example: • Researcher: “Have you eaten today?” • Participant: Yes/No • Researcher: “Do you feel pain in your stomach?” • Participant: Yes/No • Researcher 5 days later: “Have you Eaten Today?” • …

  20. Wundt’s Approach • Wundt was interested in taking an Experimental Approach in understanding Psychology. • This requires: • Objective observation (i.e., measured from a source outside the system generating the behavior) • Observations can be repeated on separate occasions • Experimental Introspection provides these things, whereas Pure Introspection does not

  21. Introspection • Why does the distinction matter? • Despite believing cause and effect could not be applied to Psychology, Wundt still believed that mental processes were lawful (just really complicated and likely impossible to measure directly). • If we are to understand lawful processes, rigorous, repeatable methods of observation must be employed. • Pure introspection, though informative, is not rigorous and definitely not repeatable!

  22. Misinterpretations • Psychology gained immense popularity in America and England during Wundt’s time • Many students from these countries would move to Germany to study with Wundt, and then take professorships at American universities • Most of Wundt’s students spoke poor German, which introduced a communication barrier • They would then be mostly cut off from European research after moving to America • This resulted in large misinterpretations of Wundt’s work during the following years, particularly with what he meant by “element of thought” and “introspection”

  23. History • We will discuss the history of Psychology • Voluntarism • Structuralism • Functionalism • Behaviorism • Gestalt Psychology • Psychoanalysis • Cognitive Psychology • Neuroscience • Then cover key points in the history of psychology

  24. Structuralism • Founder: Edward Titchener • Goals • Problems

  25. Structuralism • Founder: Edward Titchener • Goals • To expand on Wundt’s work and catalog the basic mental elements that account for all of conscious experience • Problems

  26. Structuralism • The goal of structuralism was to create a psychological equivalent of the periodic table of elements. • Structuralism wanted to identify the complete set of basic elements that compose conscious experience. • Structuralism approached this task through introspection

  27. Introspection • Unlike Wundt who employed empirical introspection, structuralists used pure introspection. • Method: • Researchers would relax and think of a simple object, such as an apple, and then reflect on all of the basic qualities that consciously could not be reduced to something simpler. • For example, a researcher might report the curvature, and the color, of an apple, but not the fact that it has a stem, since that can be reduced to a collection of curves.

  28. Structuralism • Founder: Edward Titchener • Goals • Problems • Lack of Replicability • Imageless Thought

  29. Structuralism • Founder: Edward Titchener • Goals • Problems • Lack of Replicability • Imageless Thought

  30. Lack of Replicability • One major problem with structuralism was that its findings were very hard to replicate. • If two researchers were to sit down and be asked separately to list the elements of the same object, they would come up with different properties. • Often, this would result in unresolvable arguments between researchers about who was correct (if either one was) rather than any substantial progress being made.

  31. Structuralism • Founder: Edward Titchener • Goals • Problems • Lack of Replicability • Imageless Thought

  32. Imageless Thought • Some thoughts aren’t accompanied by any definable mental elements • e.g., If you ask someone to add 10 and 5, most will quickly respond 15, but be unable to tell you how that number came to mind • This was taken to mean there must be more to psychological experience than Structuralism’s basic elements • Structuralism was ultimately viewed as a dead end.

  33. History • We will discuss the history of Psychology • Voluntarism • Structuralism • Functionalism • Behaviorism • Gestalt Psychology • Psychoanalysis • Cognitive Psychology • Neuroscience • Then cover key points in the history of psychology

  34. Functionalism • Functionalism was largely a reaction to the failings of Structuralism • It had many contributors, and because of this did not have well-defined goals • However, common themes ran through the work of functionalist researchers: • Primarily: • An interest in “how” and “why” thought is the way it is, rather than “what” it is composed of • Pragmatic goals rather than purely academic goals • An interest in both mind and behavior, not just mind

  35. William James • Major Contributions: • Stream of Consciousness • Pragmatism

  36. William James • Major Contributions: • Stream of Consciousness • Pragmatism

  37. Stream of Consciousness • James developed a detailed and influential theory of consciousness • It was opposed to the Voluntarism and Structuralist ideas of static “elements”

  38. Stream of Consciousness • Key Points: • Consciousness is constantly changing • Consciousness is selective • Consciousness is personal

  39. Stream of Consciousness • Key Points: • Consciousness is constantly changing • Consciousness is selective • Consciousness is personal

  40. Stream of Consciousness • When we introspect, it becomes quickly evident that our thoughts are constantly changing • There is a continuous ebb and flow to consciousness, not a series of static “elements” like the Structuralists and Voluntarists believed • Since consciousness is continuous, it cannot be divided up for analysis Does this mean we cannot study consciousness? No! Why?

  41. Stream of Consciousness • Key Points: • Consciousness is constantly changing • Consciousness is selective • Consciousness is personal

  42. Stream of Consciousness • We are not conscious of everything we could be conscious of • Consciousness requires attention • e.g., writing this, I am aware of my computer in front of me and my book to the side. My TV plays on low volume in the background, which I am only now aware of as I lift my head from the computer screen. I couldhave being attention to this earlier, but instead I chose to focus on writing my slides.

  43. Stream of Consciousness • Key Points: • Consciousness is constantly changing • Consciousness is selective • Consciousness is personal

  44. Stream of Consciousness • Consciousness is continuous, thus every future thought depends on what came before • Therefore, to understand an individual’s conscious life, we must know their own personal idiosyncratic past history • As such, it is foolhardy to search for elements common to all minds, as the structuralists did.

  45. Stream of Consciousness “Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as ‘chain’ or ‘train’ do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life.” - William James (1890, Vol. 1, p. 239)

  46. William James • Major Contributions: • Stream of Consciousness • Pragmatism

  47. Pragmatism • Development of Pragmatism: • James’ upbringing • James’ belief in Materialism • James’ belief in lack of free will • James’ depression that followed • James’ attempt to deal with this depression

  48. Development of Pragmatism • Trying to deal with his depression, James (1920) wrote in his diary: • “I will assume for the present -- until next year -- that [free will] is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.… Hitherto, when I have felt like taking a free initiative, like daring to act originally, without carefully waiting for contemplation of the external world to determine all for me, suicide seemed the most manly form to put my daring into; now I will go a step further with my will, not only act with it, but believe as well; believe in my individual reality and creative power.”

  49. Pragmatism • Pragmatism is the belief that if an idea works, it is valid; ideas should only be judged in terms of their “cash-value”, or what they gain you.

  50. James’ Approach • James used the scientific method and philosophical inquiry to understand psychology • He recognized that each of these methods was limited, but in different ways. • The scientific method was limited in answering ‘big’ questions like “why do we have emotions?” • Philosophical inquiry is limited in understanding how basic processes work, like chemical or biological reactions • James took a pragmatic approach to Psychology: each method of understanding has its own value, and we should use whichever has more value for the question at hand. Neither is better than the other, simply different.