Wilhelm Wundt, Father of Psychology

Wilhelm Wundt, Father of Psychology Page 4

Introspection does not merely involve self-reflection but for Wundt 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 was also to be analyzed. 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. (Fancher, 1979). Before a student’s introspection accounts were taken seriously they would have had to make around 10,000 introspection observations. (Schultz, 1975).

Introspection was used mostly in conjunction with measures of reaction time and word associations. One survey found that out of 180 laboratory reports on experiments from the years between 1883 and 1903 only four reports contained solely introspection. There were strict rules that were followed when introspection was used in order to avoid so called false introspections.

The person who was doing the introspection, the observer, would be fully aware of when and what stimulus would be presented to them. This ensured that the observer was in full control of the experience. The stimulus would then be presented numerous times. (Hothersall, 1984). Introspection was commonly done when the observer was awaiting the stimulus and when they were reacting to its presentation. (O’Neill, 1968).

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Wilhelm Wundt Psychology