Titchener aimed to develop psychology as the study of immediate experience, the contents of the consciousness. He “set as goals for psychology the determination of what, how, and why of mental life”, where “what” was elements of mental activity, “how” involved the way these elements combine, whereas “why” dealt with correlates of psychological events (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014, p. 260-261).
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The school was aimed at developing pure, theoretical science; it was not interested in creating practical approaches in order to understand what was happening inside a concrete person. According to Titchener, the domains of psychology were animal, human, child, social, and abnormal psychology; however, he valued the human psychology the most, focusing on the study of an adult’s consciousness and mind (Wertheimer, 2012, p. 147-148).
Titchener believed that the mind only consisted of experience gathered throughout an individual’s life, and that these elements were organized into a structure of some kind. He attempted to categorize these “basic elements” in an attempt to create an analog for Mendeleev’s periodic table, only in psychology. Titchener wished not to explain but only to describe these “elements”, for he believed that speculating freely about the meaning of the mind’s contents would be inconsistent with strict methodologies necessary for any science (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014).
Research Methods and Other Applied Methodologies
Mainly, structuralism used the method of introspection in order to study the processes occurring inside the mind. The people whom Titchener researched had to look for elemental components of their psychological processes. It was believed that even persons who were not trained in psychology and introspection could contribute to the psychological study significantly; however, Titchener’s subjects received training in order to be able to distinguish and describe these components, and restrain from explaining them (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014).
We assume that biology is of crucial importance for human psychology, for it provides the “hardware” for any psychological activity and gives the form to all our experience. Humans have many “default” models of behavior which developed throughout evolution; “groupthink” is an example of that (Benabou, 2013). People are not basically good or bad; they are shaped by the environment they grow up in and their experience.
Human behavior is likely to be determined by both genetics and experience, though we believe that experience plays the key role; therefore, nurture is more important than nature, but the latter also matters. We do not think there is free will; research, especially neurobiological, shows that it is unlikely, and that the feeling of hesitation we have when we use one of the alternatives might be a part of the “interface” developed during evolution (Searle, 2007).
The mind is the mental processes that take place in the brain, but nowadays it is not known how exactly these originate in the firings of the neurons to create e.g. the “picture” we see. In order to find answers about the human cognition, it is useful to utilize the findings of various scientific disciplines related to information processing, human biology, and human society.
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It appears that our beliefs have much in common with the contemporary movement of cognitive psychology, which has as its principle the study of the human mind as a computer, and seeks to understand the human mind for both scientific and practical use. It studies various constituents of human cognition, such as memory, reasoning, problem-solving, attention, etc. It utilizes the findings of psychology, anthropology, philosophy, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and linguistics.
Benabou, R. (2013). Groupthink: Collective delusions in organizations and markets. Review of Economic Studies, 80(2), 429-462.
Hergenhahn, B. R., & Henley, T. B. (2014). An introduction to the history of psychology (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Searle, J. R. (2007). Freedom and neurobiology: Reflections on free will, language, and political power. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Wertheimer, M. (2012). A brief history of psychology (5th ed.). New York, NY: Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis Group.