So who invented modern psychology anyway?



Wundt (1832-1920), a philosopher, was the first scientist to set up a psychological laboratory, established in 1879 in Leipzig, Germany. Wundt stated in 1873 that he wanted to take psychology out of philosophy and establish it as a science in its own right. Wundt was interested in the areas of sensation, mental images, reaction times, perception and attention; he did not attempt to carry out research into personality and abnormal behaviour. For example, Wundt attempted to measure the speed of thought, and created a device called a ‘thought metre’.

One of Wundt’s most commonly used research methods was that of introspection. He would train his researchers to carefully analyse their own mental experiences –  sensations, images and emotional reactions. Introspection would take place under controlled conditions of the good old laboratory. Once trained to introspect, Wundt’s researchers took as long as 20 minutes to report on their inner experiences from a one-second experiment! Wundt claimed that trained introspectionists would produce reliable results which could be replicated by other introspectionists in different laboratories. However, it soon became apparent that reporting on inner experiences using this methodology was too subjective. Disagreement cannot be resolved since one person can never experience exactly what another person experiences.

Wundt was also the first person to refer to himself as a psychologist and wrote the first textbook on psychology: Principles of Physiological Psychology, breaking down his research into an aim,method, results and conclusion.

Four years later the first American psychology laboratory is established by G. Stanley Hall, a student of Wilhelm Wundt. at Johns Hopkins University. And just like that, psychology began.


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