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Shaping Dissent

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  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding the structure of the mind
  3. The transition from primitive psychological theorizing to the refined psychological perspectives
  4. The mind and its thought process
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

Wilhelm Wundt, considered the founder of psychology primarily for his text book and laboratory, contributed one more lesser-known piece to the evolution of the science: reaction-time. Reaction-time in and of itself is a simple concept: it is the ?interval elapsing between the mental receiving of a sense-impression and the execution of a movement in response to that impression? (Titchener, ?Simple?). Yet the greater magnitude of his findings, maybe not even obvious to him at the time, reverberated down through the competing schools, securing a prominent role in the synthesis of these contradictory views called modern psychology. And it did this through structuralism. Edward Titchener, an Englishman studying under Wundt, shared his teacher's belief that ?the goal of psychology was to identify the elements of the mind and determine how they combine with one another? (Gray 10). Wundt studied this through reaction-time, noting how the time needed to complete a task increased with increased complexity. Wundt concluded that ?complex mental processes can be understood as sequences of more elementary processes,? and he devoted his life to identifying these ?fastest-occurring? elementary processes (9). Titchener, influenced also by British empiricism, wished to define the ?structure of the mind through analyzing conscious experiences? (10). His desire to delve deeper than Wundt, to find the absolute root of mental processes and the mind itself, the very elements of thought, relied heavily on the technique of introspection. Wundt opposed this technique of ?inward looking,? this self-examination of conscious experience, as unscientific (10). However, Titchener regarded introspection as the essential core of the structural view of the mind and of the mind itself, and the structuralists trained individuals to objectively and scientifically separate their sensory experiences into elements according to four basic dimensions: quality, intensity, duration and clarity.

[...] Gestalt psychology failed as a discreet perspective because it never produced theories, its experiments centered only on the repetitive proof that the mind must be understood in terms of organized wholes. The great success of Gestalt psychology was its own demise: Max Wertheimer discovered a solid fact that was eventually integrated into every other line of psychology, every other example of psychological theory. Eventually, Gestalt psychology as an independent idea no longer had a purpose. As mentioned above, both functionalism and Gestalt psychology have greatly influenced numerous modern schools of psychology. [...]

[...] analyzing its elementary parts annoyed William James, a Harvard professor who desired intellectualism over experimentalism. He introduced the analogy of a house, arguing that understand a house or a mind, one must first ask what it is for and then look at the whole thing and its larger parts to see how it fulfills its purposes? (11). His psychological perspective, deemed functionalism for its emphasis on function and purpose, drew heavily from Darwin and the theory of evolution, whereas structuralism took a more physiological approach to psychology. [...]

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