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Wilhelm Wundt

Wilhelm Wundt
Born Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt
(1832-08-16)16 August 1832
Neckarau near Mannheim, Grand Duchy of Baden, German Confederation
Died 31 August 1920(1920-08-31) (aged 88)
Großbothen, Saxony, Germany[1]
Residence Germany
Nationality German
Fields Experimental psychology, Physiology
Institutions University of Leipzig
Alma mater University of Heidelberg
Doctoral advisor Karl Ewald Hasse[2]
Other academic advisors Johannes Peter Müller
Doctoral students Edward B. Titchener, G. Stanley Hall, Oswald Külpe, Hugo Münsterberg, Vladimir Bekhterev, James McKeen Cattell, Lightner Witmer[3]
Known for Psychology, Voluntarism
Influences Gustav Fechner
Influenced Emil Kraepelin

Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (16 August 1832 – 31 August 1920) was a German physician, physiologist, philosopher, and professor, known today as one of the founding figures of modern psychology. Wundt, who noted psychology as a science apart from biology and philosophy, was the first person to ever call himself a Psychologist.[4] He is widely regarded as the "father of experimental psychology".[5][6] In 1879, Wundt founded the first formal laboratory for psychological research at the University of Leipzig. This marked psychology as an independent field of study.[7]

By creating this laboratory he was able to explore the nature of religious beliefs, identify mental disorders and abnormal behavior, and find damaged parts of the brain. In doing so, he was able to establish psychology as a separate science from other topics. He also formed the first journal for psychological research in the year 1881.


  • Biography 1
  • Wundt's work and influence on modern psychology 2
  • Publications 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes and references 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7
    • Works online 7.1


Wundt was born at Neckarau, Baden (now part of Mannheim) on 16 August [8] 1832, the fourth child to parents Maximilian Wundt (a Lutheran minister), and his wife Marie Frederike, née Arnold (1797-1868). Wundt's paternal grandfather was Friedrich Peter Wundt (1742-1805), Professor of Geography and pastor in Wieblingen.[9] When Wundt was about four years of age, his family moved to Heidelsheim, then a small medieval town in Baden-Württemberg.

Wundt studied from 1851 to 1856 at the University of Tübingen, at the University of Heidelberg, and at the University of Berlin. After graduating in medicine from Heidelberg (1856), Wundt studied briefly with Johannes Peter Müller, before joining the University's staff, becoming an assistant to the physicist and physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz in 1858.[10][11] There he wrote Contributions to the Theory of Sense Perception (1858–62).[12] In 1865, he wrote a textbook about human physiology. However, his main interest was not in physiology but in the medical field of pathological anatomy.[13] In 1867 he became a professor in acquainting medical students with the exact physical needs for medical investigation. In 1874, he became a professor of "Inductive Philosophy" in Zurich.

In 1867, near Heidelberg, Wundt met Sophie Mau (1844-1912). She was the eldest daughter of the Kiel theology professor Heinrich August Mau and his wife Louise, née von Rumohr, and a sister of the archaeologist August Mau. They married on 14 August 1872 in Kiel.[9] The couple had three children: Eleanor (*1876-1957 ), Lily (1880-1884), and Max Wundt (1879-1963), who became a philosopher.

During Wundt's time at the University of Heidelberg he offered the first course ever taught in scientific psychology, all the while stressing the use of experimental methods drawn from the natural sciences, emphasizing the physiological relationship of the human brain and the mind. His background in physiology would have a great effect on his approach to the new science of psychology. His lectures on psychology were published as Lectures on the Mind of Humans and Animals in 1863-1864. He was promoted to Assistant Professor of Physiology at Heidelberg in 1864.[12] Weber (1795–1878) and Fechner (1801–1887), who worked at Leipzig, inspired Wundt's interest in psychology.

Wundt applied himself to writing a work that came to be one of the most important in the history of psychology, Principles of Physiological Psychology in 1874. This was the first textbook that was written pertaining to the field of psychology.[14] Wundt claimed that the book was "an attempt to mark out [psychology] as a new domain of science".[15] The Principles utilized a system of psychology that sought to investigate the immediate experiences of consciousness, including feelings, emotions, volitions and ideas, mainly explored through Wundt's system of "internal perception", or the self-examination of conscious experience by objective observation of one's consciousness.

In 1875, Wundt moved to Leipzig. In 1879, at the University of Leipzig, Wundt opened the first laboratory ever to be exclusively devoted to psychological studies, and this event marked the official birth of psychology as an independent field of study. The new lab was full of graduate students carrying out research on topics assigned by Wundt, and it soon attracted young scholars from all over the world who were eager to learn about the new science that Wundt had developed.[16]

Wundt's work and influence on modern psychology

Wilhelm Wundt (seated) with colleagues in his psychological laboratory, the first of its kind

Wundt believed that scientific psychology should focus on analyzing consciousness, a person's subjective experience of the world and mind.[7] Parts of Wundt's system were developed and championed by his one-time student, Titchener, who described his system as Structuralism, or the analysis of the basic elements that constitute the mind. This approach involved breaking consciousness down into elemental sensations and feelings.[7] Wundt believed that scientific psychology should focus on consciousness and therefore centralizes on structuralism. Wundt analyzes the constituents of the mind by using a method called introspection, which involves the subjective observation of one's own experience.[7] This became the reason why structuralism gradually faded out, based on the unreliability of this method.[17] Several of Wundt's works, including Principles of Physiological Psychology, are considered fundamentally important texts in the fields of physiology and psychology. Though widely recognized as important in the birth and growth of psychology, his influence on psychology today is a subject of continuing debate among experts. Wundt also influenced in the field of psycholinguistics. For example, the influential Leonard Bloomfield based his linguistics textbook, published in 1914, on Wundtian psychology. Wundt hypothesized that the mental sentence, or "inner psychological construction", determines the unfolding sentence, and should therefore be regarded as a unit of speech.[18]

In 1886, in his "Logik", Wundt formulated the famous expression heterogony of ends (Heterogonie der Zwecke).[19][20]

Several of Wundt's students became eminent psychologists in their own right, including two who became philosophers (Ljubomir Nedić and Branislav Petronijević). They include: the Germans Oswald Külpe (a professor at the University of Würzburg), Ottmar Dittrich (who continued Wundt's work in psycholinguistics by heading the group on phonetics and psychology of language at the University of Leipzig); the Americans James McKeen Cattell (the first professor of psychology in the United States), G. Stanley Hall (the father of the child psychology movement and adolescent developmental theorist, head of Clark University), Charles Hubbard Judd (Director of the School of Education at the University of Chicago), Hugo Münsterberg, Walter Dill Scott (who contributed to the development of industrial psychology and taught at Harvard University), Edward Bradford Titchener, Lightner Witmer (founder of the first psychological clinic in his country); the Englishman Charles Spearman (who developed the two-factor theory of intelligence and several important statistical analyses - see Factor analysis, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient); the Romanian Constantin Rădulescu-Motru (Personalist philosopher and head of the Philosophy department at the University of Bucharest).

The University of Leipzig assigned Wundt a lab in 1876 to store equipment he had brought from Zurich.[21] Located in the Konvikt building, many of Wundt's demonstrations took place in this laboratory due to the inconvenience of transporting his equipment between the lab and his classroom. Wundt collected many pieces of equipment such as tachistoscopes, chronoscopes, pendulums, electrical devices, timers, and sensory mapping devices and was known to assign an instrument to various graduate students with the assignment of developing uses for future research in experimentation.[21]

In 1879 Wundt began conducting experiments that were not part of his course work, and he claimed that these independent experiments solidified his lab's legitimacy as a formal laboratory of psychology, though the University did not officially recognize the building as part of the campus until 1883.[21] Wundt faced much opposition in regards to his fellow colleague's rejections of psychology as a legitimate science and their questions concerning the nature of introspection.[21] Despite this opposition, the laboratory grew and encompassing a total of eleven rooms, the Psychological Institute, as it became known, eventually moved to a new building that Wundt had designed specifically for psychological research.[21]

Wundt's laboratory students called their approach Ganzheitspsychologie ("holistic psychology") following Wundt's death.[22] Much of Wundt's work was derided mid-century in the United States because of a lack of adequate translations, misrepresentations by certain students, and behaviorism's polemic with the structuralist program. Titchener, a two-year resident of Wundt's lab and one of Wundt's most vocal advocates in the United States, is responsible for several English translations and mistranslations of Wundt's works that supported his own views and approach, which he termed "structuralism" and claimed was wholly consistent with Wundt's position.

Titchener's focus on internal structures of mind was rejected by behaviorists following the ideas of B. F. Skinner; the latter dominated psychological studies in the mid-1900s. Part of this rejection included Wundt, whose work was eclipsed during this period. In later decades, his actual positions and techniques have seen reconsideration and reassessment by major psychologists.

An optical illusion described by him is called the Wundt illusion

Wundt tried to provide objective measurements of conscious processes by using reaction time techniques similar to those first developed by Helmholtz. His fasting research participants, focusing only on the response they were to make, could respond automatically to the tone because they didn't have to engage in the additional step of interpretation. This type of experimentation broke new ground by showing that psychologists could use scientific techniques to disentangle even subtle conscious processes. [2]

Like many of his contemporaries, Wundt accepted a developmental conception of mind. But developmental in the idealist sense of unfolding reason, such that the highest intelligence is a logical product of more primitive manifestations.


Wundt was extremely prolific in publications, of which this is a selection only.

Wundt's gravestone. The main part of the inscription is: WILHELM WUNDT geboren 16. August 1832 in Neckarau bei Mannheim gestorben 31. August 1920 in Großbothen bei Leipzig Gott ist Geist und die ihn anbeten müssen ihn im Geist und in der Wahrheit anbeten.
  • * *

SOPHIE WUNDT GEB[oren], MAU geboren 23. Januar 1844 in Kiel gestorben 15. April 1914 in Leipzig Gott ist die Liebe und wer in Liebe bleibt der bleibt in Gott und Gott in ihm. A translation is: WILHELM WUNDT born 16 August 1832 in Neckarau in Mannheim[,] died 31 August 1920 in Großbothen in Leipzig[.] God is Spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

  • * *
SOPHIE Wundt NÉE, MAU born 23 January 18, 1844 in Kiel[,] died 15 April 1914 in Leipzig[.] God is love and who abides in love abides in God and God in him.
  • Die Lehre von der Muskelbewegung (The Patterns of Muscular Movement), (Vieweg, Braunschweig 1858).
  • Die Geschwindigkeit des Gedankens (The Velocity of Thought) (Die Gartenlaube 1862, Vol 17, p. 263)
  • Beiträge zur Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung (Contributions on the Theory of Sensory Perception), (Winter, Leipzig 1862).
  • Vorlesungen über die Menschen -und Tierseele (Lectures about Human and Animal Psychology), (Voss, Leipzig 1863/1864).
  • Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschen (Text-book of Human Physiology), (Enke, Erlangen 1865).
  • Die physikalischen Axiome und ihre Beziehung zum Causalprincip (Physical Axioms and their Bearing upon Causality Principles) (Enke, Erlangen 1866).
  • Handbuch der medicinischen Physik (Handbook of Medical Physics), (Enke, Erlangen 1867)
  • Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie (Principles of Physiological Psychology), (Engelmann, Leipzig 1874) (has been revised and republished several times[23])
  • Untersuchungen zur Mechanik der Nerven und Nervenzentren (Researches upon the Mechanisms of Nerves and Nerve-Centres), 1876
  • Logik. Eine Untersuchen der Principien der Erkenntniss und der Methoden Wissenschaftlicher Forschung (Logic. An investigation into the principles of knowledge and the methods of scientific research), (Enke, Stuttgart 1880 & 1883), 3 Volumes and vol. 4
  • Essays, (Engelmann, Leipzig 1885).
  • Ethik (Ethics), (Enke, Stuttgart 1886)
  • System der Philosophie (System of Philosophy), (Engelmann, Leipzig 1889).
  • Grundriss der Psychologie (Outline of Psychology), (Engelmann, Leipzig 1896).
  • Völkerpsychologie (Social Psychology), 10 Volumes, (Engelmann, Leipzig 1900 to 1920)
    • 1, 2. Die Sprache (Language), Pt 1, 2. (1900)
    • 3. Die Kunst (Art). (1908)
    • 4, 5, 6. Mythos und Religion (Myth and Religion), Pt 1, 2, 3. (?1910, 1914, ?)
    • 7, 8. Die Gesellschaft (Society), Pt 1, 2. (1917)
    • 9. Das Recht (Right). (1918)
    • 10. Kultur in der Geschichte (Culture in History). (1920)
  • Kleine Schriften (Shorter Writings), 3 Volumes, (Engelmann, Leipzig 1910).
  • Einleitung in die Psychologie (Introduction to Psychology), (Engelmann, Leipzig 1911).
  • Probleme der Völkerpsychologie (Problems of Social Psychology), (Wiegandt, Leipzig 1911).
  • Elemente der Völkerpsychologie (The Elements of Social Psychology), (Kröner, Leipzig 1912).
  • Reden und Aufsätze (Addresses and Extracts), (Kröner, Leipzig 1913).
  • Sinnliche und übersinnliche Welt (The Sensory and Supersensory World), (Kröner, Leipzig 1914).
  • Über den wahrhaften Krieg (About the Real War), (Kröner, Leipzig 1914).
  • Die Nationen und ihre Philosophie (Nations and Their Philosophies), (Kröner, Leipzig 1915).
  • Erlebtes und Erkanntes (Experience and Realization), (Kröner, Stuttgart 1920).
  • Philosophische Studien (the first journal of psychology), 1871

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ See Wundt's gravestone (image)
  2. ^ Neurotree profile Wilhelm Wundt
  3. ^ Wilhelm Wundt and William James
  4. ^ Carlson, Neil and Heth,C.Donald"Psychology the Science of Behaviour". Pearson Education Inc,2010 p. 18
  5. ^ Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  6. ^ Butler-Bowdon, Tom. 50 Psychology Classics, (2007): p. 2.
  7. ^ a b c d Schacter, Daniel. L "Psychology"
  8. ^ Titchener, E.B. (1921). Wilhelm Wundt. The American Journal of Psychology, 32(2). Retrieved from
  9. ^ a b Georg Lamberti: Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt 1832–1920.Leben, Werk und Persönlichkeit in Bildern und Texten.Deutscher Psychologen Verlag, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-925559-83-3.
  10. ^ "Prof. Wilhelm Wundt". 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b "Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt", in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, section on "Life and Times"
  13. ^ Titchner, E.B. 28 November 1970. "Wilhelm Wundt." The American Journal of Psychology 296(7683).
  14. ^ Carlson, Neil and Heth,C.Donald"Psychology the Science of Behaviour". Pearson Education Inc,2010
  15. ^ Francher, 1979, p. 126
  16. ^ Schacter, Daniel. L "Psychology"
  17. ^ Schacter, Gilbert, Wagner (2011). Psychology. Second Edition. Worth Publishers
  18. ^ Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Kieth Brown, Cambridge University
  19. ^ Schneider, Louis (1986) Paradox and society: the work of Bernard Mandeville pp.172-3
  20. ^ Nicola Abbagnano and Giovanni Fornero (2004) Diccionario de filosofía p.542
  21. ^ a b c d e History of Psychology , Fourth Edition, McGraw Hill Co., 2004
  22. ^ Kim, Alan, "Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt", in Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition) see here.
  23. ^ Graham Richards Putting psychology in its place: critical historical perspectives p.46
  • Carpenter, Shana K (August 2005). "Some neglected contributions of Wilhelm Wundt to the psychology of memory.". Psychological reports 97 (1): 63–73.  
  • Steinberg, H (November 2001). "[The psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Wundt and a dedication by his student Emil Kraepelin]". Der Nervenarzt 72 (11): 884.  
  • Ziche, P (1999). "Neuroscience in its context. Neuroscience and psychology in the work of Wilhelm Wundt.". Physis; rivista internazionale di storia della scienza 36 (2): 407–29.  
  • Smith, R (November 1982). "Wilhelm Wundt resurrected.". British journal for the history of science 15 (51 Pt 3): 285–91.  
  • Bringmann, W G; Balance, W D; Evans, R B (July 1975). "Wilhelm Wundt 1832-1920: a brief biographical sketch.". Journal of the history of the behavioral sciences 11 (3): 287–97.  
  • Steinberg, H (November 2001). "[The psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Wundt and a dedication by his student Emil Kraepelin]". Der Nervenarzt 72 (11): 884.  
  • HICKS GD (1920-09-16). "Prof. Wilhelm Wundt". Nature (London) 106: 83–85.  
  • Smith,Roger (October 1982). "Wilhelm Wundt Resurrected". The British Journal for the History of Science 15 (03): 288.  
  • Daniel L. Schcter, Daniel T. Gilbert, Daniel M. Wegner (2009). Psychology: The evolution of a science (2nd ed.). p. 9. 

Further reading

Blumenthal, Arthur L. (1970–80). "Wundt, Wilhelm".   he was born 1832 —

External links

Works online

  • Ethics: An Investigation of the Facts and Laws of the Moral Life. Volume 1. (Tr. Edward B. Titchener et al..) Second Edition, 1902. University of Michigan.
  • Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology. (Trs. Edward B. Titchener and James E. Creighton.)
    • Second Edition, 1896. Harvard.
    • Fourth Edition, 1907. Stanford; UCLA; University of Illinois.
  • Outlines of Psychology. (Tr. Charles Hubbard Judd.) Second Edition, 1902. Stanford.
  • Principles of Physiological Psychology. Volume 1. (Tr. Edward B. Titchener.)
    • First Edition, 1904. Harvard; Lane; University of Michigan; HTML.
    • Second Edition, 1910. UCLA.
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