Edward B. Titchener

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Edward B. Titchener
Edward B. Titchener.jpg
Born Edward Bradford Titchener
11 January 1867
Chichester, England
Died 3 August 1927(1927-08-03) (aged 60)
Ithaca, New York
Citizenship English
Nationality British
Fields psychology
Institutions Cornell University
Doctoral advisor Wilhelm Wundt
Doctoral students Edwin Garrigues Boring
Known for structuralism, empathy, introspection

Edward Bradford Titchener D.Sc., PhD, LL.D., Litt.D. (/ˈtənər/; 11 January 1867 – 3 August 1927) was a British psychologist who studied under Wilhelm Wundt for several years. Titchener is best known for creating his version of psychology that described the structure of the mind: structuralism. He created the largest doctoral program in the United States (at the time) after becoming a professor at Cornell University, and his first graduate student, Margaret Floy Washburn, became the first woman to be granted a PhD in psychology (1894).

Biography[edit]

Education and early life[edit]

Titchener attended Malvern College and then went on to Oxford from 1885 to 1890. At Oxford, Titchener first began to read the works of Wilhelm Wundt. During his time at Oxford, Titchener translated the first volume of the third edition of Wundt's book Principles of Physiological Psychology from German into English. After receiving his degree from Oxford in 1890, Titchener went on to Leipzig in Germany to study with Wundt. He completed his doctoral program and went on to take a position as a professor at Cornell University where he taught his view on the ideas of Wundt to his students in the form of structuralism.

Main ideas[edit]

Titchener's ideas on how the mind worked were heavily influenced by Wundt's theory of voluntarism and his ideas of Association and Apperception (the passive and active combinations of elements of consciousness respectively). Titchener attempted to classify the structures of the mind in the way a chemist breaks down chemicals into their component parts—water into hydrogen and oxygen, for example. Thus, for Titchener, just as hydrogen and oxygen were structures, so were sensations and thoughts. He conceived of hydrogen and oxygen as structures of a chemical compound, and sensations and thoughts as structures of the mind. A sensation, according to Titchener,[1] had four distinct properties: intensity, quality, duration, and extent. Each of these related to some corresponding quality of stimulus, although some stimuli were insufficient to provoke their relevant aspect of sensation. He further differentiated particular types of sensations: auditory sensation, for example, he divided into "tones" and "noises." [2] Ideas and perceptions he considered to be formed from sensations; "ideational type" was related to the type of sensation on which an idea was based, e.g., sound or vision, a spoken conversation or words on a page.[3]

Titchener believed that if the basic components of the mind could be defined and categorised that the structure of mental processes and higher thinking could be determined. What each element of the mind is, how those elements interact with each other and why they interact in the ways that they do was the basis of reasoning that Titchener used in trying to find structure to the mind.

Introspection[edit]

The main tool that Titchener used to try to determine the different components of consciousness was introspection. Unlike Wundt's method of introspection, Titchener had very strict guidelines for the reporting of an introspective analysis. The subject would be presented with an object, such as a pencil. The subject would then report the characteristics of that pencil (color, length, etc.). The subject would be instructed not to report the name of the object (pencil) because that did not describe the raw data of what the subject was experiencing. Titchener referred to this as stimulus error.

In "Experimental Psychology: A Manual of Laboratory Practice", Titchener detailed the procedures of his introspective methods precisely. As the title suggests, the manual was meant to encompass all of experimental psychology despite its focus on introspection. To Titchener, there could be no valid psychological experiments outside of introspection, and he opened the section "Directions to Students" with the following definition: "A psychological experiment consists of an introspection or a series of introspections made under standard conditions." [4]

This manual of Titchener's provided students with in-depth outlines of procedure for experiments on optical illusions, Weber's Law, visual contrast, after-images, auditory and olfactory sensations, perception of space, ideas, and associations between ideas, as well as descriptions proper behaviour during experiments and general discussion of psychological concepts. Titchener wrote another instructive manual for students and two more for instructors in the field (Hothersall 2004, p. 142). The level of detail Titchener put into these manuals reflected his devotion to a scientific approach to psychology. He argued that all measurements were simply agreed-upon "conventions" [5] and subscribed to the belief that psychological phenomena, too, could be systematically measured and studied. Titchener put great stock in the systematic work of Gustav Fechner, whose psychophysics advanced the notion that it was indeed possible to measure mental phenomena (Titchener 1902, p. cviii- cix).

The majority of experiments were to be performed by two trained researchers working together, one functioning as the "observer" (O) and the other as the "experimenter" (E). The experimenter would set up the experiment and record the introspection made by his or her partner. After the first run of any experiment, the researchers were to then switch roles and repeat the experiment. Titchener placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of harmony and communication between the two memberships in these partnerships. Communication, in particular, was necessary, because illness or agitation on the part of the observer could affect the outcome of any given experiment.

Life and legacy[edit]

Titchener was a charismatic and forceful speaker. However, although his idea of structuralism thrived while he was alive and championing for it, structuralism did not live on after his death. Some modern reflections on Titchener consider the narrow scope of his psychology and the strict, limited methodology he deemed acceptable as a prominent explanation for the fall of Titchener's structuralism after his death.[6] So much of it was wrapped up in Titchener's precise, careful dictations that without him, the field floundered. Structuralism, along with Wundt's voluntarism, were both effectively challenged and improved upon, though they did influence many schools of psychology today.

Titchener was known for bringing some part of Wundt's structuralism to America, but with a few modifications. For example, whereas Wilhelm Wundt emphasised the relationship between elements of consciousness, Titchener focused on identifying the basic elements themselves. In his textbook An Outline of Psychology (1896), Titchener put forward a list of more than 44,000 elemental qualities of conscious experience.[7]

Titchener is also remembered for coining the English word "empathy" in 1909 as a translation of the German word "Einfühlungsvermögen", a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by Theodor Lipps. "Einfühlungsvermögen" was later re-translated as "Empathie", and is still in use that way in German. It should be stressed that Titchener used the term "empathy" in a personal way, strictly intertwined with his methodological use of introspection, and to refer to at least three differentiable phenomena.[8]

Titchener's effect on the history of psychology, as it is taught in classrooms, was partially the work of his student Edwin Boring. Boring's experimental work was largely unremarkable, but his book History of Experimental Psychology was widely influential,[9] as, consequentially, were his portrayals of various psychologists, including his own mentor Edward Titchener. The length at which Boring detailed Titchener's contributions—contemporary Hugo Münsterberg received roughly a tenth as much of Boring's attention—raise questions today as to whether or not the influence credited to Titchener on the history of psychology is inflated as a result.[10]

Professor Titchener received honorary degrees from Harvard, Clark, and Wisconsin. He became a charter member of the American Psychological Association, translated Külpe's Outlines of Psychology and other works, became the American editor of Mind in 1894, and associate editor of the American Journal of Psychology in 1895, and wrote several books. In 1904, he founded the group "The Experimentalists,"[11] which continues today as the "Society of Experimental Psychologists". Titchener's brain was contributed to the Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Titchener 1902, p.xxix.
  2. ^ Titchener 1902, p. 31.
  3. ^ Titchener 1902, p.196.
  4. ^ Titchener 1902, p. xiii.
  5. ^ Titchener 1902, p.xx.
  6. ^ Hothersall 2004, p.155.
  7. ^ Wegner, Daniel L. Schacter, Daniel T. Gilbert, Daniel M. (2010). Psychology (2nd ed. ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4-292-3719-2. 
  8. ^ Titchener E.B. (1909/2014) Introspection and empathy Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 2014; 7: 25–30
  9. ^ Hothersall, p.151.
  10. ^ Hothersall 2004, p. 173.
  11. ^ Boring 1967, p. 315.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Boring, E.G. (1967). Taped transcription presented at a meeting of the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1967. Recovered from: Titchener's Experimentalists. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 3, published online 13 February 2006.
  • Hothersall, D. (2004). History of psychology. New York, NY: Mcgraw-Hill.
  • Titchener, E.B. (1902). Experimental psychology: A manual of laboratory practice. (Vol. 1) New York, NY: MacMillan & Co., Ltd.
  • An Outline of Psychology (1896; new edition, 1902)
  • A Primer of Psychology (1898; revised edition, 1903)
  • Experimental Psychology (four volumes, 1901–05)—1.11.22.12.2
  • Elementary Psychology of Feeling and Attention (1908)
  • Experimental
  • Picture, biography and bibliography in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science