Legacy of Wilhelm Wundt essay

Objective of the Paper

The works of Wilhelm Wundt are of paramount importance for the contemporary psychological science. In particular, his scholarly exploration of the phenomena of structuralism has always occupied the contemporary psychological agenda, although nowadays this doctrine is subjected to severe academic criticism (Giddens, 1993). The objective of this paper is to analyze the nature of his research and the influence made by of British and German schools of psychology in general and by the most acknowledged academics, in particular.

Wundt and Structuralism

The key element of the study of Wilhelm Wundt is the scholarly analysis of the human subjective experience in its connection with consciousness, world and mindset (Robinson, 1988). Consequently, the works of this researcher have their focus on the consciousness in general and on structuralism in particular. The nature of this research is at postulate that the way typical human being reasons, thinks and acts directly depends on his subjective attitude and mental processes occurring in his core and spinal brings. The opus magnum of the author is known to be The Principles of Physiological Psychology. In his book, Professor Wundt accentuates that basic mental functions can be classified and analyzed by means of various tentative experimental toolkits (Giddens, 1993). Moreover, it is specifically accentuated that sensation and perception are the most easily identified areas of the human brain activity. At the same time, he recognizes that complex mental processes like memorizing and starting indispensably require the application of more sophisticated methodology, similar to the methods utilized by the activists of sociological and anthropological studies.

However, the practice indicated that his scientific endeavors have been hailed with the most rigid criticism, primarily due to the fact that they could not bring any practical results to the field of applied psychology. The fact that brain of a human being can be separately explored and analyzed was admitted to be of no effect for the community of practicing psychologists (Robinson, 1988). Hereby, the academic authorities demonstrated a lopsided attitude towards his research and did not credit it as an independent academic discipline.

The Influence on Wundt

Wilhelm Wundt was heavily influenced by multiple representatives of the classical psychological science. However, the major contributor to his theory of volunteerism (structuralism was later developed by his student Titchener) was his university professor Wilhelm Helmholtz. The works of Professor Helmholtz recognized the first roots of volunteerism, particularly identifying that all the elements of human consciousness and his subliminal activity are dominated and formulated by his internal impulses. Nowadays, it can be logically argued that their synergy constitute the fundamental framework of classical structuralism. Subsequent findings of Edward Titchener are predominantly based on their cooperative postulates (Robinson, 1988).

Moreover, academic position of Wundt was influenced by the works of his colleagues and associates Gustav Fechner and Johannes Muller. Fechner is known for his assumption that the brain of a human being can be analyzed independently while Johannes argued that the influence of the society on the formulation of habits and mindset is present, although insignificant. The fact that Fechner bequeathed all his working papers to Wundt demonstrates his recognition of Wundt’s achievements.

However, the school of British empirical research activists and appreciation scholars (John Stuart Mill) fervently disputed the validity of Wundt results. Their standpoint is that the external environment (society in particular) determines the habits and the actions of an individual while his internal impulses are nothing, but the derivatives thereof.


With regard to those who did not agree with Wundt, Franz Bertano and Oswald Kulpe are known to be the most inveterate opponents. Though Kulpe was trained by Wundt, he eventually became the adherent of humanism school, which propagates that all mental processes of human being are dictated by the social environment and not by the internal motives.


  1. Giddens, A. (1993). New rules of sociological method: A positive critique of interpretative sociologies. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  2. Robinson, D.N. (1988). Toward a science of human nature. New York, NY: Columbia University.

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