Psychologist at Large: An Autobiography and Selected Essays

By Edwin G. Boring | Go to book overview

A History of Introspection
1953

In 1952, when Wayne Dennis was about to take over the editorship of the Psychological Bulletin, he asked me if I would not write a bibliographical article on the subject of what became of introspection. It did seem odd. Before 1927 when Titchener was still alive, it was as if psychology in America were divided between introspectionism (Titchener and his satellites) and behaviorism (everybody else). Mostly from 1875 to 1905 in Germany and America introspection was said to be psychology's sole or principal method, although practice often differed from this theory. How could introspection disappear entirely? Of course, it had not gone. What was good persisted under other names. This article says how I thought that piece of history had happened.

A proper but cumbersome title for this article would be "The History of the Availability of Consciousness to Observation in Scientific Psychology." If conscious experience can be said to exist, then the question arises as to whether modern psychology ought not to take into consideration its data, as indeed it used always to do. Thus my paper might even be called "What Became of Introspection?" One common answer to that question would be that introspection was not viable and so gradually became extinct. Another answer, however, is that introspection is still with us, doing its business under various aliases, of which verbal report is one. The former statement about the failure of

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Reprinted with permission from the Psychological Bulletin, 1953, vol. 50, 169-189.

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