The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions

By Margaret P. Munger | Go to book overview


Margaret Floy Washburn (1871–1939) found herself at Vassar College in 1891 with “two
dominant intellectual interests, science and philosophy. They seemed to be combined in
what I heard of the wonderful new science of experimental psychology.” An only child with
parents who were continuously supportive of her scholarly interests, Washburn spent her
early life in Harlem, then an isolated residential suburb of New York City. Following college,
she arranged immediately to study with James McKeen Cattell at Columbia University, but
could not formally enroll because of the Trustees' restrictions barring women. Cattell, whom
Washburn found very supportive, suggested that she consider Cornell University, which of-
fered women the full range of graduate study and degree candidacy. Awarded a prestigious
scholarship, Washburn was one of the first students of E. B. Titchener (p. 324), recently ar-
rived from Wilhelm Wundt's (p. 296) Leipzig laboratory to begin an experimental psycholo-
gy program at Cornell. Washburn earned her Ph.D. in 1894, the first woman to receive the
degree in psychology, and was elected to membership in the American Psychological Asso-
ciation the same year. She eventually returned to Vassar as an associate professor of philos-
ophy, developing a remarkable body of research without some of the advantages available
to her colleagues at research institutions or inclusion in Titchener's elite “Experimentalists”
club, a vibrant discussion group of top North American psychologists. Washburn combined
teaching and research by designing a variety of experiments for senior students to conduct
and interpret. Fifty-seven times Washburn and her students found significant new results,
which she published, with her respective student coauthors, as the series “Studies from the
Psychological Laboratory of Vassar College” in the American Journal of Psychology. Wash-
burn's professional activities extended well beyond Vassar and mark her as one of a growing
number of college professors who were beginning to consider their careers in terms of their
academic disciplines, as opposed to a particular loyalty to their current institution. In addi-
tion to serving in a variety of leadership roles, including president of the American Psycho-
logical Association and editor of the American Journal of Psychology Washburn was elect-
ed to the National Academy of Sciences in 1931.



The Difficulties and Methods of
Comparative Psychology

§ 1. Difficulties

THAT the mind of each human being forms a region inaccessible to all save its possessor, is one of the commonplaces of reflection. His neighbor's knowledge of each person's mind must always be indirect, a matter of inference. How wide of the truth this inference may be, even under the most favorable circumstances, is also an affair of everyday experience: each of us can judge his fellow-men only on the basis of his own thoughts and feelings in similar circumstances, and the individual peculiarities of different members of the human species

From Margaret Floy Washburn, “The Difficulties and Methods of Comparative Psychology,” and “The Evidence of Mind.” In The
Animal Mind (pp. 1–32). New York: Macmillan. 1907.


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The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Part 1 - What is the Mind? 1
  • 1: Plato 2
  • 2: Hippocrates 4
  • 3: Aristotle 20
  • 4: Saint Augustine of Hippo 35
  • 5: Saint Thomas Aquinas 46
  • Part 2 - Mechanisms of Mind 67
  • 6: René Descartes 68
  • 7: John Locke 81
  • 8: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 96
  • 9: David Hume 113
  • 10: Immanuel Kant 127
  • Part 3 - Scientific Methods 141
  • 11: Gustav Theodor Fechner 142
  • 12: Hermann Von Helmholtz 154
  • 13: Hermann Ebbinghaus 168
  • 14: Ivan Pavlov 178
  • Part 4 - Emotion and Instinct in Animals and Humans 187
  • 15: Charles Darwin 188
  • 16: Margaret Floy Washburn 203
  • 17: William James 215
  • 18: Francis Galton 232
  • Part 5 - Human Development 249
  • 19: Milicent W. Shinn 250
  • 20: Sigmund Freud 258
  • 21: Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon 270
  • 22: Hugo Münsterberg 288
  • Part 6 - What is the Goal of Psychology? 295
  • 23: Wilhelm Wundt 296
  • 24: Max Wertheimer 308
  • 25: E. B. Titchener 324
  • Part 7 - Learning 331
  • 26: John B. Watson 332
  • 27: Edward C. Tolman 341
  • 28: D. O. Hebb 357
  • Part 8 - Cognition 367
  • 29: Jean Piaget 368
  • 30: L. S. Vygotski 387
  • 31: B. F. Skinner 399
  • 32: Noam Chomsky 408
  • 33: Sir Frederic C. Bartlett 430
  • 34: Ulric Neisser 447
  • Part 9 - Considerations of Context 467
  • 35: James J. Gibson 468
  • 36: James L. Mcclelland, David E. Rumelhart, and Geoffrey E. Hinton 478
  • 37: V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee 492
  • Bibliography of Readings 511
  • Bibliography of Biographical References 513


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