Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology - Vol. 3

By Gregory A. Kimble; Michael C. Wertheimer | Go to book overview

time because the structure of cognition is semantic. The glue that holds ideas together is not simple associations but meaning. That kind of talk makes me irate. These critics argue that my program of research--focused on pure associative strength resulting from practice--interesting and fruitful although it may have been--tempted psychology to travel down a garden path.

That kind of talk bothers me because it slams shut the door to progress. The final answer to the question of my contribution's importance is not yet in. For example, Estes ( 1985), without discounting the importance of semantic processes, pointed out some areas in which associations play an important role and concluded that, "It may be that Ebbinghaus's contributions as a theorist will prove greater than [some of us] appreciate" (p. 454). One hundred years from now, let's see who is on some stage somewhere discussing these issues. Will it be Professor Kintsch or will it be me? I am quite willing to let history decide; it has been good to me so far. I now turn the microphone back over to our moderator for some final comments. Pardon me for my brief burst of--I hope uncharacteristic--splenetic passion, and thank you for your kind attention.


CONCLUSION: CHAIRPERSON'S CLOSING REMARKS

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Professor Ebbinghaus certainly deserves that standing ovation. History has, indeed, been good to him and for good reasons. I would like to spend a few minutes enumerating several of those reasons in an outline of his contributions.


Advancing Psychology As a Science and Profession

In addition to his well-known memory research, Professor Ebbinghaus was also the author of a respected elementary textbook that was republished as recently as 1973; he was co-founder of the Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Psychologie der Sinnesorgane, which provided a publication outlet for those German psychologists who were not of the Wundtian school, which had its own journal. He also devised an intelligence test for assessing aptitudes of German schoolchildren.

Ebbinghaus' pioneering work on memory was, of course, a milestone in the progress of psychological science because it demonstrated that higher mental processes can be measured and studied experimentally. Professor Mandler ( 1985) pointed out that Professor Ebbinghaus' work demonstrated that human memory could be studied in the laboratory and that controlled experiments could provide valuable insights into complex problems. Mandler also asserted that Professor Ebbinghaus was a pioneer in using psychological variables such as association strength as theoretical explanations for empirical psychological phenomena. Pro

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