A Hundred Years of Psychology, 1833-1933

By J. C. Flugel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
"STRUCTURAL" AND "FUNCTIONAL" PSYCHOLOGY

THE conflict between structural and functional psychology may be regarded as the natural continuation of the older antithesis between Content and Act (which itself, to some extent, but not entirely, represented the still earlier contrast between Mechanism and Activity). In its modern form this conflict is essentially American, and is connected with (indeed to a considerable extent arose out of) the antithesis between general and differential psychology. We have seen how the predominant American tendency was to deflect experimental psychology away from the study of general mental laws (which had been the aim of Fechner and Wundt) to that of individual differences. To this deflection, which was manifested in Wunt's own pupils (especially, as we have seen, in Cattell) no less than in others, there was one striking exception--Titchener. Throughout his life, Titchener (who, it will be remembered, was an Englishman) remained true to the Wundtian tradition. He wanted to experiment on the normal human mind, and had little interest in the features that distinguish one individual from another, or in those still wider fields of comparison presented by abnormal, racial or animal psychology. A characteristic dispute arose between Titchener and Baldwin (who in this matter represented the predominant American position) about reaction times. In 1895 Baldwin had challenged the interpretation of the difference between "sensorial" and "muscular" reaction times, maintaining that this difference was due rather to the existence of "sensory"

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