Structuralism in Psychology

Structuralism was the first school of psychology and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components.

Structuralism is based on the theory founded by Edward B. Titchener (1867-1923), and is based on describing the structure of the mindby breaking down the mental processes into three basic components:

  1. Individual elements of consciousness
  2. Organization of elements of consciousness into complex experiences
  3. Correlation of this mental phenomena with physical events

Titchener was student of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) at the University of Leipzig and his ideas on the working o mind were heavily influenced by Wundt’s theory of voluntarism and his ideas of association and apperception (the passive and active combinations of elements of consciousness respectively). Titchener attempted to classify the structures of the mind, like chemists classify the elements of nature into the periodic table.

The mental elements structure themselves in such a way to allow conscious experience. Structuralists used techniques such as introspection to analyze the inner processes of the human mind.

The main tool that Titchener used to try and determine the different components of consciousness was introspection. Titchener writes in his Systematic Psychology,

The state of consciousness which is to be the matter of psychology … can become an object of immediate knowledge only by way of introspection or self-awareness.

and in his book An Outline of Psychology,

…within the sphere of psychology, introspection is the final and only court of appeal, that psychological evidence cannot be other than introspective evidence.