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Edward B. Titchener

July 30, 2012
Edward Bradford Titchener (1867-1927)

Edward Bradford Titchener (1867-1927)

Edward Bradford Titchener was a British psychologist who founded the Structuralism school of psychology. Titchener was a professor at Cornell University, and during his tenure, he oversaw the creation of the largest doctoral program in the United States. In addition, he was a charter member of the American Psychiatric Association and is responsible for the term ‘empathy.’

Wundt’s Influence

While at college, Edward Titchener became aware of the writings of Wilhelm Wundt. Translating some of Wundt’s work into English, he became intrigued with the ideas he read. Following his graduation, he moved to Leipzig to study directly under the man. Wundt’s focus on the scientific study of the mind inspired Titchener’s own concepts on how the brain works. This new model came to be known as Structuralism.

Structuralism

The basic idea behind Edward Titchener’s new school of psychology was that the mind was better understood when broken down into its component parts. This would be the same as trying to learn more about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by separating each instrument, then breaking it down further by analyzing each musical note. With this in mind, Titchener broke down the mind into three components, sensations, images, and affectations. Each of these, in turn, was broken down even further.

A majority of Edward Titchener’s research took place using introspection, but this was not a simple write-down-what-I’m-thinking type of exercise. He was a stickler for detail, and his experiments took place using a very strict set of protocols. Each test required two people, both of whom had to follow Titchener’s instructions to such a close degree, that even the slightest error would result in a botched test. To Titchener, this was the only valid way to study the mind.

Legacy

Sadly, very little of Edward Titchener’s work in psychology is in use today. Structuralism began its decline shortly after his death. Some credit this to the exacting nature of Titchener’s testing protocols. Others argue that criticism from the Behavioralists was partially responsible. Whatever the case, Titchener was a pivotal figure the burgeoning field of psychology.

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