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Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology

2. Towards Structuralism

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In this lecture, we think about the developments in scientific methodology that enabled Wundt to establish psychology as a science in the 19th century, focusing in particular on: (i) the use of controlled electrical currents on animal brains (c. 1870) and observing behavioural outcomes from specific human brain lesions caused by gunshots; (ii) the fact that access to knowledge from these outcomes enabled researchers to build a ‘map’ of brain function; (iii) psychophysics as a practice of combining the study of physical properties and the mind (often rooted in study of the senses), commonly practiced by Wundt in his psychology laboratory; (iv) a crucial methodology for psychophysics, popularised by Wundt, as introspection, which is attempting to understand consciousness through having participants self-report internal experiences of mind when observing objects; (v) criticisms of Wundt’s laboratory-based experimentation introduced in the structuralist movement.


Introspection – Refers to 'looking inwards' and is the process of observing and examining your own conscious thoughts and emotions.

Structuralism – The first school of psychology, focussed on deconstructing mental processes into their individual components. Researchers used introspection to attempt to understand the basic elements of consciousness.


In this course, Mr Ian Fairholm (University of Bath) explores the history of psychology and its evolution from philosophical beginnings to modern science. In the first lecture, we think about the evolution of psychology as a philosophical entity, as it develops prior to Wundt opening the first psychology laboratory in 1879. In the second lecture, we explore the scientific practices enabled by the technological developments of the 19th century, which provided the basis for the early psychological theory of structuralism. In the third lecture, we think about functionalism, a key development in psychology supported by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Next, we bring to light early psychology as we know it today, in the form of behaviourism. In the fifth and final lecture, we work through three key perspectives which developed on from behaviourism: humanistic psychology, cognitive psychology, and social learning theory.


Mr Ian Fairholm is a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath. One of his research areas of interest is the history of psychology and the issues, debates and approaches that surround the subject. Some of Mr Fairholm’s recent publications include 'Looking back: Freud, the libido and oxytocin' (2014) and 'Issues, debates and approaches in psychology' (2012).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Fairholm, I. (2022, January 05). Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology - Towards Structuralism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Fairholm, I. "Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology – Towards Structuralism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 07 Jan 2022,

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