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Psychological Approaches – The History of Psychology

2. Towards Structuralism

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This second lecture approaches the developments in scientific methodology that enabled Wundt to establish psychology as a science in the 19th century. This included the use of controlled electrical currents on animal brains (c. 1870) and observing behavioural outcomes from specific human brain lesions caused by gunshots. Access to the knowledge from these outcomes enabled researchers to build a ‘map’ of brain function. The next part of this lecture introduces psychophysics, 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. A crucial methodology for this, popularised by Wundt, was introspection – attempting to understanding consciousness through having participants self-report internal experiences of mind when observing objects. In the last part of this lecture, laboratory-based experimentation introduced in the structuralist movement is criticised.


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) walks through the history of psychology and its evolution from philosophical beginnings to modern science. The first lecture describes the evolution of psychology as a philosophical entity, as it develops prior to Wundt opening the first psychology laboratory in 1879. The second lecture explores the scientific practices enabled by the technological developments of the 19th century, which provided the basis for the early psychological theory of structuralism. Lecture three introduces functionalism, a key development in psychology supported by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Lecture four brings to light early psychology as we know it today, in the form of behaviourism. The fifth and final lecture works through three key perspectives which developed on from or responded to 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. Mr Fairholm’s recent publications have included investigations into the female autistic profile, treating anxiety and depression with and without addiction, adults grieving the death of a pet, and Sigmund Freud’s research on religion. He has also published papers in the fields of parapsychology, neuropsychoanalysis, perception and neuropsychology.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

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

MLA style

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

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