Summary

In an 1894 autobiographical statement reflecting on his life's work, Wundt wrote that

If I were asked what I thought the value for psychology of the experimental method was in the past and still is, I would answer that for me it created and continues to confirm a wholly new view of the nature and interrelations of mental processes. When I first approached psychological problems, I shared the general prejudice natural to physiologists that the formation of perceptions is merely the work of the physiological properties of our sense organs. Then through the examination of visual phenomena I learned to conceive of perception as an act of creative synthesis. This gradually became my guide, at the hand of which I arrived at a psychological understanding of the development of the higher functions of imagination and intellect. The older psychology gave me no help in this. When I then proceeded to investigate the temporal relations in the flow of mental events, I gained a new insight into the development of volition ... an insight likewise into the similarity of mental functions which are artificially distinguished by abstractions and nameā€”such as "ideas," "feelings," or "will." In a word, I glimpsed the indivisibility of mental life, and saw its similarity on all its levels. The chronometric investigation of associative processes showed me the relation of perceptual processes to memory images. It also taught me to recognize that the concept of "reproduced" ideas is one of the many fictions that has become set in our language to create a picture of something that does not exist in reality. I learned to understand that "mental representation" is a process which is no less changing and transient than a feeling or an act of will. As a consequence of all this I saw the old theory of association is no longer tenable. It must be replaced by the notion of relational processes involving rudimentary feelings, a view that results in giving up the stable linkages and close connections of successive as well as simultaneous associations.

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