Evaluation

Structuralism faded away after Titchener's death in 1927. However, the basic tenets of structuralism had been under attack for years. First, there were serious problems with introspection as a scientific methodology. The results of such studies were frequently unreliable, and there was no way of objectively verifying the content of someone's consciousness. The controversy over imageless thought was important. One group of researchers, most notably a former follower ofWundt, Oswald Külpe (1862-1915), at the University of Würzburg, concluded, using introspection methodology, that some thoughts occurred in the absence of any mentalistic sensations or images. This was completely at odds with structuralism, and researchers loyal to the structuralist position were not able to replicate the findings. On the other hand, researchers sympathetic to the Würzburg school were able to replicate the findings. Obviously, a theoretical bias was driving the results. It was widely concluded that introspection was lacking the objectivity needed to sustain a scientific discipline. Other methodologies were discouraged by structuralists, in part because of the limited scope of psychology they practiced. In essence, structural psychology was limited to the study of the elements of consciousness in the healthy adult human. There was no place for the use of nonhuman animals as subjects, no child psychology, and no concern with the psychology of physical or mental illness. In addition, Titch-ener was against applied research, that is, conducting research to help resolve practical problems. He felt that this would detract from the objectivity of the study, and that academic researchers should be devoted to advancement of pure knowledge. Finally, structuralism was criticized for focusing almost exclusively on the elements of consciousness without taking into serious consideration the idea that consciousness is experienced as a unified whole, and that this whole is different from the sum of the elements.

Today, two major contributions of structuralism are recognized. The first is the strong emphasis that Titchener and his followers placed on rigorous laboratory research as the basis for psychology. While other methods are used by modern psychologists (such as case studies and field research), the emphasis on experimentation in practice and training remains dominant. Second, structuralism provided a well-defined school of thought and set of ideas that others could debate and oppose, with the ultimate result being the development of new and different schools of thought. The most prominent opposition to structuralism was functionalism.

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