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PSYC 215 (482)
John Lydon (30)
Lecture 2

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC 215
Professor
John Lydon
Semester
Winter

Description
Phrenology began as "organology", a theory of brain structure developed by the German physician, Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828). Gall argued that the brain is divided into a large number of functional "organs", each responsible for particular human mental abilities and dispositions – hope, love, spirituality, greed, language, the abilities to detect the size, form, and color of objects, etc. He argued that the larger each of these organs are, the greater the power of the corresponding mental trait. Further, he argued that one could detect the sizes of the organs in a given individual by feeling the surface of that person's skull. Gall's ultra-localizationist position with respect to the brain was soon attacked, most notably by French anatomist Pierre Flourens (1794–1867), who conducted ablation studies (on chickens) which purported to demonstrate little or no cerebral localization of function. Although Gall had been a serious (if misguided) researcher, his theory was taken by his assistant, Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776– 1832), and developed into the profitable, popular enterprise of phrenology, which soon spawned, especially in Britain, a thriving industry of independent practitioners. In the hands of Scottish religious leader George Combe (1788–1858) (whose book The Constitution of Man was one of the best-sellers of the century), phrenology became strongly associated with political reform movements and egalitarian principles (see, e.g., Shapin, 1975; but also see van Wyhe, 2004). Phrenology soon spread to America as well, where itinerant practical phrenologists assessed the mental well-being of willing customers (see Sokal, 2001). Until the middle of the 19th century, psychology was widely regarded as a branch of philosophy. Whether it could become an independent scientific discipline was questioned already earlier on: Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) declared in his Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786) that psychology might perhaps never become a "proper" natural science because its phenomena cannot be quantified, among other reasons. Kant proposed an alternative conception of an empirical investigation of human thought, feeling, desire, and action, and lectured on these topics for over twenty years (1772/73-1795/96). Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841) took issue with what he viewed as Kant's conclusion and attempted to develop a mathematical basis for a scientific psychology. Although he was unable to empirically realize the terms of his psychological theory, his efforts did lead scientists such asErnst Heinrich Weber (1795–1878) and Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–1887) to attempt to measure the mathematical relationships between the physical magnitudes of external stimuli and the psychological intensities of the resulting sensations. Fechner (1860) is the originator of the termpsychophysics.Meanwhile, individual differences in reaction time had become a critical issue in the field of astronomy, under the name of the "personal equation". Early researches by Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784–1846) in Königsberg and Adolf Hirsch led to the development of a highly precisechronoscope by Mathias Hipp that, in turn, was based on a design by Charles Wheatstone for a device that measured the speed of artillery shells (Edgell & Symes, 1906). Other timing instruments were borrowed from physiology (e.g., the kymograph) and adapted for use by the Utrecht ophthalmologist Franciscus Donders (1818–1899) and his student Johan Jacob de Jaager in measuring the duration of simple mental decisions. Studies of a wide range of topics that would later be of interest to psychologists – the speed of neural transmission, the natures of sound and color, and of our perceptions of them, etc. In the 1860s, while he held a position in Heidelberg, Helmholtz engaged as an assistant a young M.D. named Wilhelm Wundt. Wundt employed the equipment of the physiology laboratory – chronoscope, kymograph, and various peripheral devices – to address more complicated psychological questions than had, until then, been investigated experimen
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