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Lecture 6

Lecture 6 - William James and Functionalism

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Western University
Psychology 3950F/G
Mark Cole

Lecture 6: William James and Functionalism  William James (1842-1910) born in New York City to a wealthy family  Education in Europe and America  Studied art with William Morris Hunt  Entered Louis Agassiz to the Amazon (1865)  Reluctantly resumed medical studies  Then went to Germany in search of Helmholtz and Wundt  Development ailments including depression, insomnia, eye problems, and digestive disorders  Lead to thoughts of suicide?  Read and became interested in philosophy  M.D. (1869)  But remained interested in free will  Taught physiology at Harvard (1872)  Gave his first lecture on psychology in 1875  Also established a laboratory in 1875  Got Hugo Munsterberg to run it  Married Alice Gibbins in 1878  Writing o The Principles of Psychology (1980) o The Briefer Course (1892) o Topics included: 1) Consciousness  Experience viewed at a whole  Coined the term psychologist’s fallacy  Cannot be subdivided into temporal parcels o I.e., stream of consciousness  Four characteristics: 1. Personal 2. Always changing 3. Continuous 4. Nonetheless selective  Consciousness functional, hence selected for, evolutionarily o I.e., adaptive and had evolved  Functionalism well received in America 2) Memory  Faculty theory: memory is something like an organ - can be exercised and trained o Doesn’t matter what you are lifting, as long as you are working the muscles o Prevailing theory of memory at the time  Association theory: memories involve the excitement of a brain area by some other brain area  Argued for a general capacity for memory that varied from person to person  Probably some genetic component to memory, but also due to exercise of certain brain pathways  Rare empirical work by James on the matter o Consulted actors (have to memorize vast material) o All denied that the practice of learning parts hasn’t improved their memory, but their ability to study o Hav
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