The History of Psychology: Physiological Influences on Psychology

The findings in the field of physiology radically changed the methods in scientific studies. By examining errors in measurement, F. Bessel gave evidence for Locke’s and Berkeley’s findings; the subjective influence on reporting scientific observations was proven with errors that occurred in astronomic measurements.

Also, lots of researchers such as Hall and Flourens studied brain functions by removing certain parts of the brain of animals and observing the behavior of that animal. This method was called extirpation method. Similar to this, the clinical method was found, which involves that a human’s or animal’s brain showing abnormal behavior is to be examined after death. In that way, Broca found out that there are two different speech parts in the brain; one for understanding, and the other one for speech production (Broca’s area). Another way to determine functions of particular brain fragments was done by using the electrical stimulation method. Fritsch and Hitzig explored parts of the cerebral cortex by inducing electrical current through electrodes.

Experimental psychology was formerly found in Germany. Reasons given in text include that Germany had more advanced and elaborate taxonomy and a wider definition of science. Additionally, Germany provided more opportunities for students through a greater number of universities in the country that offered advanced laboratory equipment.

Helmholz’s contribution to psychology was the measurement of neural impulses, the reaction time of sensory nerves, and his research on audition. Weber examined the two-point threshold phenomenon: he found that the skin notices two stimuli as one if the distance of those is too small. Further, Weber noticed that there’s a just noticeable difference between two stimuli of the same type. Being influenced by Weber, Fechner restated the findings in a different way: in his experiments he uncovered that a certain strength of a signal is required to elicit a stimulus. He called that point the absolute threshold. By using this point that is different for each individual he could examine the differential threshold. The relation between the magnitude of sensation and the magnitude of stimulus is logarithmic was found to be fact for all kinds of senses. Fechner called his field of study psychophysics. He also studied how subjects perceive and compare stimuli. The examination of an individual’s error in stimuli comparison is called method of average error.

However, it was Wilhelm Wundt who formally found psychology as a academic discipline. He finally let all pieces of theories and findings converge into one single entity. With his work Principles of Physiological Psychology he integrated the knowledge of his time into the predecessor of Modern Psychology.

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