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How did James differ from Wundt in his approach to psychology?

In general, James had a hard time with the atomistic approach to studying psychology exemplified by Wundt’s lab. Although he ran his own lab using similar methodology, he felt that the psychophysiology practiced by Wundt and others focused only on the smallest and ultimately least interesting of mental phenomena. He believed that treating moments of consciousness as discrete isolated units was at odds with the real nature of experience, which is continuous. He believed in the flow of consciousness. He was also more interested in holistic concerns, such as the meaning and continuity of the self. How do I know that I am me? What gives me the continuous sense of self across time?

This conflict between a holistic vs. atomistic approach marks a theme that persists throughout the history of psychology as well as the natural sciences in general. Do we study something by breaking it down into its smallest parts or do we try to grasp it as an organic whole? Like Wundt, however, James was an advocate of introspection as a method of studying consciousness, something the behaviorists would later reject vigorously.


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