Introducing the Basics

History and Pioneers

Why is William James considered the father of American psychology?

Interested in the nature of sensation, he combined objective measures with rigorously trained introspection. Researchers were taught to carefully monitor their own perceptual and sensory experience. Wundt’s focus was on mapping the mechanics of sensation with mathematical precision. He also taught hundreds of students and was responsible for training many of the major figures in the first few decades of the field. His focus on identifying the components of the mind was termed structuralism. 1

James (1842–1910) was among the first professors of psychology in the United States. Hired by Harvard in 1872 as a professor of physiology, he took on the new title of professor of psychology in 1889. Like Wundt, he was an avid promoter of the new field of psychology. Just as Wundt did, James taught many students who would disseminate his ideas into the wider world. Although his interests eventually took him far beyond psychology, his publication Principles of Psychology had a long and powerful influence on the development of the field.


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