Edward B. Titchener Biography

Edward Bradford Titchener
Fotosearch / Getty Images

Edward B. Titchener was a student of Wilhelm Wundt and is often credited with introducing the structuralist school of thought. While Wundt is sometimes identified as the founder of structuralism, Titchener theories differed in important ways from Wundt's. While he was a dominant force in psychology during his life, the school of thought he founded essentially died with him. 

Learn more about his life, career and influence on psychology in this brief biography.

Best Known For:

  • Structuralism
  • Introspection
  • Coined the word 'empathy,' a translation of the German word ' Einfühlung.'
  • Oversaw the graduate studies of Margaret Floy Washburn, the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology

Birth and Death:

  • Born on January 11, 1867
  • Died on August 3, 1927

Early Life:

Edward Bradford Titchener was born in 1867 in Chichester, England and attended Malvern College on a scholarship. While his family originally intended for him to enter the clergy, Titchener's interests were elsewhere. In 1885, he began studying at Oxford. He initially focused on biology, but he soon shifted to the study of comparative psychology. During his time at Oxford, he began to read the writings of Wilhelm Wundt and later translated the first volume of Wundt's famous text Principles of Physiological Psychology from German into English.

Titchener graduated from Oxford in 1890 and then began studying with Wundt in Leipzig, Germany.

He went on to earn his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Leipzig in 1892.

Career

After earning his Ph.D., Titchener took a position as a professor of psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. It was here that he established the psychological school of thought known as structuralism.

Titchener believed that by systematically defining and categorizing the elements of the mind, researchers could understand the structure of the mental processes.

While he is often described as an apostle of Wundt's, Titchener's ideas differed from those of his mentor. He utilized Wundt's method of introspection, but under much more stringent guidelines. He was only interested in things that existed in the consciousness, so things such as instincts or the unconscious were of no interest to him.

Introspection was a technique that relies on self-observation. Trained observers were presented with different objects or events and then asked to describe the mental processes they experienced. Based on this kind of research, Titchener concluded that there three essential elements that made up all conscious experiences: feelings, sensations, and images.

What Were Edward B. Titchener's Major Contributions to Psychology?

Titchener is credited with introducing Wundt's structuralism to the United States.

However, it is important to note that historians recognize that Tichener's theories differed from those of his mentor and many critics suggest that Titchener actually misrepresented many of Wundt's ideas. While the school of thought did not survive his death, he played a significant role in establishing psychology as an experimental science.

In addition to his career as a distinguished and much-loved professor, Titchener served as the editor of several prominent journals including Mind, Studies from the Department of Psychology of Cornell University, and the American Journal of Psychology. He also published several critical psychology texts including Outline of Psychology (1897) and his four-volume Experimental Psychology (1901-1905).

Selected Publications:

  • Titchener, E. B. (1897). An Outline of Psychology. New York, London: Macmillan and Co.
  • Titchener, E. B. (1898). A Primer of Psychology. New York / London: The Macmillan Co. / Macmillan and Co.
  • Titchener, E.B. (1902). Experimental psychology: A manual of laboratory practice. (Vol. 1) New York, NY: MacMillan & Co., Ltd.
  • Titchener, E. B. (1905). Experimental Psychology: A Manual of Laboratory Practice, Vol. II: Quantitative Experiments, part 1: Student's Manual. New York, London: Macmillan and Co.

References

Edward Bradford Titchener Facts. (2010). Encyclopedia of World Biography. Gale Group.

Empathy. (2008) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/empathy/

Hothersall, D. (2004). History of psychology. New York, NY: Mcgraw-Hill.

Continue Reading