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Wilhelm Wundt offered a foundation for psychology, and many today note him as the father of psychology. This lesson aims to describe and define Wundt’s emphasis on the process of introspection.

Introduction to Introspection

Wilhelm Wundt is known as the father of experimental psychology. This is due largely to Wundt’s first book, Principles of Physiological Psychology, published in 1873. This book was groundbreaking, because up until that time psychology and physiology were considered one entity. Wundt’s book defined psychology as a science apart from physiology, making him one of the first in history to be noted as a psychologist. His work in psychology has had a lasting impact, with one of his earliest influences being his introduction of introspection.

Introspection is when someone considers their own thoughts, feelings, and motives. Derived from Latin, introspection means to look inward. Introspection involves the observation of one’s consciousness or awareness. Specifically, introspection involves what a person is thinking about themselves and experiencing in the present moment.

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The Value of Introspection

Introspection is part of how we make sense of the world around us. The process of introspection is both reflective and subjective in nature. Because of its subjectivity, introspection is sometimes criticized as an unreliable method in psychology. However, most readily admit that introspection is crucial and helpful in the development of a healthy psyche.

This is because introspection helps one define reality, or things as they truly exist. Consider cases of psychosis where an unhealthy psyche is marked by a distorted view of reality. To help remedy psychosis, things must be seen as they truly exist.

How Does That Make You Feel?

The following is a hypothetical example of introspection: your psychologist asks you to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine yourself sitting at the beach.

You are sitting on the sand, under the warm sunshine, and in front of you are gentle waves tumbling across the beach. The experience in that moment causes you to think about your life. As you reflect, you start to wonder why situations in your life occurred and begin drawing some conclusions about yourself – your personality and tendencies for behavior and decisions. You feel calm, peaceful, and content.Now, envision Wihelm Wundt asking you a series of questions about your imagined scene: What do you see? Do you sense anything? How do you feel? Or, describe what’s going through your mind.

Wundt would not be worried about you lying about how you feel, because to Wundt, you cannot lie during introspection. Wundt’s goal is that through introspection patients might reflect on their situation, consider their motives, and plan future reactions.

Another Example of Introspection

Here’s another scenario to consider: Imagine that you go to a party one evening. The day of the party you have a horrible day where everything seems to be going wrong.

You feel sad and deflated about how badly things are going for you. That evening when you walk into the party, someone greets you and asks, ‘How are you doing?’ Even though you’re sad, you put on a smile and reply, ‘I’m doing great!’ Just a minute or two later, a song begins to play while people are dancing. While listening to the song, you begin to reflect on your day and how you ‘really’ feel.To an outside observer, you would appear to be happy and content. Yet you know that inside you are actually sad and a bit depressed.

Introspection is the process of looking on the ‘inside’ and revealing to yourself how you ‘really’ feel.

Lesson Summary

Wilhelm Wundt, known as the father of experimental psychology, believed that introspection could be used to reveal one’s consciousness. Through inquiry, Wundt found that humans have the unique ability to reflect on their motives, feelings, and situations. Although many people view introspection as subjective, few can deny its critical role in revealing the inner workings of one of the most mysterious things: the mind.

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