Wilhelm Wundt has been referred to as the father of ‘structuralism’ based on his research and findings in studying elements.
In 1879 Wilhelm Wundt began the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig, Germany, which was a revolutionary act in itself. As a pioneer of treating psychology as a science, he based his theory on rudimentary experiments and the concept of elementism. Calling his theory structuralism, he attempted to experimentally derive elements of consciousness, basic components out of which all human conceptions can be created. Wundt attempted to catalogue these basic pieces of consciousness, using a method called introspection. Wundt defined introspection as the analysis of:
Through the help of his students, he wrote the results of their attempts to describe objects of consciousness in their most basic terms.
Although his use of an experimental method was revolutionary in psychology, his work lacked some of the essential components necessary to be able to call it science, such as repeatability by other scientists and unbiased subjects. As a result, for many years his theories have fallen completely out of favor, although in more recent years he has been somewhat vindicated by discoveries in cognitive psychology and even sensory neuroscience.
What is Structuralism?
Structuralism is from one of the earliest schools of thought and is described as the study of the elements of consciousness. Basic elements derive from each conscious experience and are based on an introspection method. This introspection method states that any given conscious experience must be described in its most basic terms. Since Wundt’s findings were published, several principle flaws have been observed that in turn conflict with research done by psychologists in present day. The reliability of Wundt’s observations has come into question. When Wundt trained his observers and students, he accounted for any gaps in the observation.
The nature of structuralism as a theory is derived from the understanding that all language and linguistic intent has within it deeper codes and meaning that connect all expression. Central to this understanding is the notion that all literature comprises a sort of dialogue that expands the symbols and meaning that exist within the literary canon. One of the central ways in which this discourse is understood is though the proliferation of symbols and the recurrence of meaning that these symbols represent and dispense. This procession of symbols and their resultant meanings shows a dynamic process throughout literary history, in which the structures of texts reveals something both about their intent and the ways in which a specific text is a continuation of a dialogue expressed in other works.
Current Thought on Structuralism
In later years, the validity of structuralism was questioned. Many behaviorists stated that the theory of structuralism dealt primarily with "non-observable" abstractions and as such could be deemed invalid . It was once believed that structuralism was way too concerned with internal behavior and because this behavior cannot be observed, it therefore cannot be measured. However, in later years cognitive psychologists found that conscious experience can indeed be broken down into fundamental elements. Consequently, these new findings are once again consistent with now contemporary research based on sensory neuroscience.