Carl Stumpf & Psychology: Phenomenology & Contributions

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  • 0:04 Understanding Phenomena
  • 0:53 Who Influenced Stumpf?
  • 2:17 Stumpf's Contributions
  • 3:43 Other Contributions to…
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

This lesson looks at one of the founders of the modern science of psychology, Carl Stumpf. He wanted to understand how people perceived phenomena, or events, from day to day. Phenomenology and his other contributions are examined.

Understanding Phenomena

What do you see when you walk down a city street? Car horns blare as angry motorists try to get others moving just a little bit faster. People walk along the sidewalk whistling, tramping loudly, talking on their cell phones. A nearby hot dog stand sends out an aroma that masks the one given out from a nearby sewer grate. The grays and tans of the building structures contrast with the bold colors of bright signs and billboards.

How do you perceive these phenomena? Does everybody experience them the same way you do? How do the different sensations affect you today versus yesterday? The psychological precept of phenomenology, advanced by Carl Stumpf, seeks to answer these questions. Phenomenology is how an individual experiences phenomena, the internal and external stimuli that they encounter every day.

Who Influenced Stumpf?

While Stumpf's contributions to phenomenology are impressive, they were only possible because of the people who came before him and influenced his research. Stumpf was trained, early in his life, in philosophy. He enjoyed the thought experiments associated with the philosophers he studied, but he soon met someone who challenged him to think even deeper.

During his university career, Stumpf came under the influence of Franz Brentano, one of the first individuals trained as a philosopher who began using the scientific method to quantify the thoughts of philosophy. Brentano encouraged Stumpf to use empirical methods, results obtained from observing experiments, rather than rely on the anecdotal method that was popular within philosophy. Stumpf would take this knowledge and use empirical methods to inform his hypotheses with regard to phenomena.

Stumpf both influenced and was influenced by Edmund Husserl, who argued for a transcendental understanding of phenomena. Stumpf and Husserl, both students of Franz Brentano, took different paths and argued about the nature of phenomenology. Stumpf continued to use empirical methods while Husserl developed his philosophical school using logic. However, Husserl helped Stumpf focus his efforts. Stumpf became convinced that treating phenomenology as a psychological construct rather than a philosophical one was the correct approach.

Stumpf's Contributions

Since phenomenology is the subjective experience an individual has when they experience internal or external stimuli, every person becomes a unique individual because of the way that they experience events. Stumpf studied how different sounds and other sensations shaped a person's subjective experience. He realized that every person heard something different when they heard a tone, and he wanted to understand why this was. He was also interested in how an individual's reaction to different sounds matured over time. Using a variety of musical instruments and other means of producing sound, he would ask people what they heard and how that affected them. His research into sound produced the book Psychology of Tone.

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