Edward Titchener's Theories of Psychology

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  • 0:00 The Conscious Elements…
  • 1:12 What Is Structuralism?
  • 1:46 Consciousness
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

Psychology has generated many theories meant to provide a detailed understanding of the mind. Edward Titchener's attempts to do this through the study of consciousness and the elements that make up consciousness are the subjects of this lesson.

The Conscious Elements of a Book

When is a book not a book? Books have words covering a variable number of pages, a hard or soft cover, possibly an illustration on the cover related to the contents on the inside, and other properties. They're meant to inform and entertain, but they can bore and confuse at the same time, depending on the reader. But, when is a book, or something that looks and feels like a book, not a book? When it is broken down into its different physical components.

A book has paper, plastic, cloth, or wooden pages. It has ink of some type with which to form the words that are to be read. Every book has a height, a width, and a thickness along with color or colors. They are held together by mechanical fasteners or glue. All books have similar elemental properties that have nothing to do with the whole being a book. Edward Titchener was an English psychologist who believed that the individual mind was made up of structures just like a book is made up of its various elements. His school of psychological thought, structuralism, was dedicated to identifying these mental structures through experimentation.

What Is Structuralism?

Titchener was a student of William Wundt, as were many who adhered to structuralist psychology. It must be noted that structuralism does not refer to the study of physical structures within the brain. That is covered in different physiology classes and has little to do with psychological study. When psychologists discuss the structures of the mind, they are interested in what makes up consciousness. Basically, they ask, 'What are the elements of consciousness?' So, the structural psychologists were studying, and trying to quantify, how an individual expressed their consciousness and what elements of the mind produced the effect of consciousness.


The method the structural psychologists used to catalog the different elements of consciousness was called introspection. This referred to the individual thinking about what made up an object, such as a book, and describing the basic attributes of that object. Through the use of introspection Titchener and his colleagues were able to separate the elements of consciousness into three categories.

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