Law of Combination

After Titchener had iso- lated the elements of thought, the next step was to determine how they combine to form more com- plex mental processes. In explaining how elements of thought combine, Titchener rejected Wundt’s notions of apperception and creative synthe- sis in favor of traditional associationism. Titchener (1910) made the law of contiguity his basic law of association:

Let us try … to get a descriptive for- mula for the facts which the doctrine of association aims to explain. We then find of structuralism as describing the is of mental life; he was willing to leave the is for for others to ponder.

Titchener’s Use of Introspection. Titchener’s use of introspection was more complicated than Wundt’s. Typically, Wundt’s subjects would simply report whether an experience was triggered by an external object or event. Titchener’s subjects, how- ever, had to search for the elemental ingredients of their experiences. Their job was to describe the basic, raw, elemental experiences from which com- plex cognitive experience was built. Titchener’s sub- jects, therefore, had to be carefully trained to avoid reporting the meaning of a stimulus. The worst thing introspectionists could do would be to name the object of their introspective analysis. If the subjects (more accurately, observers) were shown an apple, for example, the task would be to describe hues and spatial characteristics (red, round, smooth, etc). Calling the object an apple would be committing what Titchener called the stimulus error. In this case, Titchener wanted his subjects to report sensa- tions, not perceptions. Titchener said, “Introspecting through the glass of meaning … is the besetting sin of the descriptive psychologist” (1899).

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