Perception, Apperception, and Creative Synthesis

Often a discussion of Wundt’s system stops with his concern with mental elements and his use of and blueness are phenomena that are cre- ated by the cortex of the experiencing individual. A musical quality, the flavor of the wine, or the familiarity of a face is a rapid creative synthesis that cannot, in principle, be explained as a mere sum of elemental physical features.

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So, contrary to the popular view that Wundt merely busied himself searching for the cognitive and emotional elements of a static mind, he also viewed the mind as active, creative, dynamic, and volitional. In fact, he believed that the apperceptive process was vital for normal mental functioning, and he speculated that if a person lost the ability to apperceive, his or her thoughts would be disor- ganized and would appear meaningless, as in the case of schizophrenia. The theory that schizophrenia could be understood as a breakdown of the atten- tional processes was expanded by Wundt’s student and friend Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926). According to Kraepelin, a defect in the “central control pro- cess” can result in reduced ability to pay attention, an erratic ability to pay attention, or in extremes in focusing one’s attention—any one of which would result in severe mental illness.

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