What is the Würzburg School?

What is the Würzburg School?

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

The Würzburg School is a psychology-based theoretical science school. Külpe, who was initially a follower of Wundt within the framework of the Würzburg School, guided a group of students to break from the study limitations of psychology masters (like Wundt).

Although Külpe’s movement was not revolutionary, it was a declaration of freedom against the narrowness of Wundt’s thoughts. Külpe had worked on many issues that Wundt psychology did not care about.

Külpe started his university education in Leipzig when he was 19 years old. His intention was to study history, but under Wundt’s influence he briefly turned to philosophy and, in 1881, experimental psychology, which was still in its infancy.

History remained a strong attraction for Külpe, but a year later he resumed his work in psychology with Wundt in Berlin. After studying history and psychology, which are two different academic fields, he returned to Leipzig in 1886 and stayed there for 8 years.

After successfully completing his studies in Leipzig, he remained there as Wundt’s assistant, conducting research in the laboratory and penning a textbook, Outlines of Psychology. Written in 1893, this book is dedicated to Wundt. In this book, Külpe defined psychology as the phenomenology of experience depending on the individual who has the experience.


Külpe became a professor in Würzburg in 1894, and two years later he established a laboratory that was almost as important as Wundt’s Leipzig laboratory. Among the students who fell under the influence of Würzburg were also a few Americans. One of them, James Rowland Angell, is one of the most important figures in the development of functionalism.

James Rowland Angell is one of the most important figures in the development of functionalism.

In fact, in the early years of the laboratory, Külpe was more interested in philosophy and aesthetics than psychology. Although his writings are generally philosophical in nature, a great deal of laboratory research has been published under his direction.

Külpe not only inspired his students’ research, but also acted as an observer in many of the grueling introspection experiments conducted in Würzburg.


The research topics of the Würzburg School were very diverse. Karl Marbe’s work was the work on the comparative judgment of weights.

Marbe said that the senses and images do not appear to play a role in the judgment (decision-making) process itself, although in reality they are present during the task. Subjects said that decisions (heavier or lighter) did not seem to play a role in their minds in the judgment (decision-making) process itself. Subjects do not know how decisions (heavier or lighter) are formed in their minds.

This finding contrasted with the belief about a thought supported for centuries: Previously, when making such a decision, it was assumed that subjects remembered the mental image of the first object and compared it to the sensory impression of the second object.

Marbe’s experiment has shown that there is no such comparison between image and impression, and that the decision-making process is much more difficult to define than it was thought.

This and similar experiments in Würzburg have shown that although the elements of consciousness are often seen as necessary, they do not form the basis for thinking. It seems that there are other states of consciousness out there that were not considered possible before. Additional states such as hesitation, doubt, confidence, seeking a solution or waiting for a solution can be treated as neither sensation, image, nor emotion. These states were originally called “consciousness attitudes”. In another later study, J. Orth put forward the idea that Wundt’s feelings of tension-relaxation, excitement-depression can be reduced to the same abstract and fuzzy consciousness attitudes.

The Würzburg group also dealt with issues of association and will. A classic study by Henry Watt showed that in an associative task (for example, asking subjects to find a subordinate or superordinate word for a particular word), subjects have little knowledge of the conscious processes of their own decisions. This finding provided further evidence for Külpe’s notion that conscious experiences cannot be reduced to sensations or images.

Watt found that subjects responded correctly during the reaction time, even though they were not consciously aware of what they were intending to do. From this, Watt concluded that consciousness work is done when instruction is given and understood before the task is yet performed. According to Watt, subjects tend to react in the desired way after receiving the instruction. When the stimulus word is given, the subjects follow the instruction without much conscious effort.

Through this instruction, the subjects clearly formed an unconscious set or determining tendency to respond in the direction indicated by the instruction. task once