Wundt was reliably informed….(Discuss!)

Hi everyone. This morning, I would like to present to you the Wheatstone-Hipp Chronoscope, a piece of apparatus used in Wundt’s laboratory to record reactions times in his first early experiments using introspection. Follow the link above to learn more about this beautiful instrument that is accurate to within 1/1000th of a second.

This picture was found in the Science Museum website.

Often, I feel that the students come away with the idea that Wundt’s work was not scientific, maybe focusing too much on the subjectivity of studying one’s own thoughts. Teaching just a tiny bit about these sophisticated devices might help students to understand that his work clearly demonstrates some of the hallmarks of science, e.g, his ability to attain accurate and reliable measurements. The following document (linked here) explains how scientists became interested in individual differences in reaction times and questioned whether this had to do with the reliability of the instruments or whether they had stumbled across an interesting psychological phenomena.

Getting the students to research this instrument could also open up a fantastic debate around reliability and validity, considering such concepts as the motor response as a measure of reaction speed versus the sensation or perceptual response. For your super-able students you could even discuss which comes first; of course we logically think that we perceive then act, but is this strictly true? Perhaps we react, unconsciously, and then consciously perceive… Needless to say, this lead neatly into a discussion of the advent of Behaviourism.

Earlier today, I worked with one of my fantastic AQA students who had been set a three mark question on introspection. I created the following activity to extend her understanding and develop her answer to a solid A* answer. In the jamboard (linked below the image), you can get a flavour of the context of this activity. The idea was to develop a brief answer into a well-informed and well-explained answer, incorporating psychological terminology wherever possible. We work on the premise of 25 words per mark, although this is potentially out of reach for many students, as this work is targeted at pupils working at the highest level. The activity focuses on using adjectives and adverbs to enrich the answer and to elaborate basic points to ensure credit. If pupils need more help the words can be revealed as they are here, but with stronger pupils you can hide the words beneath the “books” (images) maybe leaving the first few letters visible as a cue. The activity was also designed with EAL students in mind, with a focus on scaffolding literacy, since this is a focus of another publishing project upon which I am currently working.

Image captured from original jamboard on The Origins of Psychology
(c) PsychStix 2021

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