Elements of Folk Psychology: Outlines of a Psychological History of the Development of Mankind
This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.
Wilhelm Max Wundt (1832-1920) studied normal individual reactions, reflex responses, and general – that is, social and cultural – behavior and interpreted them in terms of neural mechanisms. For this, he is credited as a founder of experimental psychology. It was he whom K. Danziger, in the Companion to the History of Modern Science, assigns “the crucial role in constituting the field. In other words, his role is felt to be intimately tied up with the emergence of the field as such, rather than with the emergence of specific issues within the field.”
Wundt’s folk psychology is an integral part of his philosophical system. In some respects it must be regarded as the crowning achievement of his thought; for its theoretical foundations presuppose all his former work. Wundt worked under Helmholtz at Heidelberg, then in 1875 was appointed professor of physiology at Leipzig. That same year he established the Institute of Experimental Psychology, the first laboratory in the world expressly devoted to the advancement of that subject. According to Zilboorg, “his chief interest was the phenomenon of psychological associations. He was what we know today as a physiological psychologist.”
Wundt formulated a theory of anthropological psychology, Völkerpsychologie, a kind of social psychology analyzing culture rather than social behavior. It relies on the comparative and historical study of cultural products, especially language, myth, and custom. In fact, he began teaching a course on social scientific psychology as early as 1859. Finally, in 1900 Wundt published Völkerpsychologie, which was released as two volumes in 1904 and became ten volumes from 1911 to 1920. In 1912, Elemente der Völkerpsychologie appeared. Four years later Edward Leroy Schuab translated this text into English as Elements of Folk Psychology: Outlines of a Psychological History of the Development of Mankind. The book as presented is a foundational work of psychology written by a foundational psychologist.