Edward Bradford Titchener




  • Oxford University (B.A., 1890)
  • University of Leipzig, Psychology (Ph.D., 1892)


  • Psychology Professor, Cornell University (1892-1927)
  • Head, Psychology Department, Cornell University (1892-1897)
  • Editor, Studies from the Department of Psychology of Cornell University (1894-1927)
  • American Edtor, Mind (1894-1917)
  • Editor, American Journal of Psychology (1895-1927)

Major Contribution

  • Brought the ‘new psychology’, the experimental psychology of Wundt (and others) to the United States, effecting the transition from mental philosophy to psychology as it is currently practiced.
  • Through in-depth, careful, and systematic exploration of the introspective and structuralist position, Titchener eventually revealed its significant limitations, ultimately enabling the freeing the development of psychology from structuralist boundaries. [Titchener, however, never abandoned the introspective, structuralist approach.]

Ideas and Interests

Edward Bradford Titchener was generally regarded as Wundt’s apostle in America. He studied systematic psychology, but not to the exclusion of other branches as well. The acknowledged leader of structuralism, Titchener was rated as the most distinguished psychologist in the United States, its most representative experimentalist, and an inspiring teacher who guided many of his pupils in the direction of scientific procedure. The school of structuralism was born at Cornell and had life in Titchener and his doctoral students.

Titchener refused to consider applied psychology a valid enterprise and had no interest in studying animals, children, abnormal behavior, or individual differences. Titchener attempted to systematize the Wundtian point of view, producing laboratory research using only Wundt’s method of introspection. For Titchener, psychology was the study of experience from the point of view of the experiencing individual. All elements must exist in the consciousness; hence, habit, action, instinct, and any Freudian mechanism received either marginal treatment from him, or none at all. Titchener characterized mental processes as having quality, intensity, duration, clearness, and extensity.

Within the general framework of structuralism, Titchener provided one special theory that became well known because it kept reappearing in different form in the work of other psychologists and linguists. It is the core-context theory of meaning. According to this theory, a new mental process (the core) acquired its meaning from the context of other mental processes within which it occurs. In its simplest form, the context may be just one other mental element, and besides, a person does not have to be aware of the context to assign meaning (unconcious context).

“What a man! To me he has always seemed the nearest approach to genius of anyone with whom I have been closely associated.” (E. G. Boring on E. B. Titchener Pictorial History of Psychology and Psychiatry).


  • Elementary Psychology; 4 volumes (1901-1905)
  • A Text Book of Psychology (1910)
  • Systematic Psychology: Prolegomena (1929)

References: 17, 18, 37

Image Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine