The Psychology Laboratory at the Turn of the 20th Century

By Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

Alice Chan (Student)

AU ID 2750777


Journal Article Critique 1

Shelley Sikora (tutor)

November 03, 2011

Body of the Text

1. Research Question or Problem

The purpose of the article is to outline the influence that psychology laboratories have had on modern psychology, and how experimental laboratory has changed psychology into a discipline of science.

2. Introduction

During the 1800s, psychologists made great efforts to change psychology to a discipline of science instead of being a part of philosophy or a mystical subject. They believed that psychology is testable like many other science curriculums. According to the article, by 1880 the experimental laboratory was the “public icon for natural science” (Ludy, 2000, p.318). The first experimental laboratory was founded by Wundt in 1879 and this marks the beginning of modern psychology as science. Many great psychologists, stated in the article, have shown great support and attraction towards the idea of the experimental laboratory. Although the laboratory is no longer viewed as an icon for psychology, it is still an important training place for all undergraduate psychology students.

3. Methodology

In this article, the author uses history to support his argument that the psychology laboratory was instrumental in transforming psychology from philosophy to science. References of famous psychologists were used and cited to support the author’s historical approach for the article. Table 1 (Ludy, 2000, p319) is a list of laboratories that have been built from 1883 to 1900 in the United States. Figure 1 (Ludy, 2000, p.320) is an example of how the early psychology experimental laboratories looked like.

4. Results

The experimental laboratory does mark the beginning of psychology and the emergence from philosophy. Ludy uses reference, dated back from 1800, and cited phrases from famous psychologists to explain how the first Wundt Laboratory aided the growth and spread of Psychology worldwide. A list of laboratories from table 1 (Ludy, 2000, p.320) demonstrates how rapidly Psychology spread after the beginning of the Wundt Laboratory in the United States. Cattell’s letter to his parents, cited in the article, gives an example of what was tested in the early laboratory. In addition, the author cites Wolfe’s second annual report to demonstrate how psychologists of the time believed that psychology was a science like any other. Figure 1 (Ludy, 2000, p.320) is a psychology laboratory that shows the similarity with other natural science laboratories. In addition important psychologists, like Harry Kirke Wolfe, Wundt, and Hall are mentioned for their contribution and support of the psychology lab. The “American Journal of Psychology and Science”, mention by Ludy, shows that the public believed that psychology laboratories were no different from other natural science laboratories. At the end of the article Ludy uses references, dated after the 1900, from various sources to show how the use of psychology laboratories changed in the 20th century. According to the cited work, the psychology laboratory is no longer viewed as an icon but a training ground which all undergraduate psychology students must go through.

5. Discussion

Ludy (2000) concluded that the psychology laboratory “no longer serves as an enduring motif.” (Ludy, 2000, p.321) After the 20th century, psychology has become a discipline of science and the laboratory is no longer an icon; it is just a standard training ground for all psychology students. After Wundt’s first laboratory, “proliferation of American laboratories at the turn of the century changed the nature of graduate education.” (Ludy, 2000, p.321) The laboratory is no longer a place for scholars and psychologists; it has become part of a curriculum that all undergrad psychology students must enrol in to graduate.

6. List of Reference

The references selected by the author support the article’s purpose and are cited within the body of the text. Because the method used in this article was an historical approach, therefore the references date all the way back from the 1800s to the 1990s. The author used a variety of sources to prove his work and reasoning.

7. Personal Reaction

I found this to be an interesting article. I have always wondered where psychology emerged from and how it has been scientifically accepted. Contrary to my expectations, the experimental laboratory is the key to all the answers. I was impressed with early psychologists’ determination and diligence in using the scientific method to test their hypotheses, thereby changing public opinion towards an acceptance of psychology as a new science.

After reading the article I have a few questions in mind. The author did not mention the view from the other natural science curriculum, do they support psychology as a counterpart to science or are they against it? Also, are there any psychologists against the experimental laboratory during that time? If so why or why not?


Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. (2000). The Psychology Laboratory at the Turn of the 20th Century. Texax A&M Universit, 55(3), 318-321. Doi:10.1037//0003-066X.55.3.318

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