By Claude E. Buxton
''highly developed organisms are to be are to be conceived as having been primitive voluntary activity''
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Additional info for Points of View in the Modern History of Psychology
Wundt's students played a significant role in determining both the shape and activities of his laboratory. James McKeen Cattell, in particular, is a good example of this influence. His technical contributions, in the form of apparatus design and experiments, made a lasting impression on the Leipzig laboratory and led to a lasting personal relationship between Cattell and the Wundt family (Sokal, 1981). Because that pattern seems to have been repeated with many students from several countries, it can rightly be said that the Leipzig laboratory and the research performed there were the products of many different researchers.
This principle of differentiation set Wundt against many of his associationist and Herbartian colleagues who proposed theories of development that, in contrast to Wundt's are additive (that is, the view that mature behavior derives from originally isolated elemental behaviors). In Wundtian theory, separate forms of volitional activity emerge from an original and diffuse motivational state (Trieb) as an organism matures. He divides these eventually differentiated acts into three types: (a) 2. Wilhelm Wundt: Psychology as the Propaedeutic Science 37 impulsive acts—primitive innate drive activity; (b) voluntary acts—the simultaneous presence of several motives where one predominates; and (c) selective acts—voluntary acts in which the predominance of one motive is preceded by a conscious act of choice controlled by affective processes.
The same principle appears in discussions of motor control and movement patterns. We may, for instance, analyze the ballistics of muscle or limb movement. But if we consider the movement of the organism as a whole in some goal-directed activity pattern, that whole movement takes on a quality (a meaning or an identity) that cannot be derived from the component muscle movements. Some 20 to 30 years after those Wundtian writings, the Gestalt psychologists developed more sophisticated descriptions of emergent qualities in psychological events.