On Founders & Originators of Psychology: Wundt’s Respect for Fechner as Experimental Conqueror

Wilhelm Wundt is the founder of psychology. What does this mean and why did he receive the distinction? Who originated the idea of psychology?

To answer the aforementioned question, it is worth considering the present origin story of psychology unfolding in Schultz and Shultz (2016). However, in contrast, it is worth considering an updated perspective with respect to sociological forces at play (pp. 9–11). Rather than expounding upon these forces with sufficient evidence (it would be exhaustive), I entrust that fellow students are made aware of these forces through continued university studies, expertise, and possible gravitation toward disciplines studying these. Having worked in tech firms and with their own interchangeable indicators of “founders” over a period of a decade that have left large enterprises in their wake, where these few built enough wealth to survive and thrive in world experiences tens of thousands to millions of times a singular lifetime, it is worth questioning what “founder” means within the perspective of a practicum (e.g., psychology) to be more inclusive of, and inviting to a great many people that have perhaps been barred building the same (at least enough for one lifetime) due to socioeconomic disparities. Top open, a presentation of an answer that represents a practicum of psychology is offered (the “straw man”), along with another answer (the author’s informed opinion), and an explanation.

The “Straw Man” Answer

According to Schultz and Schultz (2016), the reason Wilhelm Wundt is considered the founder of psychology is due to his “vigorous promotion, or selling, of the idea of systematic experimentation” (p. 65). This, it is reasoned, meets criteria for processes which found schools of thought, consisting of “deliberate and intentional act[s]” (p. 65; edited for readability). This stands in contrast to “origination” which is what Fechner and many others had contributed, up to today where people continue the origination in contributing original psychological contributions. 

The Author’s Answer

However, in a potential multicultural world under increasing threat, it is worth mentioning that this textbook was written in 2016, and it is a full seven years later. Humanity is now still reeling from COVID’s massive “system perturbation” (a term borrowed from Thomas P.M. Barnett). I think that an ideology proclaiming “founding” as associated with, defined by, and operationalized as contingent on selling and promotion (i.e., marketing) is itself conditioned by psychological forces (i.e., cultural psychology) due to prevailing ethnocentrist themes of economic structures and systems straining individuals’ adaptive strategies toward favoring selling and promotion, and acculturating, sometimes at force or willful neglect, other adaptive strategies such as Fechner’s and others even back to Greek times (there are other cultures too [e.g., India, China etc.]). Had a different system of “rules to play life by” emerged, perhaps Fechner would have been rewarded as “founder”.


So, while I do not disagree with the perspective as the textbook proposes, I do situate it within a context and frame of expanding nationalist and market economic theories and structures embedding themselves in institutions in the times these individuals lived. Subsequently I do offer that “founder” as icon, index, and sign is culturally reciprocally conditioned, where intersecting spheres of cultural systems and programs induce strain (see Merton, 1938) along with markets’ demand for increasing consumption putting neighbors at greater competition. These cultural phenomena and normalized expectancies of behaviors induce display rules (Eckman & Friesen) of adaptive behaviors (i.e., innovator) in manipulating other people to provide that which people need in an expanding market economy (e.g., currency, coinage, funding, investment, buildings, equipment, and principally served by marketing). In this regard, I believe Wundt was a chief founder of psychology in adapting to a capitalist market economy of psychology, where Fechner was a chief founder of psychology in having adapted to a philosophical knowledge economy of psychology. That Wundt would state that Fechner was the responsible for “first conquest” of experimental psychology (as cited in Schultz & Schultz, 2016) speaks to his own awareness of the reality, where today a psychologists may realize that “conquest” is a parapraxis representative of prevalent imperialist ethnocentrist ideologies most likely signifying salient situational themes propagating market contemporaries desiring these very behaviors in evolving market-ism and nationalism in themes of conquest and expansion.

Fechner and contemporaries lived in a time of developing market economies and were not separate from them—the imperialists arrived at the shores of those that loved knowledge (i.e., philo-sophy) and demanded market participation. Today, “founders” titles are often rewards (i.e., tributes in the truest sense of the term) for those who accept and support those struggling to adapt to prevailing strains regardless of motivation (selfish to altruistic). To this end, Wundt delivered, and knew his, and more importantly Fechner’s place in science’s heart of philosophy and its application (i.e., the embodiment of the PhD). To this end, I prefer a dialectic approach, and can see the situated identities (Alexander & Lauderdale, 1977) at play in declarations of “founders” and “originators” in markets, institutions, and the rewards of autonomous study that come with acquisition of wealth and/or conference of social value. Besides, I’m not a fan of a “great man syndrome” the results from abstracting individuals as isolated from prevailing circumstance (as cited in Schultz & Schultz, 2016)—I don’t need a model of a “great man” to inspire me, “great behaviors” are good enough, and less strain inducing. Like the textbook mentions, jobs, wars, prejudice, and discrimination are social forces that shape psychology, and here it is added, shapes the rewards of “founders” and “originators” (pp. 9-11). There is respect for limitless psychologists that have walked, walk, and will walk, this way—a Zeitgeist founding, and originating.


Alexander, C. N., & Lauderdale, P. (1977). Situated identities and social influence. Sociometry, 40(3), 225–233. https://doi.org/10.2307/3033529

Ekman, P. & Friesen, W. (1981). The repertoire of nonverbal behavior: Categories, origins, usage, and coding. In A. Kendon (Ed.), Nonverbal Communication, Interaction, and Gesture: Selections from SEMIOTICA (pp. 57-106). De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110880021.57

Merton, R. K. (1938). Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review, 3(5), 672–682. https://doi.org/10.2307/2084686

Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2016). A history of modern psychology, 11th ed. Cengage Learning.