Kopfarbeit. Die Suche nach einer präzisen Messmethode für psychische Vorgänge

Translated title of the contribution: The search for a precise method of measurement in psychical experiments
2 Citations (Scopus)


In a series of three brief case studies, it is reconstructed how cognition and psychic activity were explored as energetic and economic transformations in a variety of experimental settings. 1. In the 1870s, the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin started his search for an objective measurement of cognitive performance in which he engaged over several decades. His investigations resulted in a graphic representation of cognitive efficiency, the "arbeitscurve", delineating the numbers of additions per time interval in close resemblance to representations of machine efficiency. 2. At the turn of the century, the American nutrition scientist and agronomist Wilbur Olin Atwater convinced himself in a series of precision measurements that the human motor was a so perfectly closed input-output system that he rejected any mental surplus in the form of cognitive energy transformations as contradictions to the principle of the conservation of energy. 3. At the beginning of the twentieth century and on the basis of Atwater's results, the German psychiatrist Hans Berger stipulated a special form of psychic energy for mediating between the principle of the conservation of energy and mental causality. Berger attempted to quantify psychic energy as one factor of brain metabolism. In the three cases of precision investigations into psychic life presented here, the experimental space of psychophysiology turned mental activity into a form of machine-like behavior.

Translated title of the contributionThe search for a precise method of measurement in psychical experiments
Original languageGerman
JournalBerichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)107-120
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2002


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