What is Experimental Psychology?

“General psychology deals with questions regarding perception, memory and learning, thinking, problem solving and decision-making, speaking and understanding speech, emotion, motivation and psychomotor skills.” (Spada, 2006, p. 11), translated from German. “On the one hand, this addresses the cognitive functions in which one of the most important characteristics of the human being manifests itself, their intelligence. On the other hand, the 'forces' that stimulate and control action, such as emotion and motivation, and the interplay between cognition and emotion are also part of the subject of experimental psychology.” (Spada, 1990, p. 11), translated from German.

The focus is on the processes taking place in all people, rather than on individual differences or their development. Thus, Experimental psychology is an important foundation for many psychological and other social science fields. However, it also deals with the practical implementation of these findings.

'The' Experimental Psychology as an unified theoretical structure or field of research does not really exist. Rather, there are different research traditions that deal with the different basic functions of the psyche. Findings from these different research areas are taught together under the title 'Experimental Psychology'. Nevertheless, the different fields of research share some basic views (Prinz & Müsseler, 2002): universalism, functionalism and experiment as method of choice.

  • Universalism: Humans are considered generic beings. It is assumed that the investigated principles of perception, memory etc. are essentially the same for all human beings.
  • Functionalism: The functional principles of the psyche under abstraction of specific contents are of interest. The latter may vary culturally (e.g. what one thinks about), the former are assumed to be universal (e.g. how and according to which rules we reach conclusions).
  • Experiment: The experimental method allows a particularly rigorous and controlled test of hypotheses and theories about functional relationships.

Experimental Psychology in Mannheim is divided into Experimental Psychology 1 (Perception, Thinking & Language) and Experimental Psychology 2 (Learning & Memory, Motivation & Emotion).

The research of the Chair of Experimental Psychology focuses on experimental cognitive psychology, especially on memory and decision-making processes



  • Spada, H. (1990). Lehrbuch Allgemeine Psychologie (2. Auflage). Bern: Huber
  • Spada, H. (2006). Lehrbuch Allgemeine Psychologie (3. Auflage). Bern: Huber
  • Prinz, W. & Müsseler, J.(2002). Einleitung: Psychologie als Wissenschaft. In J. Müsseler & W. Prinz (Hrsg.), Allgemeine Psychologie, Heidelberg: Spektrum