Who is Fechner and Why He Still Matters

  • Jordan Richard Schoenherr


The publication of Elemente der Psychophysik by Gustav Theodor Fechner (1860) not only established the foundations of psychophysics as an area of inquiry but also set the stage for much of experimental psychology. While Fechner is one figure in the lineage of experimental psychology, his contributions set him apart from those that came before and after. Namely, although Fechner was influenced by the work of Ernst Heinrich Weber, the scope of Fechner’s psychological research included not only the quantification of physical sensation and perceptual discrimination, but also natural history and consciousness (e.g., Fechner, 1851), evolution (Fechner, 1873), and the experimental study of aesthetics (Fechner, 1876). Yet the contributions of Fechner are not widely known within psychology as a whole (Scheerer, 1987) and we are confronted with the continuing challenge of demonstrating the connections between classic techniques and emerging areas of research.

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