At Goettingen, Lottie Steffens was “put at the head of a large round table with 12 professors, each one specializing in a different subject. They asked her questions out of turn, interrupting each other and on all different subjects. Somehow Lottie kept her head. Her only comment…was that she fell out of bed that night! Lottie’s sister, Laura Steffens, who also had been studying at Goettingen did not dare take the examination after she saw what happened.”
Following the example of their older brother, Lincoln Steffens, Laura and Lottie went to Leipzig university in 1896. Laura studied psychology, attending lectures by the distinguished Wilhelm Wiundt among others. Moving to Gootingen in the spring of 1897, she became a student of Georg Muller in the Psychological Institute. Her dissertation research on the process of memorizing verse reported in her 1900 paper was an investigation of normal modes of learning, part of Muller’s broad program of exploring part versus whole learning. Using a number of subjects, both German and English speakers, she studied the modifications of the normal modes that individuals adopt and the question of whether the normal mode is the most efficient.