Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

Topics: Psychology, Mind, Behaviorism Pages: 7 (1997 words) Published: August 11, 2014
Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

Desirae Carrion

Kaplan University


Several researchers contributed to the development of psychology as a separate field of study. "Their work, along with Wundt's work, made Germany the undisputed center of the movement" (Schultz, & Schultz, 2011p. 77). The world's first psychological laboratory was opened by Wilhelm Wundt in 1879 at the University of Leipzig (Schultz &Schultz, 2011).When researchers started to rely on controlled observations and experimentation to study the human mind psychology began to obtain its own identity separate from its philosophical roots (Schultz &Schultz, 2011). Scientific study was occurring in several psychological laboratories during this time and that is when the debate over how to describe and explain the human mind and behavior began. In this paper, I will be discussing some of psychologies history by identifying the major schools of thought. Each school of thought will have its strengths and weaknesses, and each one brings something different to our understanding of the human mind and behavior. The Five major schools of thought that will be addressed in this paper are structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, gestalt, and psychoanalysis. Furthermore, I will also give a description of how I imagine psychology to be in the future.

Major Schools of thought in Psychology

Structuralism was the first school of thought developed by Edward Bradford Titchener, who had studied under Wilhelm Wundt (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). Structuralists believed that they could scientifically analyze conscious experience by identifying the basic elements or structures of the mind. Titchener's main focus was on the mental elements and their mechanical linking through the process of association (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). According to Titchener, the subject matter of psychology is conscious experience as that experience is dependent on the person who is actually experiencing it (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). The main method of investigation in structuralism was introspection or self-observation. In this method, subjects were trained (Schultz & Schultz, 2011).

Functionalism was influenced by the work of William James and Charles Darwin's theory of evolution (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). Williams James thought that we should emphasis on the functions rather than the structure of consciousness. That is why functionalism was interested in how the mind functions and how it is used by an organism to adapt to its environment (Schultz & Schultz, 2011).The functionalists believed that consciousness existed as a more continuous and changing process. One of main topics for study with functionalists was trying to understand individual differences, which had a major impact on education (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). Functionalism "influenced the educational system, especially with regards to John Dewey's belief that children should learn at the level for which they are developmentally prepared" (Cherry, 2012). It was Darwin's approach of adaptation and function and Galton's measurement of individual differences that had a great deal of influence on psychology.

The behavioral approach is based on the concept of explaining behavior through observation (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). John B. Watson was the one responsible for the school of thought known as behaviorism. The only thing that should be measured scientifically and objectively is behavior therefore, internal thoughts or thinking should be explained through behavioral terms and if not we should do away with it completely (Cherry, 2012). The methods that behaviorists used were observation with or without instruments, testing methods, verbal report method, and conditioned reflex method (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). The subject matter of behaviorism was the elements of behavior. The belief behaviorists had was that we are all born with a blank slate and that is why behaviorists...

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Perls, F., Hefferline, R., & Goodman, P. (1951). _Gestalt therapy._ New York, NY: Dell Publishing Company.
Schultz, D., & Schultz, S. (2011). History of modern psychology. (Tenth Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage DOI:
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