Structuralism and Functionalism

Structuralism VS. Functionalism Breanne Jagiello National University Structuralism VS. Functionalism “We are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself. ” –Brian Cox. Both structuralism and functionalism were intended to seek answers to questions of the conscious mind. The basis for scientific psychology began with structuralism and later attempted to model psychology on evolutionary theory (functionalism).
Both sciences share some commonalties as well as many differences and are still used and relevant in modern psychology. Structuralism can be defined as “E. B Tichener’s system of psychology, which dealt with conscious experience as dependent on experiencing persons” (Schultz & Schultz, 2012, p. 18). In this system mental processes are broken down into the most basic components. This science taught that all human knowledge had been derived from human experience, and that there is no other source of knowledge.
Following structuralism was functionalism “A system of psychology concerned with the mind as it is used in an organism’s adaptation to its environment” (Schultz & Schultz, 2012, p. 18). Functionalism focused on how the mind operated, and sought to answer what mental processes accomplished. Both sciences are concerned with uncovering questions regarding the conscious self. The two sciences have been considered to be highly integrated and interrelated. What manifests itself as a function from one angle may be viewed as structure from another and vice versa; therefore, one cannot do justice to the evolution of economic theories by concentrating exclusively on either structuralism or functionalism—a synthesis of the two is essential” (Karsten, n. d. , p. 180). Functionalism and structuralism both relied on introspection as a method for research. Although flaws were found in introspection observation, it has still proven to be an essential bridge to unlocking psychological wisdom.

Introspection relies on self-reports about personal thoughts or feelings, essentially experience. “Experience is a common starting point for all sciences, from physics to psychology, and each science must be permitted to use those explanatory principles” (Shook, n. d. , p. 348) While there were similarities between each science, there were many more differences. Functionalism can be thought of as a response to structuralism. With functionalism came a new beginning for the basis of psychology.
Structuralism focused on what happened when an organism experienced an event, while functionalism focused on the how and why. “It did this first by abandoning key elements of Wundt’s effort to model scientific psychology on the physiological successes and instead attempted to model psychology on evolutionary theory”(Green, 2009, p. 75). Functionalist also differed in that; they believed breaking down the elements would deceive consciousness. Their ideas about consciousness were in terms of the whole, “mental life is a unity, a total experience that changes.
Consciousness is a continuous flow, and any attempt to divide it into temporarily distinct phases can only distort it”(Schultz & Schultz, 2012, p. 137). Titchener, on the other hand, taught that consciousness was the sum of experiences as they happen at any given time. He focused on the parts while Wundt focused on the whole. Functionalists were not concerned with the structure of mental processes, researchers were more concerned with how these processes “lead to practical consequences in the real world”(Schultz & Schultz, 2012, p. 03) Structuralism was concerned with determining the structure and basic parts of consciousness. Leaders in functionalism and structuralism had very different perspectives of how the mind should be analyzed, both contributed to the development of psychology in very different ways. Structuralism clearly defined conscious experience and, “their research methods were in the highest tradition of science”(Schultz & Schultz, 2012, p. 100). Functionalism also had an impact on psychology’s development. Animal behavior became an important area of study as a consequence to this the science.
Research methods such as physiological research, mental tests, questionnaires, and objective descriptions were introduced with functionalism. Both sciences can be related to modern day psychology. Introspection is still used in some cases through self-reports based on experience. “Self-reports are still requested from people exposed to unusual environments, such as weightlessness for space flight. Introspective reports involving cognitive processes such as reasoning are frequently used in psychology today” (Schultz & Schultz, 2012, p. 100).
Also, today child psychology as introduced in functionalism is a widely used and studied branch of psychology today. These sciences gave us the basis for psychology as we know it today. References Green, C. D. (2009). Darwinian theory, functionalism, and the firstAmerican psychological revolution. Retrieved from http://nu. libguides. com/content. php? pid=159445&sid=1349149 Karsten, S. G. (n. d. ). Dialectics, functionalsim, and structuralism, in economic thoughts. Retrieved from http://ehis. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. nu. edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? id=c052e67a-2092-4c7f-9882-5fdc8d700d0f%40sessionmgr12&vid=1&hid=4 Schultz, D. P. , & Schultz, S. E. (2012). The study of the history of psychology. In J. Hague (Ed. ), The history of Modern Psychology (10th edition ed. , pp. 1-21). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Shook, J. R. (n. d. ). Wilhelm Wundt’s contribution to John Dewey’s functional psychology. Retrieved from http://ehis. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. nu. edu/ehost/search/basic? sid=bbb50993-231d-42d9-8885-881119aa7fd0%40sessionmgr15&vid=4&hid=22

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