Foundations of Psychology Paper

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Foundations of Psychology
Psych 300
November 20, 2010
Dr. Stern, EdD, LMHC

Foundations of Psychology Paper
Psychology is the scientific investigation of mental processes (thinking, remembering, feeling, etc.) and behavior (Kowalski & Westen, 2009.) The phrase mental behavior and mental processes means many things: it encompasses not just what people do but also their thoughts, emotions, perceptions, reasoning processes, memories and even the biological activities that maintain bodily function (Jex.) Psychology is divided into sub-fields such as health, human development, law, and many other sub fields, just to name a few. The major schools of thought in Psychology are structuralism, functionalism,

behaviorism, psychodynamic, humanistic, cognition, and evolutionary. William Wundt is called

the father of psychology for his pioneering laboratory research (Kowalski & Westen, 2009.) He

founded the first psychological laboratory in Germany in 1879. Wundt used introspection to

evaluate thoughts and behaviors when subjects were presented with a stimulus such as a pink

object on a card and basically were asked to put in their own words what they were feeling.

Wundt’s student Edward Tichener (1867-1927) advocated the use of introspection in

experiments with the hope of devising a periodic table of elements of human consciousness,

much like the periodic table developed by chemists (Kowalski & Westen, 2009.)

Tichener focused on consciousness and therefore founded the first school of psychology known

as structuralism. Structuralism focused on uncovering the fundamental mental components of

perception, consciousness, thinking, emotions, and other kinds of mental states and activities

(Feldman, Chapter 1.) Tichener’s belief varied from that of Wundt’s in that he believed that

experimentation was the only appropriate method for a science of psychology and that concepts

such as “attention” implied too much free will to be scientifically useful (Kowalski & Westen,

2009.) As a response to structuralism, it was replaced by functionalism.

Functionalism relied heavily on the works of William James, who was a Harvard

Psychologist, and the Evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Instead of maintaining the focus

on consciousness, functionalists focused on consciousness and how behavior functions. James

believed that knowledge about human psychology could come from many sources, including not

only introspection and experimentation but also the study of children, other animals, and people

whose minds do not function adequately such as the (mentally ill) (Kowalski and Westen, 2009.)

Behaviorism was a school of thought that came prevalent in the 1950s. Behaviorism

focuses on the way objects or events in the environment (stimuli) come to control behavior

through learning (Kowalski & Westen, 2009.) This perspective varies from the other

perspectives in that it relies on the relation between external events and observable behaviors.

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian physiologist that initiated studies on dogs. Pavlov

discovered that his dogs learned to anticipate a meal when they heard a sound from a whistle.

Whenever the dogs heard the whistle they began to salivate associating that with the meal.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), a Viennese physician, was the founder of the psychodynamic approach. Proponents of the psychodynamic perspective argue that behavior is motivated by inner forces and conflicts about which we have little awareness and control (Feldman.) Freud originated his theory in response to patients whose symptoms, although real, were not based on physiological malfunctioning (Kowalski & Westen, 2009.) The humanistic approach is based on free will. More than any other approach, it stresses the role of psychology in enriching people’s lives and helping them achieve self-fulfillment. By...
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