Structuralism and Functionalism

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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...
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