Jessica A. Brooks
August 14, 2009
Structuralism vs. Functionalism
Structuralism and functionalism investigate the human mind and use the mind as the subject of every study. They are also both are concerned with the conscious self. While they share some similarities, they also show some variation. Structuralism focuses on “revealing the most basic structures or components of the mind” (Zimbardo, 2006). Functionalism, on the other hand, focuses on mental life and behavior according to how a person interacts, or functions, in their environment. Structuralism was introduced to the United States by Titchener, with his own twist on Wundt’s structure of psychology. It is the study of the fundamentals of consciousness: sensation and perception, memory, attention, emotion, cognition, learning, and language. Structuralism focuses on breaking down mental processes into the most crucial components, or basic terms. Titchener hoped “to analyze consciousness into its component parts and determine its structure” (Schultz, D.P. & Schultz, S.E., 2008, p.123). To accomplish this, a method called introspection is used, where a description of the participant’s sensations are reported. Introspection brought criticism. Introspection was believed to be too subjective and someone’s own description of their personal thoughts and feelings should not be critiqued. That would take away from basic terms being used to describe a situation, as some people may use more elaborate words in their depiction. Structuralism was later criticized, primarily by behaviorists, maintaining that the theory dealt mainly with our internal conduct. It was disputed that this was not a recognizable factor of consciousness and therefore could not be measured precisely. Functionalism was born as a retort to structuralism, introduced by the work of William James implementing Darwinian theories, such as how...