The Foundations of Psychology

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The Foundations of Psychology
General Psychology/PSY300
January 12, 2010
Lena Klumper, P.h.D

The Foundations of Psychology
“Psychology is the scientific investigation of mental processes and behavior” (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p. 28). Psychologists practice examining biological makeup, experience and functioning, and cultural and historical moments in a person simultaneously (Kowalski & Weston, 2009). The foundations of psychology include five major schools of thought: (1) Structuralism and Functionalism, (2) Behaviorism, (3) Gestalt, and (4) Psychoanalysis (a2zpsychology, 2010). The four schools of thought are used in psychology today to study questions about human behavior and allow scientists to study why these behaviors occur (Spear, 2007). Another school of thought of psychology is biopsychology, or behavioral neuroscience, and it is used to study the brain and the nervous system (Spear, 2007). The study of the brain is used to link biopsychology to human behavior (Spear, 2007). The Major Schools of Thought

“Since the birth of scientific psychology over 100 years ago, four major schools have completed to become the predominant model for understanding human behavior” (Robins, 1998, para 2). These schools built distinct and contending approaches to the learning of mental processes (Magner, 2000). There are four major schools of thought, structuralism and functionalism, behaviorism, Gestalt psychology, and psychoanalysis (Kowalski & Weston, 2009).

Structuralism is “is an early school of thought in psychology developed by Edward Titchener, which attempted to use introspection as a method for uncovering the basic elements of consciousness and the way they combine with each other into ideas”, (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p.9). Structuralism identified and combined the basic elements and experience (Morris & Maisto, 2005). Psychologists studied the anatomy of the mind, in terms of how separate conditions combined to create multifaceted forms (Magner, 2000). Although structuralism is an important part in the groundwork of psychology, psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, replaced the importance of structuralism in psychological theories (Kowalski & Weston, 2009, p.301).

Functionalism was founded by William James. “argued that sensations cannot be separated from the mental associations that allow us to benefit from past experiences” (Morris & Maisto, 2005, p. 44). James believed that an individual’s memories and stored ideas are what allows individuals to function in their own environment (Morris & Maisto, 2005).

Behaviorism began with Watson that proclaimed that “purely objective experimental branch of natural sciences dedicated to the prediction and control of behavior” (Kutler, 2003). Skinner took Watson’s theories and emphasized it creating radical behaviorism (Kutler, 2003). Skinner added the concept of reinforcement and rewards to Watson’s theory (Morris & Maisto, 2005). This created the ability of learner to be active in the process of learning (Morris & Maisto, 2005). “Skinners theory of motivation calls voluntary acts free operants; these are controlled by positive and negative reinforcers” (Kutler, 2003, para 3).

“According to Gestalt psychology, perception depends on the human tendency to see patterns, to distinguish objects from their backgrounds, and to complete pictures from a few clues” (Morris & Maisto, 2005, p. 44). Gestalt psychology is completely different from structuralism. Gestalt psychology was one of the most major schools of psychology in the twentieth century (Rush, n.d.). Gestalt psychology examines stimuli as structural wholes and not as components that have been broken down from a whole (Magner, 2000). It teaches that the whole of any stimuli is better than the combination of all of its parts (Magner, 2000).

Psychoanalysis was also founded by Freud. “Psychoanalysis was based on the theory that behavior is determined by powerful inner forces,...
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