Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

Topics: Psychology, Mind, Sigmund Freud Pages: 2 (516 words) Published: June 18, 2013
Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

When psychology was first established as a science separate from biology and philosophy, the debate over how to describe and explain the human mind and behavior began. The first school of thought, structuralism, was advocated by the founder of the first psychology lab, Wilhelm Wundt. Almost immediately, other theories began to emerge and vie for dominance in psychology. The following are some of the major schools of thought that have influenced our knowledge and understanding of psychology:

Structuralism vs. Functionalism:

1) Structuralism was the first school of psychology, and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components. Major structuralist thinkers include Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Titchner.

2) Functionalism formed as a reaction to the theories of the structuralist school of thought and was heavily influenced by the work of William James. This school focused on the functions of human behaviors and not their structure. Major functionalist thinkers included John Dewey and Harvey Carr. Evolutionary psychology is founded on the view that the function of all psychological phenomena in human evolution is a necessary perspective to their understanding.

Gestalt Psychology:

3) Gestalt psychology is based upon the idea that we experience things as unified wholes. This approach to psychology began in Germany and Austria during the late 19th century in response to the molecular approach of structuralism. Rather that breaking down thoughts and behavior to their smallest element, the gestalt psychologists believed that you must look at the whole of experience. According to the gestalt thinkers, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Max Wertheimer is often credited as the founder of this movement.


Sigmund Freud was the found of 4) Psychodynamic approach. This school of thought emphasizes the influence of the unconscious mind on behavior. Freud...
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