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Structuralism vs. Functionalism
Structuralism and functionalism explore the human mind; both are concerned with the conscious self, despite the verbal bashing of each side. While they had some similarities, they also had many differences which will be explored below Structuralism, the first major school of thought in psychology, was founded by Wilhelm Wundt. It is the study of the elements of consciousness, and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components. “In Wudnt’s view, the mind had the power to organize mental elements voluntarily” (Schultz, D.P. & Schultz, S.E., 2008, p.122). In order to do this structuralism relied on a method called introspection. Introspection, however, had a principle flaw and was one basic reason that structuralism completely died in psychology upon Wundt’s death (Psychology World, 2006).
The subject agreement and reliability of structuralism was not consistent with mainstream views of experimental psychologists today (Psychology World, 2006). It maintained that a “conscious experience must be described in its most basic terms,” (Psychology World, 2006). Structuralism was also later criticized, mainly by behaviorists, claiming that the theory dealt primarily with internal behavior. It was argued that this was a non-observable element of consciousness which could not be measured accurately.
Functionalism formed as a reaction to structuralism; it was influenced by the work of William James and the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Functionalism is concerned with how the mind functions, and therefore also used the method of introspection. “Functionalists studied the mind not from the standpoint of its composition-its mental elements of structure-but rather as a conglomerate or accumulation of functions and processes that lead to practical consequences in the real world” (Schultz, D.P. & Schultz, S.E., 2008, p.145). Functionalism emphasized individual...
Cited: Oxford Companion to the Mind. (2006). William James and Functionalism. Retrieved October 7,
Psychology World. (2006). Structuralism. Retrieved October 7, 2006 at
Schultz, D.P. & Schultz, S.E. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology (9th ed.). California: Thomas Wadsworth.
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