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Structuralism and functionalism

Introduction Thoughts as well as sensations have been interesting topics that individuals from different parts of the world have expressed their different views on their processing and expression. This interest may be seen as the foundation on which psychology was founded upon. The field of psychology has had its roots from physiology and its founding father happens to be a renowned psychologist by the name of Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt. Psychology deals with the brain and its functions in relation to processes as like sensations and thought.

This was an area that Wundt worked with for his career and he managed to come up with the very first school of thought in psychology- structuralism. This school of psychological thought paved way for many other schools of thought for example Functionalism that came second after structuralism. This school of thought was founded by another psychologist William James whose views seemed relatively contradictory to those of Wundt as he happened to act as the first critic of Wundt.

One other early proponent of the structuralism school of thought is Edward Bradfort Titchner who happened to be Wundt’s student. The above two schools of thought held different beliefs on which they were founded overlapping at some points and differing at others but both have centered their focus on consciousness. This paper is centered on the tenets of the above two schools of thought, their differences as well as the tensions that have with time risen between them.

The basic focus has been placed on the early proponents of the two schools of thought as shown. Structuralism according to Wilhem Maximilian Wundt Wilhem Maximilian Wundt came up with the structuralism school of thought in the year 1879 in Leipzig Germany after spending a deal of time in studying his subjects. Structuralism can be defined as the study of elements of psychology and it bears a number of tenets in its operation.

Wundt, believed that the experience of the conscience is capable of being broken down into smaller elements that act as the building blocks of the conscience experience. He liked this characteristic of structuralism to the bits of elements that results in the formation of the elements found within the physical world. This view of the conscious experience led to the adoption of introspection as the mode of studying the elements that make up the conscious experiences themselves (Epsychlopedia 2009).

Its mode of operation is based on introspection which is a way of studying persons using instruments like visual aids to measure as well as record mental processes as observed by the psychologists. Wundt studied his subjects through the use of visual aids that he displayed before them then asked them to report on their experiences. The use of introspection was mainly aimed at attaining a better understanding of consciousness. Introspection was founded on Wundt’s belief that conscious experience ought to be described on basic terms as opposed to generalization.

He for example felt that instead of describing a fruit like an apple by simply calling out its the word ‘apple’, the description that best suited the apple would probably be round, green/red, sweet and crispy. This way, a lot of information regarding the physical structure of the fruit was related in a deeper manner. His use of introspection as a way of studying human behaviors assisted Wundt to come up with a collection that could be used describe the experiences that humans went through (McLennan 2004p312). Limitations

The method of introspection used for gathering psychological information in structuralism gave room for unreliability because chances of introduction of biases were quite high. This was caused by the fact that Wundt used his students as his subjects from where he managed to get constant results. Considering that he had actually tutored these students, it is possible that he managed to get constant results because his students were familiar with the system. His findings could not be duplicated on populations outside of his classroom hence causing unreliability.

The other observed flaw with his method of introspection was that he dealt things with that could not be observed, for example, no one could tell the degree of how subjects viewing differed one from another. This means that his findings were hard to replicate to other subjects and could not be offered for criticism (Lender 2000p89). A number of accomplishments were fulfilled by Wundt’s structuralism thought. He is credited with opening the doors to the school of thoughts in psychology since he was the first person to come up with a school of thought in psychology.

His approach towards information gathering gave an experimental bearing towards psychology. Wundt also came up with the ‘voluntarism’ school of thought which posited that the experience one had on the inside was governed by the immediate experience that was surrounding the particular individual. By this he meant that what consists of the psychological experience is not necessarily the sum of the objects but is about how the overall components end up making the experience in general.

Structuralism did not have a future and it actually ended with the demise of Wundnt due to the above explained limitations that were thought too detrimental for use in psychology Functionalism according to William James Functionalism happens to be the second paradigm of psychology. Though its founder is hardly known, William James was a vocal proponent of functionalism. He was the first American psychologist and he authored the psychological book; ‘Principles of Psychology’ which has remained informative to date(Jotham 2004p76).

By adopting functionalism, William explained how the mental processes operate. He also included the idea of the functioning of the mental processes in evolution of species. In the second case, he attempted to illustrate the functional adaptation of the mental processes to evolution. His theory posited that mental life functions in a flowing manner and keeps changing with time. To explain this point further, he adopted the phrase ‘stream of consciousness’ to elaborate on the mental processes as understood by him.

He focused mainly on the purpose that consciousness played and as well as the purpose of behavior. Another tenet that functionalism held is the representation of the needs of the people on an individual basis as opposed to a group. This assisted the field of psychology in the sense that psychologists shifted their attention to the specific requirements of the individuals which had a greater output to group psychology (Jotham 2004pp77-78). He further presented many ideas that related to the processes of thinking, the conscious self, habits, emotions as well as memories.

His approach has been credited for the major contribution it had on psychology. He widened the scope of psychological extent by assisting the psychologists to focus not only on structure but also on the processes- an approach that took deep meaning and use in the field of psychology. The theory has had a positive impact especially in education where it is highly applied. Its insistence on individualism has helped tutors to focus their attention to the needs of specific children to help solve their problems other than for the whole group.

The future of functionalism has been bright since the concept is often applied in psychological cases today (Jotham 2004p78). It has been criticized for lacking clarity in formulation therefore left enough loopholes for manipulation (Rudin 2001p37). Structuralism according to Edward Titchener Edward Bradford Titchener was a former student of Wundt who also worked as a professor in the department of psychology in Cornell University. He coined and highly popularized the concept of empathy and in psychology, he undertook to categorize the structures of the mind into elements.

Like Wundt, He believed that consciousness could be divided into smaller elements as much as chemicals could be broken down scientifically. To him, sensations and thought were the structures of the mind. His views served to expand Wundt’s views. He is credited for having coined the term ‘structuralism’. Conclusion From the descriptions of the two theories, I tend to support the structuralism theory due to the great initial work it contributed to psychology. It was from it that functionalism was founded since it was only a response to structuralism.

As more and more psychological literature was and is being written, it was out of the eye opening efforts of Wundt in his structuralism work. References Epsychlopedia (2009) History of Psychology. As retrieved from file:///F:/structuralism. htm2. htm on June 4, 2009 at 3. 00am Jotham, G. (2004) Psychology in the making Sage pub, p76-78 McLennan, W. (2004) The worthy course; Founders of the Psychological undertaking. University of Michigan press, p312 Rudin, B. (2001) Understanding the basics of psychology. McGraw hill pub, p37 Lender, W (2000) Theories in Psychology. Sage publishers, p89

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