Structuralism vs. Functionalism
When Wilhelm Wundt’s work helped psychology finally break away and became a separate science, the argument over how to describe and explain the human mind and behavior erupted. Structuralism surfaced followed closely by other theories ready to take over psychology.
Structuralism was founded by Edward B. Titchener. Structuralism focused on breaking down mental processes into the basic components. “In Titchener’s view, psychology’s fundamental task was to discover the nature of the elementary conscious experiences-to analyze consciousness into its component parts and thus determine its structure” (Schultz & Schultz, 2008, p.122). Structuralism involved a method called introspection. Introspection was self-observation that involved observers describing elements of an object or experience rather than calling it by a familiar name. Both structuralism and introspection were later criticized, and eventually faded away as newer ideas advanced.
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, rather than the structure. “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 & Schultz, 2008, p.143). Functionalism emphasized psychology’s application to everyday problems. It took on the challenge to develop the areas of individual differences and animal behavior. Functionalism also involved a form of introspection called introspection by analogy. Introspection by analogy assumed that the same mental processes that occur in a human mind must also occur in the minds of animals. Just as structuralism was, functionalism was also criticized.
Although quite different, structuralism and functionalism did...