Functionalism and Structuralism Essay

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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. Structuralism emerged as the first school of thought and some of the ideas associated with the structuralist school were advocated by the founder of the first psychology lab, Wilhelm Wundt. One of Wundt's students, an man named Edward B. Tichener, would later go on to formally establish and name structuralism, although he broke away from many of Wundt's ideas. Structuralists believed that the task of psychology is to identify the basic elements of consciousness in much the same way that physicists break down the basic particles of matter. For example, Titchener identified four elements in the sensation of taste: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The main method of investigation in structuralism was introspection. Structuralism was the first school of psychology and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components. Researchers tried to understand the basic elements of consciousness using a method known as introspection. Wilhelm Wundt, founder of the first psychology lab, was an advocate of this position and is often considered the founder of structuralism, despite the fact that it was his student, Edward B. Titchener who first coined the term to describe this school of thought. While Wundt's work helped to establish psychology as a separate science and contributed methods to experimental psychology and Titchener's development of structuralism helped establish the very first "school" of psychology, the structuralism did not last long beyond Titchener's death. Almost immediately other theories surfaced to vie for dominance in psychology. In response to structuralism, an American perspective known as functionalism emerged under the influence of thinkers such as Charles Darwin

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