Tag: structuralism

Structuralism: First School of Thought in Psychology

Structuralism in Psychology

Structuralism was the first school of psychology and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components.

Structuralism is based on the theory founded by Edward B. Titchener (1867-1923), and is based on describing the structure of the mindby breaking down the mental processes into three basic components:

  1. Individual elements of consciousness
  2. Organization of elements of consciousness into complex experiences
  3. Correlation of this mental phenomena with physical events

Titchener was student of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) at the University of Leipzig and his ideas on the working o mind were heavily influenced by Wundt’s theory of voluntarism and his ideas of association and apperception (the passive and active combinations of elements of consciousness respectively). Titchener attempted to classify the structures of the mind, like chemists classify the elements of nature into the periodic table.

The mental elements structure themselves in such a way to allow conscious experience. Structuralists used techniques such as introspection to analyze the inner processes of the human mind.

The main tool that Titchener used to try and determine the different components of consciousness was introspection. Titchener writes in his Systematic Psychology,

The state of consciousness which is to be the matter of psychology … can become an object of immediate knowledge only by way of introspection or self-awareness.

and in his book An Outline of Psychology,

…within the sphere of psychology, introspection is the final and only court of appeal, that psychological evidence cannot be other than introspective evidence.


Schools of Thought in Psychology

Basic Schools of Psychology

The discipline of Psychology encompasses an extensive body of knowledge and theories validated and tested with time. This leads to the formulation of psychology into an elaborative subject matter comprising of various schools of thought, advancing with age.

  • Structuralism
  • Functionalism
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Behaviorism
  • Humanism
  • Gestalt
  • Environmental psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Existentialism
  • Cognitivism
  • Biological psychology
  • Discursive psychology
  • Critical psychology
  • Descriptive psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Transpersonal psychology
5 Major Schools of Psychology
  1. Psychodynamics
  2. Behaviorism
  3. Humanism
  4. Cognitive
  5. Neuroscience
Early Schools
  • Structuralism
  • Functionalism

Psychodynamic Perspective

Sigmund Freud was the founder of the psychodynamic perspective or school of thought. This psychological model believes that human behavior is controlled and motivated by inner forces and conflicts with whom an individual is little aware of and hence has little power and control upon – “unconscious determinants of human behavior”.

Dreams and slip of tongue is viewed as indicators to gauge the true feelings and emotions of a person.

Cognitive Perspective

This school of thought has evolved partly from structuralism and partly from reaction to behaviorism in psychology. Contrary to both, the cognitive perspective focuses on how people think, understand and process the world and happening around them.

The cognitive perspective focuses on what people bring home from the outside world and process on a personal level thereby affecting their progression in life, reactions and decision making.

Behavioral Perspective

The behavioral perspective model rejects the effect of inner workings of the brain on the behavior of a person as propagated by the neuroscience or biological perspective. It rather emphasizes on analyzing observable behavior which can be measured and studied objectively.

The perspective believes external surroundings and environmental causes to be the major detrimental factor in shaping the behavior of an individual. Behaviorism became the main school of thought in psychology during the 1950s.

Major propagator of the behavioral perspective was John B. Watson who believed the operating environment has a great role in understanding the behavioral patterns of human beings.

Humanistic Perspective

The humanistic perspective originated as a contradicting response to psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Under to this psychological perspective, people naturally tend to grow, develop and acquire control of their lives. One of the main goal of each person to attain his/her full potential.

Neuroscience/Biological Perspective

The biological perspective school attempts to understand human behavior on the basis of biological basis which includes genetics, immune system and nervous system. The psychological model in this perspective analyzes the role and functioning of biological settings in shaping human behavior.

Neuroscience considers the following biological components:

  • Inheritance of individual characteristics from parents
  • Influence of ancestors on behavior
  • How nerve cells are joined together