PSYC 308 Midterm: 308-mideterm2

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7 Aug 2016
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1. Explain how and why American functionalism prevailed over American structuralism and ultimately
prepared the way for American behaviorism. Provide historical details to support your answer.
- structuralism: an approach to the study of psychology in which the goal is to describe in detail the
structure of the mind, emphasizes, the role of consciousness and behavior in adapting to the
environment. Using Titcher as an example, the original creator of American structuralism. Titchener’s
study method mainly included introspection which the participant was asked to report how his
sensation changed. In his study, he excluded children, animals and abnormal personality in the area of
his study. He believed that mind is the “sum-total of human experience considered as dependent upon
a nervous system,” However, nervous systems don’t equate with the psychological experiences of
minds, just as maps are not identical with journeys. In other words, Mind never was easy to define, and
it was not easy to agree on what was being introspected as the results from introspection usually lacked
validity and reliability because different laboratories using different languages and practices. As a result,
the study method in Tichener’s case did not match the experimental psychology standard because of
the subjective nature of introspection. Also, because of his restriction on his study, the psychological
findings could only be applied to normal adults. In general, the study of structuralism all seemed too
academic and without real-world relevance as well as pragmatism as it cannot be applied widely on the
population. Once Titchener died, no other major advocate of structuralism emerged to take his place.
- functionalism: describes a number of different approaches to the study of psychology, each of which
emphasizes, in its own way, the role of consciousness and behavior in adapting to the environment.
Using the father of functionalism as an example, John Dewey, argued that all behavior be understood in
terms of its functions and its purposes which are constantly evolving. He stated there is always hope
that if humans understand their circumstances and themselves, they will be able to change their ways of
life and society for the better. Therefore, he believed that education was extremely important as a
means of improving human beings and communities and education is the key to a progressive and
democratic society. Moreover, unlike structuralism, functionalism did not restrict their study to only
human adults. Rather, they established comparative psychology, which attempted to understand the
evolution of behavior through comparisons across different species was part of functionalist
psychology’s general evolutionary, adaptive orientation. This made psychology more applicable than
the psychology in structuralism. Another example of early functionalist is Thorndike who transferred
learning from the classroom to relevant, “real world” contexts. He demonstrated that transfer depends
on creating similarities and links between the classroom and the workplace.
- Functionalism has prepared the way for behaviorism as they both focus on the environmental factor
and they both emphasized the application of psychology. Like Thorndike, Skinner (a behaviorist) applied
psychology on the educational aspects and teaching tools, and therefore behaviorism ruled
psychological science and practice in the 1950s. In conclusion, functionalism was more practically useful
and immediately relevant to Americans in both their private lives and public institutions such as schools.
As a result, functionalism set the stage for psychology as not only a scholarly discipline, but also an
applied profession. During 1890s, the American Public thought that science meant progress through
technological applications that provided a better life. Most psychologists hoped the study of psychology
would be more popular and widely accepted by the public and the pragmatism of functionalistic
psychology would be the best tool. Therefore, American functionalism prevailed over American
structuralism.
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