Psychology: Structuralism and Other Schools of Thought

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1182
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Undergraduate

Psychology studies the human mind and aspects of behavior, a practice that has existed since the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Psychology had been a subject and branch of philosophy until 1870s, when the subject grew independent in countries, especially Germany (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). Psychology, as we know it today traces its origin form 1879 where Wilhelm Wundt founded an exclusive psychology laboratory in Germany. This laboratory was majorly involved in conducting experiments in experimental psychology. However, psychology that studies human behavior has existed for much longer. In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus (cited in Schultz & Schultz, 2011) stated, “Psychology has a short history,” implying that the history of psychology cannot be ascertained with authority because it is more dynamic than we perceive it to be presently. In the modern times, psychology studies the behavior and processes of the mind (Ash, 2003). Studying the human psychology has existed since the times of ancient civilizations in Egypt, Greece, China, and India. Some of the schools of thought in modern psychology include structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, Gestalt psychology, and psychoanalysis. This paper discusses the main features of these schools of thought as well as the future schools of thought and psychology at large.

John Watson introduced behaviorism as a subject in Psychology (Ash, 2003). In Watson’s view, observable behavior was more scientifically inclined to psychology as compared to introspection. The goal of behaviorism was to predict and control the behavior of an animal or man. The study of behaviorism premised on the failure of introspection and consciousness to address the problems that interested human beings. Ash (2003) adds that the two approaches had also encountered difficulties in replicating the findings observed in their experiments. This failure to replicate findings by the use of the introspective and conscious methods proved to be a fundamental flaw in the scientific approach to psychology and scientists had to dispense it, if psychology was to attain a scientific quality. Later, John Watson proposed that the behavior of man and animals could be successfully investigated without regard to consciousness but with due regard to understanding behavior (Ash, 2003). He used this argument to device the behaviorism concept, which he described as an objective and scientific way of predicting behavior. The behaviorist is required to draw no lines between man and animals. Watson argued that the behavior of man is composed of complex and refined attributes that form only a small portion of the possible areas that the behaviorist approach can address (Ash, 2003).

Gestalt psychology on the other hand is an approach to psychology that Max Wertheimer propounded (King & Wertheimer, 2005). This approach served as an alternative the Wundtian traditional approaches. Max Wertheimer founded this approach on the Gestalt laws of perception. The Gestalt laws of perception are a part of psychological theory that emphasizes on holism and other methods of understanding. Psychologists under this school of thought are interested in studying the relationship with regard to perception and cognition. Another school of thought is functionalism, a proposal by William James. This approach propounds that the aim of scientific psychology is to establish the cognitive functions of the human mind and its composition as well as structure (King & Wertheimer, 2005). This school of thought holds that understanding of the human mind should hinge on analyzing the functions of the mind as opposed to analyzing the structure. It also supposes that the knowledge of what a thing does is equivalent to knowing what the thing really is.

Next, Sigmund Freud propounded psychoanalysis as a psychological theory and technique. Scholars, such as Josef Breuer, have developed and altered this concept significantly since its initial conception (Barrett, 2009). Psychoanalysis mainly consists of the propositions that the experiences in early childhood determine the borrowed nature of personality and development of a human being. Secondly, irrational drives influence the human nature, mannerisms, and other aspects. Thirdly, we encounter all irrational behaviors subconsciously and any attempt to control these subconscious behaviors usually encounters psychological resistance as a biological defense mechanisms. Additionally, the inconsistencies between the conscious and subconscious behaviors can cause mental or emotional disturbance and can result in conditions such as neurosis, stress, anxiety, depression, and so forth. Treating these effects of conflicting conscious and subconscious behaviors is achievable by bringing the subconscious in to the conscious capacities of the human brain (Barrett, 2009). Psychoanalysis has received major criticisms with the most notable criticism being the claim that psychoanalysis constitutes a pseudoscience. However, psychoanalysis remains a vital element in psychiatry.

Last, structuralism is a theory in psychology that relates to consciousness. Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Titchener developed this theory. This school of thought in psychology analyzes the human mind with regard to the total experiences through a person’s life. This theory works to assert that human behavior in thought, perception and feelings are all structured in particular way, by detailing all the structures that underlie human behavior and thought mechanisms. Structuralism is a mode of reason widely used in psychology. Structuralism employs introspection, self-assessment of sensational experiences, views, and feelings encountered by an adult human being. However, scientists criticize the tenets that constitute structuralism as being wildly rigid and historical.

My constructionist approach relies on simple observation. I believe that behaviorism is the key to the future of psychology because of the continuous flow of experiences, bodily sensations, and world sensations, which make up stimulation. Combining various aspects of these three produce different mental states, which make up the mind, create brain activity or perception that results in discrete psychological moments. These may include feeling, thinking, or remembering. Future psychological research will focus on mental activities because they create a sense of self, which transcends generations. Future psychology will be tasked with understanding mental phenomena that relate to the observer. This will depend on neural phenomena that are independent of the observer. I envision a behaviorism approach that will diverts attention from the belief that our experiences shape our brain functions. Just as Kantians and empiricists have explained, the knowledge of the human mind is a result of observations. The belief that a certain phenomenon exists and can make up reality to certain extent will be the focus of future psychological thoughts.

The future of psychology majorly links to determining how the mind, brain, and the other major biological processes within the human form co-relate to sum create a particular kind of behavior. Various external factors such as scientific advancement, politics, and other social economic aspects have a substantial contribution and effect on the future of psychology. The future of psychology brightens extensively if the branch can capitalize on the various favorable circumstances such as political climate. This is applicable to utilizing these times to train persons to work in and contribute to the development of psychology. As a practitioner in psychology, I would adopt the behaviorist approach and school of thought. Apart from being a practical approach, the results in the behaviorist mode of assessment are not only accurate but are also very practical and authoritative. However, I would not disregard other schools of thought since each has its own inalienable benefits and advantages.


Ash, M. (2003). Psychology. The Cambridge history of science: The modern social sciences. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Barrett, L. (2009). The Future of Psychology: Connecting Mind to Brain. Perspect Psychology Science, 4(4), 326–339.

King, B. & Wertheimer, M. (2005). Max Wertheimer and Gestalt Theory. New Jersey, US: Transaction Publishers.

Schultz, D. & Schultz, E. (2011). A history of modern psychology (10th eds.) US: Cengage Learning.