University of Phoenix
Foundations of Psychology
Psychology is the study our understanding of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. To better understand psychology, it is best to understand the underlining foundations the subject, which include, not only the biological aspects of it, but also the major schools of thought that surround it. The five major schools of thought that surround psychology are structuralism, functionalism, cognition, behaviorism and psychodynamic.
Kowalski and Westen (2009) describe psychology as “the scientific investigation of mental processes (thinking, remembering feeling, etc.) and behavior.” Structuralism is thought to be the founding thought of psychology, and focused on breaking down mental processes. William Wundt has been regarded as the father of psychology, after he founded the first psychological laboratory in Germany in 1879 (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Almost immediately, other theorists began to emerge, and advocate for dominance in psychology. William Wundt’s student teacher, Edward Titchener showed interest in the school of thought surrounding consciousness, known as structuralism (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). “Titchener believed that experimentation was the only appropriate method for a science of psychology and that concepts such as ‘attention’ implied too much free will to be scientifically useful” (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Titcheners school of thought was short lived, as it was soon discovered that studying the subconscious was too subjective, being that it is only observable and measurable by the subject experiencing the feelings. Unlike structuralism, which focused on a single aspect, functionalism was focused on the processes, which led to each action. Functionalism, the next dominating school of thought in the earlier years, was led by one of its founders, William James, author of the first textbook of psychology (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Functionalism related mostly to how the mind using the processes of adapting to its environment. James area of study included many elements including introspection, and consciousness, including the interaction of children, animals and the mentally ill. “The Cognitive Perspective assumption focuses on the way people perceive, process, and retrieve information”(Kowalski & Westen, 2009). This cognitive approach is more science based, as it relates the process the brain uses to send and receive messages, carried by our nerves. Cognitive psychologists perceive organisms as machines, reacting with predictable outcomes (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). “Today the study of cognition, or thought, dominates psychology in the same way that the study of behavior dominated in the middle of the twentieth century” (Kowalski & Westin, 2009). Behaviorism was the dominant theory of psychology in the mid 1900’s. The forefront of this idea of thinking included John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner. It can best be described as the study of observable behavior, generally caused by external, environmental causes. “The behaviorist perspective focuses on the relation between external (environmental) events and observable behaviors” (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). One of the most famous experiments of behaviorism led by Ivan Pavlov, was his experiment on dogs,