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Historical And Contemporary Psychological Schools Of Thought

1617 words - 7 pages

Psychology has been through many changes since it began. We can trace the beginnings of psychology as far back to at least 300 BC, when Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, formed and taught theories related to learning, memory, motivation, emotion, perception, and personality (Myers, D., 1999). Of course, not all of his theories were correct. But, as Myers (1999) said “Credit Aristotle with asking the right questions.” Psychology as we know it today began with Wilhelm Wundt, who conducted the first psychological experiment and the first psychological institute. Psychology evolved through many different theories and schools of thoughts to become what we know as psychology today.
Structuralism ...view middle of the document...

Functionalists wanted to know what the mind does and how it does it. They went from those questions to how they could apply psychology to everyday problems of how people act and adapt to different situations and environments.
William James is the name most associated with functionalism, even though he did not found it. He did, however, “influence the functionalist movement by inspiring subsequent generations of psychologists” (Schultz & Schultz, 2012), and he was the author of one of psychology’s most influential books The Principles of Psychology.
In James book, he describes American functionalism as the study of living people and the way they adapt to their environments. He said the function of consciousness is to guide us in survival, and that people are not always rational, they have emotions and passion and act on them (Schultz & Schultz, 2012).
Harvey Carr’s textbook, Psychology (1925) explains the most refined version of functionalism, and the two major points are:
1. The subject matter: memory, perception, feeling, imagination, judgement and will
2. The function of mental activity: acquire, fixate, organize, and evaluate experiences and use those experiences to determine one’s actions. (Schultz & Schultz, 2012)
Therefore, functional psychology focuses on mental processes and how they help people to adapt to their environment.
The school of thought known as Behaviorism was founded by John B. Watson. The basic theory is that behavior can be changed, that “all behaviors can be acquired through conditioning” (Cherry, K., 2014).
Behaviorists do not consider internal states, or introspection as being important, because they are too subjective. Behavior can be observed, therefore that is what should be studied. Behaviorists also believe that anyone can be trained to do anything, regardless of their background, personality or genetics. Conditioning can be used successfully with any person.
Classical conditioning is where a stimulus is paired with a response. Then a neutral stimulus is paired with the first (naturally occurring) stimulus. The neutral stimulus eventually evokes the response without the first stimulus being present. This is known as “conditioned stimulus” and “conditioned response”.
Operant conditioning is when someone is taught a behavior through rewards and punishments. Eventually, the person associates the behavior with the consequence for the behavior.
Behaviorism is still used today, though it is not as popular as it once was. It is effective in therapy to change harmful behaviors. It is also used by animal trainers, teachers, and parents.
Gestalt Psychology
The statement made by Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka in German translated in English to “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” In German, it actually meant “The whole is other than the sum of its parts” (Dewey, 2007). Gestalt itself means “unified whole”.
Gestalt Psychology is based on perception. If focuses on the wholeness of...

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