Functional psychology

Functional psychology

Functional psychology or functionalism refers to a general psychological approach that views mental life and behavior in terms of active adaptation to the person's environment [Gary R. VandenBos, ed., "APA Dictionary of Psychology" (2006). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association] . As such, it provides the general basis for developing psychological theories not readily testable in controlled experiments and for applied psychology.


Functionalism was a position taken opposing the prevailing structuralism of the end of the 19th century in psychology. Wilhelm Wundt, the leading structuralist, gave psychology its first definition as a science as the study of mental experience, of consciousness, to be studied by trained introspection. See History of psychology#Early American Psychology.

William James, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, Harvey A. Carr, and especially James Rowland Angell were the leading exponents of the functionalist point of view at the University of Chicago. Another group at Columbia, led by James McKeen Cattell, Edward L. Thorndike, and Robert S. Woodworth, were also called functionalist and shared some of the views of the Chicago school. Egon Brunswik represents a more recent, but Continental, version. The functionalists retained an emphasis on conscious experience.

Behaviorists also rejected the methodology of introspection but criticized functionalism because it was not grounded in controlled experiments and its theories provided little predictive power. Skinner was a pioneer of behaviorism. He did not think that aspects of the mind had any impact on behavior, for he viewed behavior simply as a learned response to an external stimulus.

Contemporary descendants

Evolutionary psychology is founded on the view that the function of all psychological phenomena in human evolution is a necessary perspective to their understanding. Even the project of studying the evolutionary functions of consciousness is now an active field of study.


Further reading

* John R. Shook and Andrew Backe (eds.) "The Chicago School of Functionalism" Thoemmes Press, 2003 - facsimiles of source documents in Functional Psychology (3 vols.) ISBN 1855068648

ee also

* Functionalism (philosophy of mind)

External links

* [ Mary Calkins (1906) "A Reconciliation Between Structural And Functional Psychology "]
* [ James R. Angell (1907) "The Province of Functional Psychology"]
* [ James R. Angell (1906), "Psychology: An Introductory Study of the Structure and Function of Human Consciousness"]

functualism vs structualism>

an easy way to compare the differnce between structualism and functualism is by taking car for example the structualist would look at each part of the car individually and how its job contributes to making the car work. whereas the functualist would ask how and why ? the car works together as one whole

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