Structuralism Case Essay Sample

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Structuralism was founded by E.B. Titchener but only lasted two decades because of newer movements in the psychology; however it was still know as the first school of thought. Structuralism is a mode of thinking and a method of analysis practiced in the 20-centruy social sciences and humanities; it focuses on recurring patterns of thought and behavior, it seeks to analyse social relationships in terms of highly abstract relational structures. In other words structuralism is a study based on ones unconsciousness and observation, the things a person does, the way a person acts in his/her society, which is acted out unconsciously.

Although there is a dispute between who is actually the founder of structuralism between Wundt and Titchener it is still considered a great contribution to psychology. Psychologist like James Gibson felt that his generation had no intentions of using the theory or method of structuralism. Just like many things in life structuralism was also criticised, “structuralism provided a strong, established orthodoxy against which newly developing movements in psychology could array their forces” (Schultz, 2011). All people think in to terms of opposites so as to classify-meaning we must be able to distinguish between our conscious and unconscious behaviours. Functionalism

Functionalism is concerned with the functions of the mind and how the organisms adapt to its environment (Schultz, 2011). It is something that we use in our everyday lives. Our minds functions according to what environment we are in, then our bodies react. To help with the understanding of how functionalism works here is an example: take for instance you put some figures into a calculator to be added (15+7). On one level what is happening in the calculator is dependent on the hardware; on the other level the calculator’s calculating the answer. But we have to remember that a calculator, computer, etc. is only as smart as the person inputting the information, what you put in is what you get out. Humans and animals use functionalism from day to day, in my opinion it’s a matter of survival.

We can take the calculator example and translate it into terms of the brain. Mental states are dependent upon brain states in the same way that the function of a calculator is dependent on who is inputting the information to get the right answer and the hardware of the calculator. As Darwin stated, “a continuing struggle for survival takes place, and those life forms that do survive are the ones that have made successful adaptations or adjustments to the environmental circumstances to which they are exposed. In brief, species that cannot adapt do not survive” (Schultz, 2011). “ Behaviorism

“Behaviorism is the philosophical position that says that psychology, to be a science, must focus its attentions on what is observable — the environment and behavior — rather than what is only available to the individual — perceptions, thoughts, images, feelings” (Boeree, 2000). I would say that behaviorism definitely has a lot to do with more than science, your thoughts, images, feelings and things that we learn are from what you feel therefore it determines how we behave as human beings or animals. However, Watson’s behaviorism was that of the first stage in the evolution of the behavioral school of thought. Behavior can be described and explained without making reference to mental events or to internal psychological processes. Take for example Hans the Wonder Horse, who was the only horse in the history of psychology. Hans was able to add and subtract due to a behavior that he learned which made him famous. Behaviors are caused by situations that we deal with day-to-day. Ivan M. Sechenov stated; “all behavior is caused by stimulation” (Boeree, 2000). There are ethical and unethical reasons to modify a person’s behavior. Gestalt psychology

Gestalt psychology was founded by Germans, Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka. Being discovered, Gestalt psychology has made significant contributions to the study of perception, learning and social psychology. This psychology has several principals, and a therapy. Gestalt psychology came about in the 19th century with its main focus being that of elementistic nature of the work of Wundt. It is a school of thought that looks at the human mind and behavior as a whole. Gestalt psychology was emerged as a response to Wilhelm Wundt’s structuralism. It utilizes the brain’s tendency to seek a whole in order to understand its parts. Many psychologists after Wundt and Titchener set out to prove their theories wrong. “Gestalt psychologists believe that there is more to perception than meets the eye. In other words, our perception goes beyond the sensory elements, the basic physical data provided to the sense organs” (Schultz, 2011). The brain definitely has a tendency both to perceive groupings as wholes and to fill in gaps in order to understand parts. Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a system that is the single most influential theory of psychotherapy in our time. As a therapy psychoanalysis is based on observation that individuals are often unaware of many factors that determine their emotions and behavior. It is the first dynamic theory of personality that talks about displacing, repressing, denying, venting, and regressing; about the unconscious; and about the significance of dreams. “Psychoanalysis overlaps psychology’s other schools of thought” (Schultz, 2011). Psychoanalysis has many different approaches or theories that assisted people or patients with their problems, although some were inhumane there were some that were the total opposite.

This school of thought also consists of three types of related activities, a method of research into the human mind, a systematic accumulation of a body of knowledge about the mind and a method of treatment of psychological or emotional disorders. However, one of the psychoanalysis that stood out for me was that of free association, in my personal opinion this can be used for so many different situations that will actually help a person get over situations that affect their lives negatively. You just need to be able to sit down and let it all out to someone who has an open mind and will not judge you regardless of your situation. I would be honest and admit that it worked for me when I felt like I was in the lowest point in my life. I’m a person that usually keeps things bottled up inside and then eventually lash out on someone who decided to push the wrong button.

Failures of Psychology
If it’s one thing that I have learned in life is that you learn more from failures than success. Each psychologist that we have read about has learned from the other person’s failure and that’s why psychology has evolved so much in my opinion. There were many failures in psychology, but there were a few that stood out to me. Although all psychologists tried to prove the other wrong they were all headed down the same path with just a few minor changes and that’s how the different schools of thoughts were established. Most psychologists were interested in how the brain functions. The history of psychology to me seemed to be a big competition to see who can out shine who. For example, “although Titchener was a loyal follower of Wundt he dramatically altered Wundt’s system of psychology when he brought it from Germany to the United States” (Schultz, 2011).

I also feel that the experiment that was done to Little Albert was a failure in the history of psychology. The experiment or experiments that were conducted on Little Albert were very unethical and may have messed with him throughout his entire life. As a result to this experiment Little Albert was afraid of white objects, whether it was a rat, rabbit or a Santa Clause beard. Another thing that I consider as a failure in psychology is that of Sigmund Freud who has information in regards to psychology but will not be released until later many years later, for example a letter from one of Freud’s mentors cannot be released or open until the year 2102. It makes you sit and wonder what is so important or what type of information is being withheld and how far psychology could have been if this information was revealed earlier. Also psychologists like John B. Watson who decided to burn his letters and notes which will be lost in history forever may have been a greater contribution to the history of psychology.

Success of Psychology
One of the major successes in the history of psychology was that of evolution. Evolution was that as humans and animals we adapt to our surroundings. This is still 100% effective in today’s world. For example, I currently live in the U.S. Virgin Islands and if I have to move to the main land I would have to adapt to the change of weather in order to survive. As Darwin stated, “a continuing struggle for survival takes place, and those life forms that do survive are the ones that have made successful adaptations or adjustments to the environmental circumstances to which they are exposed. In brief, species that cannot adapt do not survive” (Schultz, 2011). I also think that free association which is a part of psychoanalysis is also a major success in the history of psychology because this is also being used today by psychiatrist to help patients get to solutions of their problems.

Another accomplishment for the history of psychology is that of Mary Cover Jones, when she helped Peter to get over his fears. I can appreciate psychology and psychologists when it is actually beneficial to the patient and not just doing it because they just want to conduct an experiment. I understand that is has to be done, but I feel it should be done when it is consensual. Psychology is not just about conducted experiments. Today we see psychology in schools to help with children whether they are troubled or they just need some guidance. We see the use of psychology in the criminal system where we have psychiatrist trying to get to the root of the problem as to why a criminal act was committed. Another success in the history of psychology is that of allowing woman to participate, psychologist like Titchener encouraged and supported this movement.

I would like to work with disabled children from a very young age and begin to get them prepared for the life that they have ahead of them. I would teach them how to become independent at a very young age so they wouldn’t have to depend on anyone. I will have follow-up sessions to see how things are progressing in their day to day lives. Parents would also have to be involved but would have to understand that they can’t continue to threat the children as though they can’t do things for themselves. As they get older they will be trained in the work force and how it feels to live alone. These are tests that would have to be conducted so I can see where improvements need to be made and receive input from others. I would call it pscyhobehaviorsim. I would also like to work with young troubled children to get to the route of their problems and behavior patterns.

For example, I was informed by a parent that his child got into some trouble at school for illegal activities. The parent also informed me that the child has everything he needs and wants; so the question would be to that child, what happened that made your behavior pattern change? What I have realized growing up is that children are afraid to go to their parents and talk to them about most things that happen in their everyday life because they fear the wrath of their parents. After getting the child to sit down and talk to me about all the issues that have been bothering them also known as free association I will schedule a meeting with the parents to jog their memory and pin point the time of their child’s behavior change, has the child been hanging out with a new crowd, these are some of the things that we look for. I will also have a schedule meeting with both parent(s) and child so everything can be worked out. I plan to keep the history of psychology alive and continue to learn from our founding fathers. Psychologists have been around for decades conducting experiments to help people and that is a legacy that I will continue to carry out.


Schultz, D.P. and Schultz, S.E. (2011). A History of Modern Psychology, Tenth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Boeree, C. G. (2000). Behaviorism. Retrieved January 21, 2012 from URL
Thornton, S. (December 29, 2010). Freud Sigmund. Retrieved January 23, 2012 from URL

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