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Functional psychology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Functional psychology or functionalism refers to a psychological philosophy that considers mental life and
behaviour in terms of active adaptation to the person's environment.[1] As such, it provides the general basis for
developing psychological theories not readily testable by controlled experiments and for applied psychology.

Functionalism arose in the U.S. in the late 19th century as an alternative to structuralism.[2] While
functionalism never became a formal school, it built on structuralism's concern for the anatomy of the mind and
led to greater concern over the functions of the mind, and later to behaviourism.[2]

Contents
1 History
2 Contemporary descendants
3 See also
4 References
5 External links

History
Functionalism was a philosophy opposing the prevailing structuralism of psychology of the late 19th century.
Edward Titchener, the main structuralist, gave psychology its first definition as a science of the study of mental
experience, of consciousness, to be studied by trained introspection.

William James is considered to be the founder of functional psychology. Although he would not consider
himself as a functionalist, nor did he truly like the way science divided itself into schools. John Dewey, George
Herbert Mead, Harvey A. Carr, and especially James Rowland Angell were the main proponents of
functionalism at the University of Chicago. Another group at Columbia, including notably James McKeen
Cattell, Edward L. Thorndike, and Robert S. Woodworth, were also considered functionalists and shared some
of the opinions of Chicago's professors. Egon Brunswik represents a more recent, but Continental, version. The
functionalists retained an emphasis on conscious experience.

Behaviourists also rejected the method of introspection but criticized functionalism because it was not based on
controlled experiments and its theories provided little predictive ability. B.F. Skinner was a developer of
behaviourism. He did not think that considering how the mind affects behaviour was worthwhile, for he
considered behaviour simply as a learned response to an external stimulus. Yet, such behaviourist concepts tend
to deny the human capacity for random, unpredictable, sentient decision-making, further blocking the
functionalist concept that human behaviour is an active process driven by the individual. Perhaps, a
combination of both the functionalist and behaviourist perspectives provides scientists with the most empirical
value, but, even so, it remains philosophically (and physiologically) difficult to integrate the two concepts
without raising further questions about human behaviour. For instance, consider the interrelationship between
three elements: the human environment, the human autonomic nervous system (our fight or flight muscle
responses), and the human somatic nervous system (our voluntary muscle control). The behaviourist
perspective explains a mixture of both types of muscle behaviour, whereas the functionalist perspective resides
mostly in the somatic nervous system. It can be argued that all behavioural origins begin within the nervous
system, prompting all scientists of human behaviour to possess basic physiological understandings, something
very well understood by the functionalist founder William James.

Contemporary descendants
Evolutionary psychology is based on the idea that knowledge concerning the function of the psychological
phenomena affecting human evolution is necessary for a complete understanding of the human psyche. Even
the project of studying the evolutionary functions of consciousness is now an active topic of study. Like
evolutionary psychology, James's functionalism was inspired by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.[3]

See also
Functionalism (philosophy of mind)

References
1. Gary R. VandenBos, ed., APA Dictionary of Psychology(2006). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
2. "functionalism." Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica Online(http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/top
ic/222123/functionalism). Encyclopdia Britannica, 2011. Web. 08 Mar. 2011.
3. Schacter, Daniel L.; Wegner, Daniel & Gilbert, Daniel. 2007. Psychology. Worth Publishers. pp. 267

External links
"functionalism" Encyclopdia Britannica Online
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

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Categories: Behaviorism History of psychology William James

This page was last edited on 22 June 2017, at 17:32.


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