Interestingly, functionalism drew criticism from both the structuralists and from the behaviorists. By 1912, very few psychologists regarded psychology as the study of mental content—the focus was on behavior instead. Functionalism regards the … The early functionalists included the pre-eminent psychologist and philosopher William James. The structuralists accused the functionalists of failing to define the concepts that were important to functionalism. Rather than focusing on the elements of consciousness, functionalists focused on the purposeof consciousness and behavior. A person's response to that stimulus depends on the value of that stimulus in the current situation. Omissions? Functionalism also emphasized individual differences, which had a profound impact on education. The primary concepts within Functionalism are collective conscience, value consensus, social order, education, family, crime and deviance and the media. Eventually, the behavioral approach gained ascendance and reigned for the next half century. It had evolved because it presented advantages. 2. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. This article was most recently revised and updated by,, Academia - Structuralism vs. Functionalism, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Functionalism. The group was concerned more with the capability of the mind than with the process of thought. and its Licensors For example, a stimulus might be important in one circumstance, but irrelevant in another. Terms of Use. Functionalists, including psychologists William James and James Rowland Angell, and philosophers George H. Mead, Archibald L. Moore, and John Dewey, stressed the importance of empirical, rational thought over an experimental, trial-and-error philosophy. A number of key concepts underpin Functionalism. Black Friday Sale! As it turned out, the school of functionalism provided a temporary framework for the replacement of structuralism, but was itself supplanted by the school of behaviorism. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. 3. James promoted the idea that the mind and consciousness itself would not exist if it did not serve some practical, adaptive purpose. This approach to psychology was consistent with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which exerted a significant impact on the character of psychology. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996. The union between theory and application reached its zenith with John Dewey’s development of a laboratory school at the University of Chicago in 1896 and the publication of his keystone article, “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology” (1896), which attacked the philosophy of atomism and the concept of elementarism, including the behavioral theory of stimulus and response. Functionalism. Although psychologists like William James accepted the reality of consciousness and the role of the will in people's lives, even he was unable to resolve the issue of scientific acceptance of consciousness and will within functionalism. Corrections? The school of functionalism developed and flourished in the United States, which quickly surpassed Germany as the primary location of scientific psychology. A History of Modern Psychology. A psychological approach, popular in the early part of the twentieth century, that focused on how consciousness functions to help human beings adapt to their environment. Functionalism is basically a general theory about the nature of mental states. The ‘structural bit’ means that Functionalists argue that there is a social structure that shapes individual behaviour through the process of socialisation. All Rights Reserved The goal of the first psychologists was to determine the structure of consciousness just … The functionalists believed that Darwin’s theory applied to psychological characteristics too. The functionalist legacy endures in psychology today. Just as some animals have developed strong muscles to allow them to run fast, the human brain, so functionalists thought, must have adapted to serve a particular function in human experience.

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