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Foundations of Psychology Essay

Psychology is the process of understanding ones mental processes such as how and why one thinks, feels, and behaves the way they do. Psychology is the process by which the scientific method is used to better understand and test these processes (Allport, 1985). Psychology was established as a means to blends these two differing schools of thought into one. Psychology quickly separated into different schools of thought as a means to explain the human mind and its behaviors. In this paper we will discuss in more depth about a few of them such as structuralism, functionalism, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanism (Allport, 1985). Wilhelm Wundt is thought to be one of psychologies founding fathers. He was a pioneer using laboratory research as a way to back up his theories of the mind. One of Wundt’s students Edward Titchener used Wundt’s theory of introspection as his basis of his new school of thought called structuralism.

Structuralism is the study of the contents of the mind (Britannica, 2001). Just like his predecessor Titchener believed that the scientific method was the only means to the science of the mind. Structuralism was only one of two schools that dominated psychology in its early years. The other was functionalism. Functionalism was the product of one Harvard graduate named William James. James believed structuralism was a great start, however felt the mind still needed further explaining and hence functionalism was born. Where structuralism focused its efforts on the mental processes themselves, functionalist conserved their efforts on the role those processes play. Functionalism is the study of how ones psychological processes helps one adapt to their environment (Britannica, 2001). Psychoanalysis was founded by Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that the unconscious mind influenced behavior. Freud believed that the human mind was comprised of three elements: the id, the ego, and the super ego. “The id is composed of the primal urges, while the ego is the component of personality charged with dealing with reality. The superego is the part of personality that holds all of the ideals and values we internalize from our parents and culture. Freud believed that the interaction of these three elements was what led to all of the complex human behaviors (Sheehy, & Forsythe, 2013).”

Freud’s school of thought has not gone without controversy, however Freud’s school of thought has influenced other of psychology’s greats such as Anna Freud, Carl Jung, and Erik Erikson (Psychology, 2005). Behaviorism formed as a reaction to the theories of John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and B. F. Skinner. Behaviorism took off and became the dominant school of thought during the 1950’s. Behaviorists focused their efforts of observable behavior. Behaviorist believe that all behavior can be explained by ones environment rather than by ones internal forces (Lee, 2005). Classical conditioning was invented by Ivan Pavlov. He believed that classical conditioning was the learning process that occurs through associations between ones environmental stimulus and the naturally occurring stimulus. Operant conditioning was the thoughts of B. F. Skinner. Skinner believed that learning can occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Skinner believed that through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior (Lee, 2005).

Humanism is the product of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Humanism focused on an individual’s free will, self-actualization, and personal growth (Lee, 2005). “While early schools of thought were largely centered on abnormal human behavior, humanistic psychology differed considerably in its emphasis on helping people achieve and fulfill their potential (Lee, 2005).” “Humanistic psychology remains quite popular today and has had a major influence on other areas of psychology including positive psychology. This particular branch of psychology is centered on helping people living happier, more fulfilling lives (Jimerson, 2007).” Understanding a person requires special attention to not only ones biology, their psychological experience, and their social context. Psychology was established as a science in order to differentiate from biology and the philosophy of thought. In this paper we discussed in more depth about just a few of them such as structuralism, functionalism, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanism and how they differ from one another. Although they each may have a different outlook, they all have the same goal to better understand one’s mind and one’s behavior.


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