Historic Schools of Psychology

School/Major Proponents Key Concepts Current Status
Structuralism The mind can be studied scientifically by using introspection to discover the basic elements of experience. Conscious experience can be broken down into objective sensations such as sight and taste, and subjective feelings such as emotional responses, will, and mental images like memories or dreams. We do not encounter structuralists today, but cognitive and experimental psychologists study related topics such as sensations and perception, emotion, memory, and states of consciousness (including dreams).
Wilhelm Wundt
Functionalism There is a relationship between consciousness and behaviour. Consciousness is fluid and streamlike. Experience cannot be broken down into objective sensations and subjective feelings, Funtionalists focused on how experience help us to function more adaptively in our environments. We do not have pure functionalists today, but functionalism preceded behaviourism in its interest in how habits are formed by experience and help us adapt. Behaviour is seen as evolving: Adaptive behaviour is maintained, whereas maladaptive behaviour tends to drop out.
William James
Behaviourism Psychology must limit itself to observable, measurable events – to behaviour, not mental processes. Organisms learn to behave in certain ways because of the effects of their behaviour. Some “pure” behaviourists remain, but behaviourism more generally has contributed to experimental psychology, the psychology of learning, and methods of therapy (behaviour therapy). Although many contemporary psychologists argue that it is desirable to study consciousness and mental processes, the behaviourist influence has encouraged them to base many of their conclusions on measurable behaviour.
John B. Watson

B F. Skinner

Gestalt Psychology Gestalt psychologists focused on perception, thinking and problem solving. Whereas structuralists tried to isolate basic elements of experience, Gestalt psychologists focused on the tendency to see perceptions as wholes that give meaning to parts. Gestalt principles continue to be studied in the field of sensations and perception. Other Gestalt ideas, such as those involving thinking and problem solving, continue to be studied by cognitive psychologists and experimental psychologists. Gestalt therapy – which aims to help people integrate conflicting parts of their personalities – remains in use.
Max Wertheimer

Kurt Koffka

Wolfgang Köhler

Psychoanalysis Visible behaviour and conscious thinking are influenced by unconscious ideas and conflicts. People are motivated to gratify primitive sexual and aggressive impulses, even if they are unaware of their true motives. Unconscious processes are more influential than conscious thought in determining human behaviour. Psychoanalytic thinking remains quite alive in the popular culture. Among psychologists, many discount psychoanalysis altogether, because many of its concepts cannot be studied by scientific means. Modern psychoanalytic therapists tend to place more emphasis in the roles of conscious motives, conscious thinking, and decision making.
Sigmund Freud

Carl Jung

Alfred Adler

Karen Horney

Erik Erikson

Source: Psychology: Concepts and Connections, Spencer A. Rathus, 2007

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