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Gestalt Psychology: Structuralism And Functionalism

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In the mid 1800s, psychology was flourishing. Seemingly each new psychologist would often research mental phenomena with a slightly different perspective. In the 1890s, Edward Titchener brought Wilhelm Wundt’s psychology to the United States of America, establishing what is now known as structuralism. Generally, structuralists believe that everything within conscious experience is merely a combination of mental ingredients, which can be parsed apart via introspection (Hergenhan, 2017). Around the same time, a new school known as functionalism began to develop. Rather than focus on the structure of mental experience, functionalists look at the mind’s adaptive functions. Although the contrast between these two schools of thought is less relevant…show more content…
Although structuralism itself struggled to pick up momentum, some schools developed in opposition to structuralism; one such school is Gestalt psychology. Gestalt psychologists were fundamentally against minimizing mental processes into individual parts (Hergenhan, 2017). They believed in natural observation of phenomena in their complete form (Hergenhan, 2017). Unlike structuralists, Gestalt psychologists believe the whole is more than the sum of parts (Hergenhan, 2017). The gestalt school believed that consciousness was far more complex than the structuralist associative framework. Most importantly, they rejected the structuralists’ constancy hypothesis, which postulated that there is a one-to-one correspondence between sensations and environmental stimuli (Koffka, 1922). Taking a structuralist view leaves little room for interpretation about the mind’s function. Although Titchener would claim this is pure science, his theories lead to passive conclusions about the working of the mind. Functionalism on the other hand has been far more influential. Functionalism can be credited in establishing applied psychology, which is arguably one of the most influential fields of science today. Thousands of psychologists concern themselves with researching how behavioural and mental phenomena can improve a person’s life. For example, Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) is a clinical technique which is extremely successful in assisting individuals with acquired brain injuries (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007). This technique focuses on the functional value of tasks in improving an individual’s deficits. ABA does not train non-functional skills, in line with the functionalist-behaviourist tradition. Functionalism’s concern for practicality and application has been influential for many psychological and behavioural
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