PS 210 Unit 9 Assignment

Unit 9 Assignment

PS210: History of Psychology

It is no doubt that psychology has evolved immensely since the beginning of it’s time. Through the years there have been successes, and there have been failures. Both have been able to progress psychology in to what it is today. Over time five different schools of thought have formed in the world of psychology. Those five schools include structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, Gestalt psychology and psychoanalysis.

Structuralism was developed by Wilhelm Wundt and then expanded upon by Edward Titchener. This school of psychology analyzes the conscious mind by looking at different components and how they interact to form experiences. The components analyzed include those of introspection, ideas, sensations, feelings and emotions. Introspection is the examination of ones own conscious thoughts and feelings. In other words, this is when you look at your own mental state of mind. Much of Wundt’s work focused on voluntarism. Voluntarism is the theory that the mind’s content in organized in to higher level thought processes (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

Structuralism, like many other psychology theories, faced large amounts of criticism. One specific critic was William James. James created the next school of thought, functionalism, as an alternative to structuralism. Similar to structuralism, functionalism used introspection, but it also included analysis, experiments and comparison. Therefore functionalism emphasized function and capability rather than the structure and process of consciousness like structuralism (Britannica, 2017). One of the concerns with structuralism was that consciousness was not directly observable.

The dilemma on how to handle a subjective topic such as consciousness eventually led to the abandonment of functionalism, and the adaptation of behaviorism, which was coined by John B. Watson. As the name indicates, this school of thought rejected dealing with consciousness and instead focused on behavior. Behaviorism dedicated itself to the study of observable and quantifiable aspects of behavior, while leaving out subjective topics (emotions, motives, etc.). “The approach is only concerned with observable stimulus-response behaviors, and states all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment” (McLeod, 2017). The mind was believed to be born as a blank slate, and then new behavior was learned through classical and operant conditioning in our environment (McLeod, 2017). Scientists like Pavlov and Skinner performed experiments that demonstrated just how behavior can be taught and learned. The theory of behaviorism is strong in the sense of being able to clearly define and measure behavior. However, it only provides a partial account of human behavior. Emotions, feelings, expectations and motivations are important factors that are not even considered. ). Gestalt psychology was meant to add a humanistic dimension to the sterile approach of studying mental life

Gestalt psychology focused on how individuals view a situation or problem that they are faced with (Schultz & Schultz, 2016. This theory emphasizes that the whole of anything is greater than its parts. The work is credited to Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka (Britannica, 2017). The Gestalt approach began with an emphasis on perception, but soon moved on to included problem solving, learning and thinking as well. This approach showed that a person’s feelings and emotions did a play a part in any situation. These things formed an individuals perception on a situation.

Moving on to the last school of thought, which is that of psychoanalysis. This school of thought was founded by Sigmund Freud and emphasizes the influence of the unconscious mind on behavior. Freud stated that the human mind was made up of three different elements: id, ego, and superego. The id is the unconscious. The ego is the what holds your conscious awareness and helps separate out what is real (reason and common sense) The superego consists of the conscience and ego-ideal. . These three elements work together to form personality and complex human behaviors (Cherry, 2018).

The history of psychology has shown the long journey that was taken to form what we now know as modern psychology. As I go through my education and career, I can see myself incorporating several different aspects from the five school of thoughts to create my own school of thought to help children adjust and prepare themselves for the life that they want to and will live. Children today experience so many hardships. More than any person should have to go through, let alone someone of a young age. I believe that these experiences are often kept and buried in the unconscious mind of children. They are there hidden, but still impacting and influencing their behavior and actions. When this is not taken care of and properly address, that child can go on to experience a lifetime of problems.

In the unit one discussion from this course, I created a case study showing two different boys and how their different childhood upbringing impacted them. Let’s take a look back at Michael’s side of the study. Michael was an 18 year old boy, who was a senior in high school. He was not involved in extra curricular activities, was failing all of his classes, had numerous DUI’s and was experiencing symptoms of liver failure. Taking a look at his home life we saw that he grew up in a home with an alcoholic mother and an older brother who was in jail. Michael was rarely paid attention to as a child and when he was it was not in a positive way. His mother never ensured Michael was cared for, therefore he never learned to fully care for himself.

Though Michael was not set up for a good life, I believe that with my help, strategies, and counseling, Michael could set himself up for a good life. He would be more than capable of overcoming those challenging circumstances that may seem to doom him before he ever had a chance. Children are often resilient, but they still need a role model and an outlet to properly channel what they are facing. As we can see through the schools of thought, behavior originates from somewhere. It is influenced by those around us, our environment and our own feelings, thoughts and emotions. When we realize and acknowledge this, we are then able to help that individual take a look back and analyze where their negative behavior may be coming from. You then can put strategies and practices in to place to improve their life. If it had not been for many psychologists through history that had tried out theories, whether they failed or succeeded, we may never realize that something like that is even a possibility today.


Britannica. (2017, June 16). Functionalism. Retrieved from

Britannica. (2017, November 24). Gestalt psychology. Retrieved from

Cherry, K. (2018, April 5). 7 Major Schools of Thought in Psychology. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. (1970, January 01). Behaviorist Approach. Retrieved from

Schultz, Duane P. A History of Modern Psychology, 11th Edition. Cengage Learning, 2016. [Purdue University Global Bookshelf].