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Major Theories of Psychology

Examine the foundations of psychology. Address the following components:

a. Identify the major schools of thought in psychology and examine their major underlying assumptions.

b. Describe the biological foundations of psychology.

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Interesting question! Let's take a closer look through discussion and examples, which you can draw on for your final response. I also attached some extra resources to consider.

a. Identify the major schools of thought in psychology and examine their major underlying assumptions.

When psychology was first established as a science separate from biology and philosophy, the debate over how to describe and explain the human mind and behavior began. The first school of thought, structuralism, was advocated by the founder of the first psychology lab, Wilhelm Wundt.

1. Structuralism

Wilhelm Wundt WAS founder of the first psychology lab. He was the first structuralist and the founder of structuralism, the first school of psychology, and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components or structures.

Major structuralist thinkers include Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Titchner. Researchers tried to understand the basic elements of consciousness using a method known as introspection. While Wundt's work helped to establish psychology as a separate science and contributed methods to experimental psychology, the structuralist school of thought did not last long beyond the death of Wundt's student, Edward Titchner.


· The mental world can be studied through introspection e.g. focusing on the elements of consciousness.

· The goal of psychology was to specify mental structures, that determined observed behavior.

2. Functionalism

Functionalism formed as a reaction to the structuralism and was heavily influenced by the work of William James and the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Major functionalist thinkers included John Dewey and Harvey Carr. Functionalists sought to explain the mental processes in a more systematic and accurate manner.


· Human behavior can be understood through focusing on the purpose (function as opposed to structure) of consciousness and behavior.
· Observed behavior.
· Emphasized individual differences, which had a profound impact on education.

3. Behaviorism

Behaviorism became the dominant school of thought during the 1950s. Based upon the work of thinkers such as John Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and B. F. Skinner, behaviorism holds that all behavior can be explained by environmental causes, rather than by internal forces. Behaviorism is focused on observable behavior. Theories of learning including classical conditioning and operant conditioning were the focus of a great deal of research. Classical conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training in which a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. Next, a previously neutral stimulus is paired with the naturally occurring ...

Solution Summary

This solution provides an overview of the major schools of thought in psychology and examines their major underlying assumptions. It also describes the biological foundations of psychology. Supplemented with three articles describing three of these theories.