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Schools of Psychology

Homeopathic Journal :: Volume: 3, Issue: 8, June, 2010 (New Papers)   -   from Homeorizon.com
Author : Dr. Rajeev Khanna, BHMS, MD, Associate Professor Swasthya Kalyan Homeopathic Medical College, Jaipur
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Article Updated: Jun 07, 2010

While talking about the history of psychology Ebbinghaus said that psychology has a long past but a short history it is true also because if we see psychology is too young in compare to other sciences but its journey is not too short, it starts with legends of the era like Aristotle, St. Augustine, and Democritus, even hundred of years before the Christ, it emerged through contribution of Wundt, Titchner, and Watson and nurtured by Freud, Koffka, Kohler and Maslow and many more.

When psychology splitted-off from its parental sciences physiology and philosophy and emerged as independent science a contradiction aroused between the psychologists regarding the scope, area and subject matter of psychology.

From the late 1800's until the 1950's, psychologists were divided about what they should study? And how they should study it. As a result, it gave birth to different ideologies. These different ideologies are regarded as schools.

School is a group of individuals who share certain fundamentals, methodology or theoretical points of view.

Main schools are-

1. Structuralism

2. Functionalism

3. Psychoanalysis

4. Gestalt Psychology

5. Behaviourism

6. Humanistic Psychology.


Structuralism grew out of the work of Wundt, and his student Titchner. These psychologists believed the chief purpose of psychology was to find the units, or the elements, which make up the mind. Wundt proposed that psychology should focus on analyzing the content of consciousness in order to determine its basic elements and the relationship between them, his main interest was in immediate consciousness. Both Titchner and Wundt thought that Immediate Consciousness has great importance to understand MIND. And this experience of immediate consciousness is like "Experience of Awareness" or we can say that Awareness is the part of immediate consciousness. And for this, the method used, was introspection.

For introspection we need a Subject (a person) who work as an Observer and can feel as "what is going in mind?" in response to any stimuli. And he can tell that all in Verbal report. For example if someone says "I am hungry" means at that time "I'm introspecting". Titchner called the Introspection as 'Self Observation'. According to Titchner, the main goal of psychology was to understand the structure of mind. Thus this concept was labeled as "Structuralism"


Structuralism was soon challenged by William James, and some other psychologist who felt that their new field shouldn't focus on the structure of consciousness, but on its Functions.

James was interested to understand the mental process of "Adaptation", the process that helped the humans (and animals also) adapt to their environment. James said that psychology should concern with not only what the mind is made of but also how and why it works as it does. Because of his practical emphasis on the functional- practical nature of mind the concept of psychology became Functionalism.

Functionalism was strongly influenced by Darwin 's theory, theory of natural selection. (Only those species will survive which have the strong will / desire to survive, or the species which have a power to fight with the natural problems, or cope up the problems in their survival. And those characteristics, which helped in survival of the species, are passed on from one generation to next generation. Similarly the consciousness)

Consciousness is uniquely human characteristic. James emphasized the purpose of consciousness. He felt that consciousness must have some biological use or else it would not survived. Its function is to make the human being a better adapted animal. Functionalism also used the method of Introspection as a tool. Functionalism covered some mental processes like - Learning, Perceiving, Memory, Thinking, and Personality.


Psychoanalysis was founded during the late 1800's and early 1900's by the Austrian doctor Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis was based on the theory that behaviour is determined by powerful inner forces, According to Freud and other psychoanalysts, from early childhood people repress (force out of conscious awareness) any desires or needs that are unacceptable to themselves or to society. The repressed feelings can cause personality disturbances, self-destructive behaviour, or even physical symptoms. Freud said that unconscious conflicts, usually related to sex or aggression, were prime motivators of human behaviour. He was the first person who includes the unconscious mind in a formal psychological theory. Freud believed that all behaviours -whether normal or abnormal -is influenced by psychological motives, often unconscious one. Freud's "Theory of Unconscious Mind" has a great value to understand the behaviour especially abnormal behaviour.


The American psychologist John B Watson introduced a major aspect of psychology called Behaviourism. He said that psychologist should study only observable behaviour rather than states of consciousness or thought process (as the functionalist and structuralist were doing in previous schools of psychology.) According to Watson, Behaviour is directly affected by stimuli in the environment, and the major goal of psychology is to identify that Stimulus-Response relationship, which is lawful and predictable.

Watson's approach to Behaviourism was strongly influenced by the research of the Russian physiologist Ivan P. Pavlov. Watson and the other behaviourists realized that human behaviour could also be changed by conditioning.

During the mid-1900's, the American behavioural psychologist B. F. Skinner became known for his studies of how rewards and punishments can influence behaviour. He believed that rewards, or positive reinforcements, cause behaviour to be repeated. Skinner suggested that positive reinforcement is more effective in teaching new and better behaviour.

Gestalt Psychology

This school took birth in 1912 at Germany by efforts of Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka. Gestalt means wholeness. The followers of this school are of the view that person perceives the stimulus not in parts but as a whole. Gestalt psychologists rejected the structuralists' attempt to break down perception and thought into their elements. A famous tenet of Gestalt psychology asserts that the whole is different from sum of its parts.

This school's contribution is in the field of learning, creative thinking and insight etc. Work of Kohler gave birth to theory of Insight learning.

Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology was born out of a desire to understand the conscious mind, free will, human dignity, and the capacity for self-reflection and growth. Humanistic psychologists believe individuals are controlled by their own values and choices and not entirely by the environment The goal of humanistic psychology is to help people function effectively and fulfill their own unique potential.

The humanistic movement was led by American psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. According to Rogers, all humans are born with a drive to achieve their full capacity At about the same time, Maslow theorized that all people are motivated to fulfill a hierarchy of needs. At the bottom of the hierarchy are basic physiological needs, such as hunger, thirst, and sleep. Further up the hierarchy are needs for safety and security, needs for belonging and love, and esteem-related needs. Once these needs are met, Maslow believed, people strive for self-actualization, the ultimate state of personal fulfillment.

Many psychologists do not associate themselves with a particular school or theory. Instead, they select and use what seems best from a wide variety of sources. This approach is called ECLECTICISM.

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very interesting to know about different schools.in Psychology...
  Comment by: Dr.paul murugan, India.    on Mar 22, 2015 1 Agree  |  0 Disagree       Report Abuse

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