Emergence of Schools of Thought in psychology By Wilhelm Wundt in Germany he established the foundations of psychology by founding the first psychological laboratory in Germany in 1879. By that time psychologists were working in different nations, on different lines. Many of them were trained at Wundt’s laboratory. Later on, psychologists began to be associated with different approaches for understanding and explaining human thought and behavior. The following early approaches or conceptual models guided the work of psychologists:
Wilhelm Wundt, in Germany, established the foundations of modern psychology in 1879. He wanted to study, experimentally, the conscious experience of individuals. As discussed earlier, the different schools of thought gradually emerged after psychology took this scientific turn. These schools were basically different ways of observation, description, understanding, and prediction of psychological phenomena; in the present context, mental processes and behavior The earlier schools that paved the way for further developments in modern psychology were
• Structuralism: focused on studying the conscious experience by looking into its individual parts or elements.
• Functionalism: focused on what the mind does and how it does.
• Gestalt psychology: focused on studying the whole experience of a person rather than breaking it into individual components.
• Psychodynamic School: focuses on the unconscious forces that drive/ motivate human behavior.
• Behaviorist / Behavioral School: focuses on studying the behavior that is observable and overt. Prevalent Approaches / Models / Perspectives At present some of the earlier approaches still exist. Psychologists belonging to these sets of theories have contributed a lot to the body of psychological knowledge and practice. Today, we can see at least six approaches or models of dealing with the psychological phenomena.
The psychological model that views behavior from the perspective of biological functioning. The role of brain, genes, neurotransmitters, endocrine glands etc. How the individual nerve cells are joined together, how the inheritance of certain characteristics from parents and other ancestors influences behavior, how the functioning of the body affects hopes and fears, what behaviors are due to instincts, and so on. Psychologists using the biological model view even more complex kinds of behaviors such as emotional responses e.g. anxiety, as having critical biological components.
The approach that concentrates on the belief that behavior is motivated by the inner forces, over which individuals have little control. Founded by the Viennese physician Sigmund Freud in early 1900s, proponents of psychodynamic perspective give importance to the inner unconscious experiences and the forces that led that behavior. Freud believed that unconscious determinants of behavior had a revolutionary effect on 20th century thinking, not just in psychology but also in related fields a well. Although many of the basic principles of psychodynamic thinking have been highly criticized, the model grown out of Freud’s work has provided a way not only for treating mental disorders but also for understanding everyday phenomena such a prejudice and aggression.
Behaviorist / Behavioral Approach
The psychological model that focuses on the overt observable behavior. The model emerged as a reaction to the earlier approaches that emphasized the significance of hidden, underlying, predetermined forces. The behaviorists suggest that observable behavior alone should be the main area of interest to psychology.
The psychological model, that suggests that people are in control of their lives. It is considered as one of the most recent approaches to psychology. This approach rejected the view, that predetermined, automatic, biological forces, unconscious processes or the environment determines behavior. On the contrary, it proposes that people themselves decide about their lives. A failure in being capable of doing so leads to psychological problems. It also stresses the idea that people, by nature, tend to move towards higher levels of maturity and maximum potential.
The psychological model that focuses on how people know, understands, and thinks about the world. Main emphasis is on how people understand of the world, and their thinking, affects their responses; how it may lead to positive or negative psychological consequences, and even health-related outcomes.
This school of thought has been criticized on various grounds i.e.
It was Reductionist
It reduced all complex human experience to simple sensations
It was Elementalistic
The structuraralists sought to look at individual elements first, and then combine parts into a whole, rather than study the variety of behavior directly.
It was Mentalistic
Structuralism studied only verbal reports of human conscious experience and awareness, ignoring the study of subjects who could not report their introspection.