Research Paper on William James and Functionalism

1233 Words Apr 11th, 2013 5 Pages
PSY 101

“William James and Functionalism”

I. Introduction

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist

who had trained as a physician. He was the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United

States. James wrote influential books on pragmatism, psychology, educational psychology, the

psychology of religious experience, and mysticism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James and of

diarist Alice James. In the summer of 1878, William James married Alice Gibbens. William James was

born at the Astor House in New York City. He was the son of Henry James Sr., a noted and
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Functionalism vs. Structuralism

As soon as psychology started to gain scientific relevance, so started the debate over how it was

most appropriate to describe behavior and the human mind.

Structuralism was first introduced by Wilhelm Wundt. It was then formally named and established by

one of his students named Edward B. Tichener who broke away from many of the previous ideas put

forward by Wundt. Structuralism aims to describe the structure of the mind in terms of the most

primitive elements of mental experience. It focused on the breaking down of the brains mental

processes into its basic components. These basic components were then attempted to be discovered

by a method known as introspection. Introspection can be defined as the examination or

observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. Structuralism is based on the idea tha

t the aim of psychology is to investigate how the elements are relate to each other which is done by

the study into sensations, images and feelings.

Functionalism was formulated as a reaction to structuralism and aims to explain mental processes in

a more accurate manner than structuralism. It does this by focusing on the purpose of consciousness


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