Who Founded The First School Of Psychology? How Is It Important For PsychologyToday?

Psychology is a vast field of study. It has many sub-fields, stages, and schools of thoughts. Different schools of thought describe different ways in which the human mind works. To find out more about these schools and how they are important for psychology today, follow this article.

Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, including feelings and thoughts. It is an academic discipline of immense scope, crossing the boundaries between the natural and social sciences. When psychology first emerged as a science separate from biology and philosophy, the debate over how to describe and explain the human mind and behavior began. The different schools of psychology represent the major theories within psychology.

A school of thought refers to a group of people who share similar viewpoints and opinions about a particular subject. It serves to unify and identify those with common beliefs, traditions, or practices concerning a field of study or subject. The first school of thought, structuralism, was advocated by the founder of the first psychology lab, Wilhelm Wundt. Almost immediately, other theories began to emerge and vie for dominance in psychology.

In the past, psychologists often identified themselves exclusively with one single school of thought. Today, most psychologists have an eclectic outlook on psychology. They often draw on ideas and theories from different schools rather than holding to any singular perspective.

This article discusses the different schools of thoughts in psychology and how these major schools are important for psychology today? Follow this article and find out answers to all of these questions.

What is a school of thought?

A school of thought, or intellectual tradition, is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy, discipline, belief, social movement, economics, cultural movement, or art movement. It is basically a set of ideas or opinions that is recognised by a group of people but not necessarily accepted by them.

People think they understand people by observing their habits, traits, getting to know their likes and dislikes. They don’t. These superficial factors only help recognize the image that an individual works hard to create, present and maintain.

There is a general tendency to classify people as quickly as possible, not that it’s anyone’s fault. The human brain’s first stage of assimilation of information uses classification as a tool to better anchor memories. It still builds the delusion of thinking that you know a person in and out. It’s no wonder that often people who are thought to be some of the kindest souls by their immediate family end up getting imprisoned for some heinous crime.

At the end of the day, it is this alignment to a particular school of thought that drove the greatest minds into a particular direction, creating fields such as science and medicine as we know them today.

What do you understand by the school of thoughts in psychology?

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. Almost immediately, other theories began to emerge and vie for dominance in psychology. The following are some of the major schools of thought that have influenced our knowledge and understanding of psychology:

  • Structuralism
  • Functionalism
  • Behaviourism
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Humanistic psychology
  • Gestalt psychology


Structuralism, in psychology, a systematic movement founded in Germany by Wilhelm Wundt and mainly identified with Edward B. Titchener. Structuralism sought to analyze the adult mind (defined as the sum total of experience from birth to the present) in terms of the simplest definable components and then to find the way in which these components fit together in complex forms.


Functional psychology or functionalism refers to a psychological school of thought that was a direct outgrowth of Darwinian thinking which focuses attention on the utility and purpose of behavior that has been modified over years of human existence. Functionalism formed as a reaction to the theories of the structuralist school of thought and was heavily influenced by the work of William James. Major functionalist thinkers included John Dewey and Harvey Carr.


Behaviorism became the dominant school of thought during the 1950s. Based upon the work of thinkers such as John B. 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.


Sigmund Freud was the founder of the psychoanalysis approach. This school of thought emphasizes the influence of the unconscious mind on behavior. Freud believed that the human mind was composed of three elements: the id, the ego, and the superego. Other major psychodynamic thinkers include Anna Freud, Carl Jung, and Erik Erikson.

Humanistic psychology:

Humanistic psychology was created as a reaction to therapy and behaviorism. Humanistic psychology is rather centered around individual freedom of thought, self-awareness, and self completion. Significant humanist masterminds included Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.

Gestalt psychology:

Gestalt psychology depends on the possibility that we experience things as brought together. This way to deal with brain science started in Germany and Austria during the late nineteenth hundred years in light of the atomic methodology of structuralism. Maybe that breaking down contemplations and conduct to their littlest component, the gestalt analysts accepted that you should check out at the entirety of involvement. As per the gestalt scholars, the entire is more noteworthy than the amount of its parts.

What is structuralism?

Structuralism is viewed as the first way of thinking in psychology. While structuralism is generally connected with Wilhelm Wundt, his understudy, Edward Bradley Titchener, was to a great extent liable for introducing structuralism as history recalls it. Let’s take a closer look at structuralism, how it formed, and its influence on psychology.

A brief history of structuralism:

Psychology itself didn’t arise as a discipline separate from science and reasoning until the last part of the 1800s. The establishment of the absolute first exploratory psychology lab in Leipzig, Germany, officially settled psychology as a different science. The researcher Wilhelm Wundt was answerable for laying out the lab, which is the reason he is generally viewed as the dad of psychology.

Wundt was keen on concentrating on the inward functions of the mind equitably and logically. He used a strategy known as reflection, which includes cautiously preparing onlookers to dissect the items in their viewpoints. While his strategies don’t face the meticulousness of today’s logical techniques, they helped make psychology a more logical discipline.

Wundt’s experience was in physiology, so many of his tests included things, for example, seeing response times and tactile cycles. Wundt accepted that he could cautiously dissect every component of the mind, separating things into more modest parts, to comprehend how the brain works. Similarly, a physiologist could take a gander at various pieces of the body to comprehend how these parts capability together.

During this time of history, numerous areas of science were centered around what is known as elementalism, or breaking things down to their littlest potential parts. This approach prompted a few significant disclosures (consider how we might interpret things like cells, particles, molecules, and DNA), so it isn’t business as usual that this approach entered the arising area of psychology.

The basics of structuralism:

Similar as we would separate the pieces of a substance into its all a wide range of synthetic parts, Wundt accepted that cognizance was likewise composed of various parts. Through his course of contemplation, he accepted that he could logically break down and recognize the different components of the human brain.

The introspection process involved presenting some type of stimulus to a highly trained observer. The observer would then report on their experience, including thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. While Wundt is credited as the founder of structuralism, he didn’t use the term to refer to his approach. Instead, he called his approach to psychology volunteerism.

His understudy, Edward B. Titchener, authored the term structuralism. Titchener is credited with presenting Wundt’s work in America, yet pundits note that he to a great extent distorted a lot of his tutor’s work. In spite of this, Titchener turned to areas of strength for early brain research and is liable for laying out the absolute first school of thought in psychology.

What is the impact of structuralism in psychology?

On account of Titchener’s impact, structuralism turned into a significant power during the early long periods of psychology. Be that as it may, it was not without its faultfinders. The way of thinking known as functionalism before long arose, somewhat in light of structuralism. Instead of basically taking a gander at the pieces of cognizance, functionalism focused on checking out the reason and capability of human idea and conduct.

The two schools of thoughts became contending components in psychology. The clinician Mary Whiton Calkins required a compromise between the two methodologies, however Wundt broadly ridiculed functionalism as only “writing” while American clinician and savant William James excused structuralism as having “no thought.” While many ways of thinking keep on having an impact today, structuralism basically vanished when Titchener passed on.

While structuralism was generally fleeting, it assumed a significant part in the improvement of early psychology and impacted the development of exploratory psychology. So why concentrate on structuralism in the event that it has been generally supplanted by different ways of thinking like analysis, behaviorism, and mental psychology? Structuralism actually played a significant part during the starting points of psychology, and understanding how it arose can provide understudies with a more noteworthy enthusiasm for how psychology formed into what it is today.

What are some of the variants of structuralism?

Structuralism generally means social class, caste, bureaucracies, etc. But, when structuralists use structuralism, they have a technical and specific meaning in mind. Normally structuralism has acquired four variants:

  • Linguistics structuralism
  • Anthropological structuralism
  • Structural marxism
  • Post structuralism

Linguistics structuralism:

The traditional meaning of words representing reality are not acceptable to Saussure. He argues that words give meaning with reference to other words and never the reality. It is how linguistics structuralism began.

He contended, very like Durkheim, that we don’t have the foggiest idea how something functions by following its set of experiences. Similarly, we can’t comprehend a general public simply by looking at the connections between the various parts, so we really want to check out the connections between the various pieces of language.

Durkheim argued that the mechanical society can be properly understood with reference to the organic society; the differences of social relationships in both the societies are striking. And, this helps us better to comprehend these societies. Saussure likewise says that to understand the meaning of male properly, we shall have to seek its relationship with the female.

Connections between the pieces of language assist us with knowing the significance. Words have no relationship with the real world. Words have a relationship with words. It is in this setting that Saussure marks a verifiable way to deal with the comprehension of linguistics as ‘historicist’ as it were. The structuralists think about historicism and experimentation as the dirtiest pieces of social science vocabulary.

Anthropological structuralism:

Structuralism is certainly not an unmistakable discipline of social sciences. It is at its best a methodology or a technique and a hypothesis. It very well may be utilized as a viewpoint in dissecting a text or an object of the real world. At the point when the underlying viewpoint is utilized to comprehend and investigate anthropological issues, it is called anthropological structuralism.

Claude Levi-Strauss is said to be the first French anthropologist who used structuralism to analyze kinship systems and myths of primitive people. He argued that the exchange of spouses can be analyzed in the same way as the exchange of words. Both are social exchanges that he studied through the use of social anthropology. The essential push of anthropologists in applying structuralism is that:

  • The hidden structure similarly stays consistent.
  • There are shifting connections between the basic components.

These relationships produce different languages, systems of ideas and types of society. This theoretical abstraction is applied to the study of primitive kinship systems and myths by Levi-Strauss. He very strongly argues that in primitive society, individuals are totally subordinated to the relationships of elements of underlying structures.

Structural marxism:

Louis Althusser, Nicos Poulantzas and Maurice Godlier are the primary supporters of structural marxism. They attempt to lay out that it was not Saussure who established linguistics structuralism. As a matter of fact, it was Karl Marx who involved structuralism as the strategy or way to deal with concentrating on friendly reality.

When Marx assumes that structure is not to be confused with visible relations and explains their hidden logic, he inaugurates the modern structuralist tradition. Agreed that all scholars of structuralism, whether linguistic, anthropological or Marxian, talk about hidden or underlying structure, their conceptualization of structure is different. However, there are some structural Marxists who share with general structuralists an interest in the study of structure as a prerequisite to the study of history.

What is the difference between structuralism and functionalism?

Historically when psychology was first established, the main focus was how to describe human behavior and examine the mind. This led to the development of the first two schools of thought i.e. structuralism and functionalism.

Structuralism and Functionalism are two high level and earliest hypotheses presented in psychology that essentially make sense of the logical premise of different personal conduct standards and attitudes seen in people.

Structuralism Functionalism
Focus on the construction of the brain for example dissecting consciousness spending on the components of the psyche, for example, insight, sensation and so on. Focus on the function of the mind i.e. analyze “why and how” the mind functions



Introspection i.e. examining and becoming aware of one’s own conscious, feeling and emotions. Centers around applications with the assistance of mental testing and behavioral techniques.
It is too emotional thus it needs unwavering quality. Likewise, it puts a ton of spotlight on internal ways of behaving, which can’t be recognizable and estimated. It puts a great deal of spotlight on genuine matters and overlooks the subjectivity of individual thought processes .
It focuses on different brain groups and their capacities. It focuses on the adaptations of different minds in different environments.

How is structuralism important for society?

Structuralism as a school of thought underlines the view that society is before people. It utilizes the idea of social collaboration as designed conduct and uses it as a device in all sociological analysis. Claude Levi-Strauss in his examination of legend utilized this technique by giving important investigation. The components which are fundamental to the human brain and all around pertinent decide the potential assortments of social structure.

Marxist sociologist Louis Althusser has adopted a structuralist framework in explaining social phenomena by referring to the structure of mode of production. He criticized Berger and Luckman in their view that the dialectical processes of human interaction in which meaning given by individuals when institutionalized becomes social structure. Instead he argued that the human agency is only the agent of the structure of social relations. It is the social relations which should form the basis of analyzing the social structure.

Anthony Giddens utilized the term structuralism to communicate common reliance on human organization and social structure. Social structure ought to be seen as related with social action. Social organizations as coordinated examples of social way of behaving are proposed as the components of social structure by the functionalists.

Karl Marx analyzed how social relations are structured to sustain inequalities in society. Marx used the concept of structure to denote the distribution of resources. This structure is the symbolic, material and political resources that the actors employ in their interactions and produce the structure of their social relations. Marx used the concept of dialectics in the interaction process which in turn tends to change and transform the nature of social relations thereby changing the social structure.

What are some of the elements of structuralism?

Various authors have gathered their ideas regarding the elements of structuralism, while some were frowned upon. The main elements of structuralism are as follow:

  • Structuralism empowers both the perusing of texts and the perusing of societies: through semiotics, structuralism drives us to see everything as ‘text based’, that is, made out of signs, represented by shows of importance, requested by an example of relationships.
  • Structuralism enables us to approach texts historically or trans-culturally in a disciplined way. Whenever we have to look more objectively, when we are traversing barriers of time, say, or of culture or interest, then the structural method, the search for principles of order, coherence and meaning, become dominant.
  • This sort of study opens up for serious cultural analysis texts which had hitherto been closed to such study because they did not conform to the rules of literature, hence were not literature but ‘popular writing’ or ‘private writing’ or ‘history’ and so forth. When the rules of literary meaning are seen as just another set of rules for a signifying arena of a culture, then literature loses some aspects of its privileged status, but gains in the strength and cogency of its relationship to other areas of signification.
  • As all that can be known, can be known by the ethicality of its having a place with a signifying system then everything can be discussed as being text based.
  • Consequently much greater attention is paid to the nature of language-use in culture. Language-use relating to various social topics or areas of engagement has become known as “discourse.” Although “discourse” is a term more prevalent in post-structuralist thinking, it is of its nature a structuralist development.

How is it important for psychology today?

Structuralism in the present day might appear as though an obsolete thought based on a crude thought process, however truly it will continuously remain as the underpinning of modern experimental psychology known today. Zeroed in on breaking down mental cycles into the most fundamental parts, scientists of structuralism took a stab at understanding the essential components of consciousness utilizing a technique known as “introspection”.

A speculative thought in today’s world that lacks concrete evidence, introspection still stands worthy of determining the basic understanding of the world around us. It still remains the only way we can look within ourselves and know the impact of each element of our consciousness and behavior and implications it has on our actions.

The fundamental importance of the word structure discusses the particular components of an interaction that make it interesting. Try not to botch it with functionalism which concentrates on the capability of these components set up, yet rather how about we center around the worth every one of these free components offer that might be of some value.

With all the developments in modern psychology, irrespective of the school of thought you follow, the core structure of any therapy would lie within structuralism. Breaking down the total sum of your experiences from birth to the present, in terms of the simplest definable components to find how these components fit together to form more complex experiences.

A similar approach applies to any investigation of linguistics, social science, political culture and cutting edge mental brain research to decide the beginning, causes and huge effects of the emotional and review sensations and discernments.


In conclusion, structuralism dictates that the total sum of parts that have been broken down are what make up the whole “something.” Wundt mainly formed structuralism to focus on understanding the fundamental component of the human mind. As the first school of thought in psychology it teaches us that structuralism is a method of information on nature and human existence that is keen on connections as opposed to individual items.

On the other hand, where articles are characterized by the arrangement of connections of which they are part and not by the characteristics moved by them taken in isolation. Structuralism also has a great influence on experimental psychology. It provides a base for the study of the human mind under its elements.