Approaches in Psychology

Approachesin Psychology

Approachesin Psychology

Psychologyperspectives emerge through a process that involves a compilation ofthe contributions and thoughts of different theorists. Some theoriesare developed to address weaknesses that are discovered in theapproaches that exist at a given point in time. These weaknesses arediscovered through the criticisms made by other scholars (Philips,2015). Each psychological approach is founded on a set ofassumptions, which means that they are not perfect. This paper willprovide a description of five major psychology approaches, includingstructuralism, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, functionalism, andhumanism. The paper will also address the contribution made by one ofthe founding fathers.


Structuralismrefers to an approach that is widely used in the field of humanscience, and it was developed in the 20th century. The theory ofstructuralism is applied in the field of psychology, where people useit to study unconsciousness and the mind. The founding fathers of thestructuralism approach include Edward Titchener and Wilhelm Wundt.For example, Wundt advanced the structuralism approach by analyzingthe human mental structure into its building blocks. They argued thathuman mind should be analyzed in the terms of their simplestcomponents that can be defined successfully. Psychologists shouldthen determine how the basic components correlate and fit toestablish a complex system. Wundt had not forecast that it could bepossible to determine the chemical components of the mind. However,psychologists have been using the introspection technique to analyzethe chemical components of the human brain.

Thisapproach is founded on the idea that all human activities, thoughts,and perceptions are not natural, but they are constructed (Philips,2015). The approach is supported by four major assumptions. First, itassumes that all systems have structures that are made up of variouscomponents. Secondly, developers of the concept of structuralismassumed that the overall structure is the key determinant of theposition occupied by individual elements that form the system. Third,the approach assumes that the laws that govern structures focus onthe idea of coexistence of elements, instead of the underlyingchanges (Philips, 2015). Lastly, developers of structuralismpostulated that structures are real things found under the appearanceof literal meaning.


Underthis approach, consciousness is considered as an ever changing flowof sensations as well as images. The main objective of theorists whouse the functionalism approach is to determine how perception, themind, emotions, and habits help people survive and adapt to theirrespective environments (Polger, 2014). William James, an Americanscholar, is the founding father of the functionalism approach. Jamesincluded religious experience and animal, as well as abnormalbehaviors in the field of psychology. In addition, he held that thefunctionality of the mind determine the capacity of human beings toadapt and survive in a given environment (Polger, 2014). Thisapproach was derived from the idea of Charles Darwin who held thatanimals tend to evolve in ways that are in the favor of their ownsurvival. Darwin’s theory motivated James to study of thecontribution of human minds towards the survival of the human beingsas well as the animals.

Thetheory is founded on several assumptions, but two of them are themost significant. For example, functionalism is founded on theassumption that a slight change in an element results in themodification of all components that form a given structure. Thisphenomenon is based on an idea that systems must seek for equilibriumfor them to achieve maximum functionality (Polger, 2014). Therefore,a change in the mind or perception is geared towards theestablishment of the equilibrium and survival.


Thisis a perspective that was developed to provide a more objective andscientific approach in the study of humanity. It started as amovement in the year 1913, when John Watson published an articleentitled “Psychology as the behaviorist sees it” (Ertmer &ampNewby, 2012). Behaviorists hold that all types of behavior can belearned or acquired from one’s environment. Consequently, humanbeings lack the free will. Instead, their conduct is totallydetermined by their respective surroundings. For example, people areable to adopt new behaviors after going through operant conditioning.Watson rejected approaches (such as functionalism) that emphasized onthe study of the mind and held that they were not based on scientificprinciples. Watson was motivated by an idea that it was possible tostudy the behavior of animals in an objective way without talking tothem (Ertmer &amp Newby, 2012). This study could be subjective ifthe psychologist withed to focus on the mind.

Themain assumption in behaviorism approach is that psychology can bestudied effectively and objectively using observable behaviors,instead of internal events that cannot be seen. Behaviorism is amongthe most popular theories because of the existence of the numerousexperiments that support its application (Ertmer &amp Newby, 2012).Watson held that observable events and behavior were sufficient tocomprehend human conduct.


SigmundFreud is among the theorists who contributed towards the developmentof the psychoanalytic perspective. Freud held that psychologicalchallenges could be addressed by making unconscious issues becomeconscious (McLeod, 2014). This is an approach that focuses on theunconscious aspect of a human being, which is accomplished byreleasing experiences and emotions that have been repressed.Psychoanalysts apply several assumptions when advancing theirargument. For example, they assume that all psychological challengesare rooted in the aspects of the human mind that are considered asthe unconscious (McLeod, 2014). In addition, psychoanalysts hold thatsymptoms that manifest in individuals with psychological problemsresult from latent disturbances. Unresolved issues that peopleexperience during the process of growth or unaddressed trauma formpart of the repressed emotions as well as experiences.


AbrahamMaslow is considered as one of the key founding fathers of thehumanistic approach. Maslow held that people have free-will, whichimplies no one is controlled by the unconscious forces. Maslowfocused on the study of people who were self-actualized and had theability to exploit their inner potential as well as talents (McLeod,2015). This is a perspective that is founded on the idea thatpsychologists should focus on studying a whole person. Theorists whosupport the humanism approach assume that people have a free will andphenomenology is paramount to the study of human psychology. Thestudy of human conduct using the humanistic approach is based on thesubjective experiences of an individual (McLeod, 2015). They areguided by an idea that human beings are basically good, which helpsthem focus on the personal worth of their clients. The development ofthe humanistic approach was made successful by the contributions ofmany theorists.


Psychologyapproaches are products of the contributions made by varioustheorists who seek to advance the existing body of knowledge.Structuralism holds that all aspects of a human being (includingthoughts) are not natural, but they are constructed. Functionalistsbelieve that psychologists should study the state, instead of thecomponent of the mind. Behaviorism holds that it is more objective tostudy human psychology on the basis of observable actions, instead ofthe mind. Psychoanalysis emphasizes on the significance of theunconscious aspects of the human mind. Lastly, the humanism is anapproach that encourages psychologists to study a whole person.


Ertmer,A. &amp Newby, J. (2012). Behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism:Comparing critical features from an institutional design perspective.PerformanceImprovement Quarterly,26 (2), 43-71.

McLeod,S. (2014). Psychoanalysis. SimplyPsychology.Retrieved September 7, 2016, from

McLeod,S. (2015). Humanism. SimplyPsychology.Retrieved September 7, 2016, from

Philips,J. (2015). Structuralismand semiotics.Singapore: National University of Singapore.

Polger,W. (2014). Functionalism.Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati.