Wilhelm Wundt-first theory of psychology

Pamela -student one response to the discussion


Structuralism, founded by Wilhelm Wundt, was the first theory of psychology. In this school of thought, Wundt theorized that the only way to understand the mind was through our experience of basic elements he called sensations, which were responses to stimuli.

He felt using what is called analytic introspection he could identify the components of experience by training individuals to describe their thought processes and feelings when stimuli were presented to them. However, relying completely on the subjectiveness of introspection structuralism was short-lived.

Nonetheless, Wundt’s impact on the field of psychology led many to expand on his theories, open other psychology labs and leave room for critics to oppose such subjective means of understanding the mind (Goldstein, 2015).

The psychologist suggested that psychology should not be concerned with the structure of consciousness because it had no basic structure and was always changing. In opposition to structuralism, functionalism arose. Functionalism focused on the function and purpose of consciousness and how it leads to adaptive behavior (Goldstein, 2015).

Like functionalism sprung from structuralism, behaviorism expanded on the functionalist. Behaviorism, a major contributor to cognitive psychology as we know it now, was founded by John Watson. Behaviorism focuses on explaining the external forces of observable behaviors. Watson’s approach dismissed consciousness and feelings altogether and focused only on how behaviors could be conditioned (Goldstein, 2015).

Behaviorism must have had the most influential impact on cognitive psychology. According to our textbook, behaviorism is reviewed “because of its importance to the history of cognitive psychology” (Goldstein, 2015. p. 10). Cognitive psychologists are similar to behavioralists because they use objective, controlled scientific approaches to understanding an organism’s mental processes by how they influence observable behaviors.

According to Skinner’s hypothesis, learning is a result of changed behavior. When an individual’s reaction to stimuli in the environment leads to changed behaviors, this is known as Stimulus-Response (S-R). Skinner’s approach is a reward or consequence type method to reinforce changing or controlling behaviors. In contrast to prior forms of behaviorism (e.g., connectionism, drive reduction), operant conditioning distinguishes itself by allowing the organism to emit responses rather than just evoking them in response to an external stimulus.