Chapter 7: Functionalism

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Chapter 7: Functionalism. William James (1842-1910): anticipator of functional psychology. General paradox Major figure in American psychology, yet viewed by some colleagues as a negative force Considered by many scholars to be greatest American psychologist
Chapter 7: Functionalism

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Chapter 7:


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William James (1842-1910): anticipator of functional psychology

General paradox

  • Major figure in American psychology, yet viewed by some colleagues as a negative force

    • Considered by many scholars to be greatest American psychologist

    • Espoused mentalistic and psychical phenomena (telepathy, séances, etc.)

    • Not an experimentalist in attitude or deed

  • Did not found functional psychology, but did influence the movement

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James’s life

  • Wealthy family

  • Career: art, chemistry, medicine, zoology

  • Lifelong problems with self-esteem, neurotic

    • “neurasthenia” or “Americanitis”

  • Most interested in consciousness

  • Disliked lab work/ doing experiments

  • Taught psychology for a time, then moved exclusively into philosophy

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The principles of psychology - 1890

  • Espoused new goal of psychology:

    • Study of people as they adapt to their environment

  • Function of consciousness:

    • To enable survival

  • Interested in how brain (physical structures) affect consciousness

  • Stream of consciousness

    • Is a continuous flow, always changing

    • Cannot be “reduced” to elements

    • Is selective about what it attends to

  • Humans are sometimes nonrational

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The theory of emotions

  • The then-current theory:

    • Emotion precedes physical arousal/response

    • We see a lion,

      • we feel fear (emotion)  we run (response)

  • James:

    • Physical arousal/response precedes emotion

    • We see a lion,

      • we have a bodily response 

        we run (response)  we fear (emotion – an interpretation of bodily changes)

    • Bodily change is the emotion (increased heart rate, increased breathing, sweaty palms)

    • If no bodily change, then no emotion

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Methods of Psychology

  • Introspection

  • Experimentation

  • Comparative method

  • Pragmatism

    • The validity of an idea must be tested by looking at its practical consequences

    • “anything is true if it works”

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Why was James so important?

  • Very clear, interesting writing style

  • Opposed Wundt

  • Offered an alternative to Wundt

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The Functionalist Protest

  • Functionalists’ central interest:

    • how the organism uses the mind to adapt to the environment

  • First uniquely American system of psychology

  • Deliberate protest against Wundt's and Titchener's systems

  • Interest in applying psychology to real world

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Some Central Tenets

  • Consciousness cannot be meaningfully analyzed into elements, it removes all meaning

  • Argued structure and function cannot be meaningfully separated

  • Behavior should be treated in terms of its significance to the organism as it functions in its environment

  • Proper subject for psychology:

    • study of the total organism as it functions in its environment

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The founding of functionalism

  • Functionalists did not mean to start a new school of though

  • Formalized indirectly when Titchener named it

  • Therefore, there was no single functional psychology, no leaders

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Reasons functional psychology flourished in U.S., Not England

  • American temperament

    • Individualistic, independent, hard-working, adaptable, practical

  • Distinctive social, economic, and political character

    • Pioneering society

    • US population census (1890)

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Criticisms of Functionalism

  • Functionalism not clearly defined

  • Did not follow Titchener’s subject matter or methods

  • Applied to real-life situations

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Contributions of functionalism

  • Opposition to structuralism

  • Bridged move from study of subjective mind to study of objective behavior

  • Legitimacy of research on animal behavior

  • Inclusion of humans other than “normal adults” as subjects

  • Allowed applied aspects of research

  • Development and inclusion of research methods beyond introspection

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Chapter 8:

Applied Psychology

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Drug Bust!

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Toward a practical psychology

  • By the end of the 19th century, evolutionary theory and functional psychology had a strong footing in United States

  • American psychology guided more by ideas of Darwin and Galton than by Wundt

  • Although Wundt trained 1st generation of American psychologists, few of his ideas accompanied them home

  • Strong interest in a useful, applied psychology

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Psychology in the US

  • Applied psychology took hold in the discipline

    • 1900: 25% of articles in American psychology journals had applied focus

    • Only 3% used introspection

    • Even Titchener acknowledged the strong trend toward application

  • Dominance in numbers

    • 1903: more PhD's in psychology than in any science other than chemistry, zoology, and physics

    • 1913: United States had more of world’s leading psychologists than any other country

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Psychology in the US

  • Popularity

    • Within 20 years of the founding of psychology, America became undisputed leader of the field

      • Required psychology courses included in the undergraduate curriculum

      • Burgeoning enrollment in psychology courses

      • Increasing number of students engaged in original research

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Economic influences on applied psychology

  • 1900: three times as many PhDs as laboratories

  • Pressure to prove psychology’s value

  • Opportunity

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James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944)

  • Graduate work: Gottingen, then Leipzig with Wundt

  • Work:

    • Major interest: philosophy

    • Interest in psychology due to experiments with drugs

    • Began reaction-time research

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  • One of first in United States to stress quantification, ranking, ratings

    • Developed ranking method

    • First psychologist to teach statistical analysis of experimental results

    • Encouraged the use of large groups of subjects

  • Interested in Galton’s eugenics

  • His organization and editing of numerous publications took time away from research

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  • At Columbia

    • More PhDs in psychology than anywhere else in the united states

    • Emphasized independent research by graduate students

    • Urged increased faculty governance: one of founders of American association of university professors (AAUP)

  • 1917: fired by Columbia university on grounds of disloyalty to united states

  • 1921: organized psychological corporation

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  • Mental testing

    • 1890: coined term mental tests

    • To be a science, psychology requires a foundation of experimentation and measurement

    • His intelligence tests: elementary sensorimotor (not cognitive) measurements

    • 1901: concluded such tests not valid predictors of intelligence

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  • Comment

    • Strongest impact: as organizer, executive, administrator, and link to scientific community

    • Contributed through his students

    • Reinforced functionalism

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The psychological testing movement

  • Binet, Terman, and the IQ test

    • “Mental tests”: “tests of motor skills and sensory capacities; Intelligence tests use more complex measures of mental abilities.”

    • Cattell originated the term but Binet developed the 1st genuinely psychological test of mental ability

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Binet (1857-1911)

  • Independently wealthy

  • Self-taught psychologist

  • Published 200+ books and articles

  • Mental testing

    • His two young daughters did as well as adults on sensorimotor tasks but did not do as well as adults on tests of cognitive ability

    • Binet’s conclusion: cognitive functions reflect intelligence, sensorimotor responses do not

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Modern IQ Testing

  • 1904: opportunity through French public schools bureau to test his hypothesis

    • Binet appointed to find out why some students with were having difficulty learning

    • Examined intellectual tasks that children of different ages could accomplish and built an intelligence test

  • Concept of mental:

    • “the age at which children of average ability can perform certain tasks.”

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Lewis Terman (1877-1956)

  • Developed the now standard version of Binet’s test: the Stanford-Binet

  • Used Stern’s intelligence quotient IQ concept: “A number denoting a person’s intelligence, determined by multiplying mental age by 100 and dividing by chronological age.”

  • Stanford-Binet still in widespread use after a number of revisions

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World War I and group testing

  • 1917: on day U.S. entered WWI

    • Robert Yerkes, APA president: urged Titchener’s society of experimental psychologists to aid war effort

    • Titchener declined to participate

      • British citizen

      • Disliked idea of applying psychology

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World War I and group testing

  • Military leaders: need to assess intelligence of troops for

    • Stanford-Binet: individual test requiring trained administrator

    • Needed: group test that was simple to give

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World War I and group testing

  • Army alpha and army beta

    • Group tests: easy to administer and efficient

    • Work on the tests very time-consuming

    • Significant impact on psychology as a discipline

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The industrial-organizational psychology movement

  • The impact of the world wars

    • During the wars: testing, screening, classifying recruits

    • After the wars: need for industrial psychologists

      • Subspecialty: human engineering

      • Work on a myriad of consumer products, not just military hardware

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  • Industrial Testing

    • 1920’s: selection and placement of job applicants

    • 1927: focus expanded to social/psychological conditions of the workplace

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  • Hawthorne plant of western electric company

    • Pioneering research program

    • First studied influences of the physical environment on employee efficiency

    • Found social and psychological factors in the workplace more important than physical ones

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  • Led to studies of work climate, leadership, communication patterns and other factors affecting worker motivation, productivity, and satisfaction

  • APA's division of industrial psychology changed to society for industrial and organizational psychology

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Applied psychology in the United States: A national mania

  • Cattell: WWI put psychology “on the map and on the front page”

  • Between world wars

    • Applied psychology respected

    • Sufficient jobs and funding in academia

    • New departments, buildings, and labs

    • Tripling of APA membership

    • Still a contempt for applied psychology

    • 1919: APA required published experimental research for membership

    • 1920’s: enormous public enthusiasm for psychology

    • The depression years: attacked for failure to cure

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Applied Psychology

  • Cattell

    • Mental testing

      • Measure of range and variability of behaviors among a large group (ex. Intelligence)

  • Binet

    • Expanded mental testing to include cognitive abilities

  • WWI

    • Army needed simple group test to sort soldiers

      • Alpha and Beta tests

  • Tests likened to a thermometer

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Applied Psychology

  • Industrial-organizational psychology

    • People saw practical applications of psychology

    • During war, ergonomics

      • Testing human limitations when using weapons

    • After WWI, employers wanted to use tests also

      • Hawthorne studies: best working environment

        •  social psychology

    • Eyewitness memories

      “People came to believe that psychologists could fix everything…”

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  • Movement from focus on mental elements to focus on mental activity

    • Shift in academic research from content to function

    • Broadening of psychology from academic settings to applied settings and concerns

    • Contextual factors

  • Shift was reinforced by behaviorism

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