Define "Functionalism" : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread

I am reading Psychology Themes and Variations and the definition in this text book of "Functionalism" doesn't seem to register with me.

Quote. Functionalsim was based on the belief that psychology should investigate the function or purpose of the consciousness, rather than its structure. Function or purpose?

Forgive me for being rather thick.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


-- Mary Rohn (, November 11, 2003


Function relates to "what is it for"? what does it accomplish? Think of this in relation to the previous chapters/sections in your text on structuralism, which investigated elements or contents of consciousness. Functionalists took an evolutionary model that focused on adaptation: everything we do has a "function" in the process of adaptation to our environment. In the simplest terms, you might ask "what is intelligence/consciousness good for?" rather than "how does it work?"

-- Hendrika Vande Kemp (, November 12, 2003.

Usually the *evolutionary* function of consciousness. One of the problems for William James was how to explain the "facts" of consciousness from within the confines of (more or less) naturalistic science. One way to do this was to explain how consiousness could be the result of natural evolutionary processes -- what kinds of "pressures" led to the development of consiousness. Although James' answers were not terribly convincing to many natural scientists of the day, he was one of the people who made evolutionary thought acceptable to a broad swath of American society. That opened the way for people who were more thoroughgoing evolutionists (e.g., J.M. Baldwin, J.R. Angell, J. Dewey (to some extent), J.M. Cattell, E.L. Thorndike) to develop "functionalism" (as their arch rival, E.B. Titchener, dubbed it).

-- Christopher Green (, November 12, 2003.

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