fate of functionalism?

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I am studying for my History & Systems of Psychology final exam. On our srudy guide, my professor asks us to describe the fate of functionalism. I have a pretty good understanding of functionalism, but am having problems finding any information pertaining to the 'fate' of it. If I remember correctly, my professor said that in his opinion, it still in use today. Do you think he meant if it died out (which would really be no, in my opinion) or what it subsequently lead to? I am thinking it lead specifically to applied psychology. Thanks! Lisa **By the way, I just wanted to say that this is an excellent site! I just wish I had found this site at the beginning of the semester. :)

-- Lisa Lewis (mal1381@hotmail.com), December 08, 2003


In some ways functionalism still is in use (e.g., the emphasis on what minds *do* rather than what they are composed of), and undoubtedly it did have an influence on the development of applied psychology. In large part, however, I think it "morphed" into behaviorism. Questions of animal behavior emphasized by "late" functionalists such as Thorndike and the young Watson, led to the initial question of the evolutionary function of consciousness receding into the background. Harvey Carr (the last of the Chicago functionalists) is an interesting figure here because, although he maintained the name of "functionlaism" until his retirement, his work is often said to have become gradually more behaviorist over the course of his career.

Of course Watson argued that behaviorism was a "revolution" sharing nothing in common with earlier schools of thought, but this, I think, was more a rhetorical tactic than a statement of historical fact.

-- Christopher Green (christo@yorku.ca), December 08, 2003.

Hi Lisa, I agree with much of what Christopher Green said, but I have a little different spin on the fate of Functionalism or the threads that have evolved from it. Like Christoper, I also see the connection to behaviorism and applied psychology early on and even today. However, I see the relevance of Fuctionalism to the psychology of the early 21th century even more than in the second half of the 20th century. For example, the recent increase in popularity of evolutionary psychology, evolutionary and neural cognitive psychology, and "functional" physiological psychology.

-- Paul Kleinginna (pkleinginna@gasou.edu), December 26, 2003.

For my views on this *rather thorny issue* (as well as for links to those of many others) see:


*Whatever happened to "Functional" Psychology?*

"The issue of 'whatever happened to functional psychology' grew more prescient in the early 1990s with the publication of celebratory "centennial" texts and articles (e.g., Johnson & Henley, 1990; Owens & Wagner, 1993; Donnelly, 1992; D.N. Robinson, 1993; Taylor, 1992, 1996) honoring the discipline-building influence of two seminal textbooks by William James: Principles of Psychology (2 Vols., 1890) and The Briefer Course (1892). While the role of these texts (known under the names "James and Jimmy" respectively) in providing an argument for a nonreductive natural science approach to psychology was granted by most contributors, the related methodological issue of the 'role of functionalism on shaping the professional aims and empirical methods of 20th century general psychology' remained largely unresolved. Given that we are now approaching the centennial of J.R. Angell's (1904) Psychology: An introductory study of the Structure and Function of human consciousness (i.e., the place where functionalism first met the practical necessities of carrying out empirical research), the following details will provide the basic groundwork for reconsidering this issue."

Posted as of today!

Cheers, Paul F. Ballantyne

-- Paul F. Ballantyne (pballan@comnet.ca), April 10, 2004.

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