Major Schools of Psychology : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread

What are the major schools of modern psychology?

-- Marie Mejia-Justice (, October 17, 2004


Most any history of psychology text can tell you this. The term "schools" isn't used much anymore, except for the approaches that were developed in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The are generally said to be Structuralism, Functionalism, Behaviorism, and Gestalt. Sometimes Psychoanalysis is included, but its development was quite different from the others (there being no literal *school* involved). Sometimes Woodworth's "dynamic" psychology is said to be a school, but Woodworth himself didn't much like the idea of "schools" and his system (if it was one) was really an outgrowth of functionalism in response to the growing influence of behaviorism.

In an effort to continue this tradition, the Humanism of the 1960s and Cognitivism of the 1980s are sometime added to the list, but this is (I think) really a misuse of the term.

-- Christopher Green (, October 17, 2004.

Marie asks: "What are the major schools of modern psychology?"

A similar question was answered on this board here:

In addition to the middle of the road approach proposed by Woodworth (mentioned at the above link), S.S. Stevens (1935a&b, 1939) proposed "operationism" as the 'revolution to end revolutions' in psychology. I that it is unfortunate that he seems to have succeeded in this goal. Psychology has become largely the application of the independent and dependent variable *technique* (Woodworth) coupled with appeal to operational definitions (Stevens). An attempt to propose a so-called "convergent operationism" was made in the late 1950s and 1960s but that was a mere variation on the technique themes set up by the two prior figures. Research using factor analysis and ANOVA probably fall into that category -with the primary appeal and discussion of results being limited by and limited to the empirical technique being employed. This is a rather circular affair of course (see Gigerenzer, 1991) that leaves one wondering if psychology will ever again raise itself out of the realm of mere appeal to quantitative abstraction and temporal description up into the realm of explaining the nature of the development of psychological processes.

Very few figures have subsequently attempted to systematize the methodology (i.e., the philosophical assumptions and empirical methods)used into a school which can deal with the subject matter of psychological processes per se. One exception is A.N. Leontiev who proposed Activity Theory. But this was an approach which only briefly saw the light of day in North American circles and was probably not seriously considered for two reasons: (1) it was proposed from behind the "Iron Curtain" (if you don't know what that means, look it up on the internet); and (2) it required (and still does require) too much relearning of fundamentally erroneous concepts at the very heart of operationist psychology. In short, this system of psychology (which I still have a strong interest in) came up against both the cultural inertia of Cold War politics and the institutional inertia of North American departments of psychology.

Gigerenzer, G. (1991). From tools to theories. Psyc. Rev., 98, 254- 267.


Paul F. Ballantyne

-- Paul F. Ballantyne (, October 17, 2004.

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