Progress in Modern Psychology: The Legacy of American Functionalism

By D. Alfred Owens; Mark Wagner | Go to book overview

how interest in both fundamentals and applications can serve to suggest directions for basic research and augment our ability to solve societal problems. In the case of the two modes of visual processing, research designed to elucidate basic neurological mechanisms suggested a possible means for understanding the basis of a serious societal problem that was conceptually remote from the objectives of the original studies.

These three examples illustrate the advantages that follow from an awareness of applications. This is not to suggest that interest in societal problems should in any way diminish the principal goal of research to identify fundamental mechanisms. Rather, awareness of the usefulness of research can both facilitate applications and stimulate novel and innovative directions and strategies for the basic studies. I believe it is this message, inherent in the functionalist philosophy, that stimulated the growth of psychology in so many fruitful directions and fueled the vigorous expansion of psychology during the last 80 years. Furthermore, it is Dr. Paul Whitely's identification with the functionalist philosophy that gave Franklin & Marshall graduates the appropriate tools and strategies to contribute to the growth of psychology and to develop their own careers in diverse directions.


EPILOGUE: A RELEVANT PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

In high school we were given a series of orientation lectures by dedicated and well-meaning guidance counselors to help us select our future vocations. Eighteen years after graduation, I was employed by the International Business Machines Corporation in their Federal System Division doing human engineering work. Except for the support personnel, there was not a single position in our building, where there were hundreds of employees, that existed when I was in high school. In learning theory terms, we know that we should teach what is transferable from the classroom to the outside world by concentrating on fundamentals that may be independent of and may even appear unrelated to contemporary problems. It is this philosophy of education reflected in the functionalist position that, I feel, has been a critical factor in the success of functionalism, one example of which is the remarkable achievements of the Franklin & Marshall psychology department. It is interesting to speculate what would have happened at Franklin & Marshall if Dr. Whitely had identified with the structuralist, Gestalt, behaviorist, or psychoanalytic schools!


NOTES

I would like to express my appreciation to the editors of this volume for inviting me to participate. Although I did not attend Franklin & Marshall, I have had close and rewarding contacts with the psychology department and was privileged to know Dr. Whitely for more than 25 years. It is a great honor for me to join in expressing

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