Progress in Modern Psychology: The Legacy of American Functionalism

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

8
Functionalism and the Growth of Developmental Psychology

ROBERTA A. FERRARA

Titchener's structuralism left little room for the study of human development. Young children cannot be expected to produce reliable introspective reports (if they can talk at all). Since structuralism depended on the introspective method, a field called "developmental structuralism" could never hope to be more than an oxymoron. Hence, it is not surprising that Titchener did not approve of the early developmental psychologies of Baldwin, Hall, and Dewey. While Titchener may have rejected their views, these developmental psychologists had a very important influence on the founding of American functionalism. Indeed, in 1896 Dewey wrote his paper, "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology" (which many feel marks the beginning of functionalism), just prior to committing himself full-time to his work in educational psychology. In this chapter, Roberta Ferrara argues that the functionalist strains that were apparent in developmental psychology in the beginning are still apparent today. Like the functionalist, today's developmental psychologists are more concerned with process than structure. They see children as active agents exploring the world rather than passive components of a stimulus-response formula. Like the early functionalists, many modern developmental psychologists prefer research that examines common sense questions under naturalistic conditions. Finally, they encourage work that bridges the gap between pure and applied research.

MW

Functionalist thought has had a major influence on the field of developmental psychology over the past century -- an influence that remains apparent in current research and theory. Hilgard and Bower's ( 1966)

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