The 7 Major Schools of Thought in Psychology - Deepstash
The 7 Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

The 7 Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

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The 7 Major Schools of Thought in Psychology

In the past, psychologists often identified themselves exclusively with one single school of thought. Today, most psychologists have an eclectic outlook on psychology. They often draw on ideas and theories from different schools rather than holding to any singular perspective.


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Structuralism and Functionalism: Early Schools of Thought

Structuralism is widely regarded as the first school of thought in psychology.

The focus of structuralism was on reducing mental processes down into their most basic elements. 

Functionalism formed as a reaction to the theories of the structuralist school of thought. Instead of focusing on the mental processes themselves, functionalist thinkers were instead interested in the role that these processes play.


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Gestalt Psychology

Gestalt psychology is a school of psychology based upon the idea that we experience things as unified wholes.

Instead of breaking down thoughts and behavior to their smallest elements, the gestalt psychologists believed that you must look at the whole of experience. According to the Gestalt thinkers, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


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The Behaviorist School of Thought

Behaviorism suggests that all behavior can be explained by environmental causes rather than by internal forces. Behaviorism is focused on observable behavior. Theories of learning including classical conditioning and operant conditioning were the focus of a great deal of research.

The behavioral school of psychology had a significant influence on the course of psychology, and many of the ideas and techniques that emerged from this school of thought are still widely used today.


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The Psychoanalytic School of Thought

Freud's school of thought was enormously influential, but also generated considerable debate. This controversy existed not only in his time but also in modern discussions of Freud's theories.

This school of thought emphasized the influence of the unconscious mind on behavior.


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The Humanistic School of Thought

While early schools of thought were primarily centered on abnormal human behavior, humanistic psychology differed considerably in its emphasis on helping people achieve and fulfill their potential.

Humanistic psychology remains quite popular today and has had a significant influence on other areas of psychology including positive psychology


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Cognitive School of Thought

Cognitive psychology is the school of psychology that studies mental processes including how people think, perceive, remember and learn.

Cognitive psychology emerged during the partly as a response to behaviorism. Critics of behaviorism noted that it failed to account for how internal processes impacted behavior.


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