Functional Psychology

Also found in: Wikipedia.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Functional Psychology


the study of psychic phenomena from the point of view of their function in the adaptation of an organism to its environment. This approach was first used in the late 19th century under the influence of the theory of evolution and the resulting shift in the analysis of consciousness—namely, the shift from element-by-element analysis in the structural psychology of W. Wundt and E. Titchener to the study of consciousness as a factor in the individual’s problem-solving process.

Various schools of functional psychology emerged in Europe; for example, T. Ribot in France, N. N. Lange in Russia, and E. Claparède in Switzerland studied psychological functions from the point of view of the natural sciences, while C. Stumpf and the adherents of the Würzburg school in Germany represented the idealist approach.

In the USA, functional psychology goes back to W. James; the two major trends were represented by J. Dewey, J. Angelí, and H. Carr of the Chicago school and R. Woodworth of the Columbia school. Psychology was regarded as the study of the functions, or “operations,” of consciousness in the organism’s adaptation to a changing natural and social environment. In addition to consciousness, the field of psychological inquiry was enlarged to include behavior (adaptive action), behavioral motivation, and learning mechanisms. While the advocates of this approach made a significant contribution to experimental psychology, their views eventually became less influential; what led to the loss of scientific standing of this approach was its dualistic concept of the relationship between bodily and psychic functions as well as its teleological view of consciousness functioning as a goal-directed entity. American functional psychology was replaced by behaviorism in the 1920’s.


Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966.
Woodworth, R. S. Dynamic Psychology. New York, 1918.
Carr, H. A. Psychology: A Study of Mental Activity. New York, 1927.
Boring, E. G. A History of Experimental Psychology, 2nd ed. New York, 1950.
Misiak, H., and U. Sexton. History of Psychology, 2nd ed. New York–London, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Evolution and functional psychology replaced theology.
He viewed the universe as an open-ended, fluid place and integrated this perspective into his functional psychology and his pragmatic philosophy.
Like Dewey, James was greatly influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution, partially because it provided him with the springboard he needed to move his functional psychology to a higher plane.
Schiller's is thus a variety of functional psychology in that it is the consequences of actions that are critical.

Full browser ?