Unlike other schools of psychology that I will discuss in the virtual lecture and in class, the school of Structuralism is, for the most part, completely dead in psychology. In fact, the school pretty much died with Wundt. One basic reason this occurred was that Wundt's methodology had a principal flaw that is not consistent with the main stream views of experimental psychologists today, and this had to do with subject agreement and reliability. Since psychology often deals with data that are difficult to describe in concrete terms, it is very important to make sure that multiple observers can agree independently on a phenomenon that is being experienced. This is referred to as reliability. In the contemporary study of sensory and perceptual phenomena, when observers view, touch, or taste some stimulus, researchers go to great lengths to make sure that the observers are not biased or influenced in their report of their experience. Further, agreement among observers in terms of what they are experiencing, is a prerequisite for considering the observations as valid. Unfortunately, Wundt's observers were students trained by Wundt, and, in fact, any disagreement was resolved by Wundt. Therefore, reliability or agreement among observers in Wundt's experiments only occurred due to bias induced by training. The use of trained observers, such as those in Wundt's laboratory is diametrically opposed to the current practice of using participants who know as little as possible about the phenomenon being studied in order to decrease bias, and increase objectivity. This is one reason why general psychology students often serve as subjects in psychology experiments.
Thats pretty much the way I spent the course, too: through structuralism, formalism, gender theory, and post-colonialism, I was far too busy shuffling through my iPod to see what the patriarchal world order of capitalist oppression had to do with Ethan Frome.
FUNCTIONALISM & STRUCTURALISM FUNCTIONALISM AND STRUCTURALISM
At the turn of the century, many advances in science were occurring due to a fundamental concept that philosophers of science refer to as "elementism". Elementism refers to the conception of complex phenomena in terms of basic parts or elements. This conception of science was leading to many important discoveries with important applications in areas such as the biological sciences in the late 1800s. It was at this time that, what most psychologists acknowledge as, the first "school of psychology" began. In 1879 Wilhelm Wundt began the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig, Germany. The school of psychology that Wundt began and championed all his life is referred to as "structuralism". For this reason, Wundt is often referred to as the father of structuralism.