In psychology, a broad school of thought that originated in the U.S. in the late 19th century and emphasized the total organism in its endeavours to adjust to the environment. Reacting against the school of structuralism led by Edward Bradford Titchener, functionalists such as William James, George Herbert Mead, and John Dewey stressed the importance of empirical, rational thought over an experimental trial-and-error philosophy. The movement concerned itself primarily with the practical applications of research (see applied psychology) and was critical of early forms of behaviourism.
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Functional psychology or functionalism refers to a general psychological approach that views mental life and behavior in terms of active adaptation to the person's environment. As such, it provides the general basis for developing psychological theories not readily testable in controlled experiments and for applied psychology.
William James, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, Harvey A. Carr, and especially James Rowland Angell were the leading exponents of the functionalist point of view at the University of Chicago. Another group at Columbia, led by James McKeen Cattell, Edward L. Thorndike, and Robert S. Woodworth, were also called functionalist and shared some of the views of the Chicago school. Egon Brunswik represents a more recent, but Continental, version. The functionalists retained an emphasis on conscious experience.
Behaviorists also rejected the methodology of introspection but criticized functionalism because it was not grounded in controlled experiments and its theories provided little predictive power. Skinner was a pioneer of behaviorism. He did not think that aspects of the mind had any impact on behavior, for he viewed behavior simply as a learned response to an external stimulus.
functualism vs structualism>
an easy way to compare the differnce between structualism and functualism is by taking car for example the structualist would look at each part of the car individually and how its job contributes to making the car work. whereas the functualist would ask how and why ? the car works together as one whole