Foundations of Psychology

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Psychology is an applied and scientific discipline that deals with the study and analysis of the mind, human and animal behaviors and attitudes. Psychology is a very broad concept with branches that depend on whether it is applied as scientific. Under research psychology we have: abnormal, biological, cognitive, comparative, developmental, experiential, personality and social psychology among others. When psychology is applied we have; clinical, counseling, health, industrial and school among others. There are many schools of psychology each with its own assumptions such as analytical, behaviorism, depth, descriptive, environmental, existential, humanistic, individual and structuralism among others. The paper is an examination of the various assumptions of the schools of psychology and the description of the biological foundation of psychology.


Psychology is diverse being found in biology, philosophy and other main branches of knowledge. Foundations of psychology date back in history to Socrates and even Aristotle who were early philosophers. Though there have been developments in psychology, the main


foundations still remain. It involves the study of such phemenon as perception, emotion, behavior and interpersonal relationships. It is applied in daily life in family life and education and other areas such as media, sports, health and other industries. The foundations of psychology refer to the assumptions, researches and philosophies upon which further modern developments in psychology are done. The major schools of thought in psychology are; structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, psychoanalysis, humanistic, Gestalt and cognitive psychology. This paper is an examination of these major schools of thought in psychology and a description of the biological foundations of psychology.

Major Schools Of Thought in Psychology


This was the first major school of thought in psychology by Wilhelm and Titchener in 1879. They assumed psychology to be an understanding of human consciousness and the study of internal mental processes. Structuralism relied on the process of introspection through which human consciousness could be broken into smaller parts. The trained subjects used would try to break down their reactions and responses to perceptions and sensations. Structuralism laid more emphasis on scientific research. Having started as a theory of language, it influenced social and historical sciences. (Wagner, 2005)


This was the second school of thought of psychology as a reaction to structuralism highly influenced by William James. It emphasized on analyzing mental processes in accurate and systematic ways, individual differences and the purpose of consciousness and behavior. It influenced applied psychology and behaviorism. (Wagner, 2005)



It assumes that all behaviors can be acquired through conditioning by interacting with the environment. The focus is mainly on behaviors that are observed which can be studied in an accurate and organized way without considering the internal mental conditions and states.


This school focuses on the influence of the unconscious mind on behavior. The human mind is divided into the ego, id and superego. This theory relied on clinical cases and pointed out that childhood experiences had an impact on behavior forming a foundation for personality studies.


This emphasized on an individuals free will and potential while pointing out the importance of self growth for self actualization. It assumed that it is natural tendency for people to be good with social and mental problems arising from deviation from the assumption. It believes in environmental influences and continues to impact therapy, healthcare and education. (Hernandex, 2008)


This school assumed individuals experience things or situations as a whole. They believed the internal characteristics influenced this.


This looks at mental processes of thinking, perception, remembering and learning. It is a


scientific method of studying mental processes.

Biological Foundations of Psychology

This is a form of psychology that seeks to understand the brain and the nervous system. It involves the systems of the body such as the peripheral, nervous, automatic and central systems. The nervous system consists of neurons and nerve cells that send messages to the brain. The endocrine system focuses on hormones and glandular function. The peripheral system is involved in central nervous system transmissions, voluntary processes and movements. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord with the spinal cord being made up of nerve connections. The human brain is made up of the forebrain structures, midbrain and the cerebral cortex which enhance high functioning with basic behavior elements. Biological psychology involves all the parts of the body and analysing how they affect human behavior. (Toates, 1986)


Psychology has been undergoing developments over the years. Psychology provides evidence that is used in other fields of learning and research. Its importance in understanding human behavior creates better cohesiveness. No doubt the concept is diversified and subjective creating room for further developments.


Hernandex, C. (2008). Foundations of psychology, London: Oxford publishers

Toates, F, M. (1986). Biological foundations of behavior; Guide to psychology, New York:

McGraw Education


Wagner, K. (2005). Major Schools of Thought in Psychology, London: Prentice Publishers