Difference Between Structuralism and Functionalism (With Table)

Early 19th century, anybody interested in researching questions connected to the mind usually did that in a philosophical setting. The pioneers of psychology as a scientific and educational field apart from philosophy are typically ascribed to two individuals who worked in the nineteenth century.

Structuralism vs Functionalism

The main distinction between structuralism and functionalism is that structuralism concentrates on the configuration of the mind, evaluating consciousness while focusing on components of the mind which including sensation, perception, and so much more, whilst functionalism concentrates on the function of the mind, evaluating “why and how” the mind functions.

Structuralism was the very first formal theory in psychology that distinguished it all from philosophy and biology thus establishing this as a separate field. Tichener, a student of Wilhelm Wundt, was the first one to define structural psychology. Tichener’s theories were heavily impacted by the work performed at Wundt’s first psychological laboratory (Goodwin, 2008).

Functionalism claims as consciousness lack a fundamental structure, making it useless to research it from this perspective. Rather, functionalism proposes that studying the activities and tasks of the human mind, apart from its structure, might be more fruitful. The focus of functionalism was on behavior (Goodwin, 2008).

Comparison Table Between Structuralism and Functionalism

Parameter of ComparisonStructuralismFunctionalism
Lead byWilliam WundtWilliam Jame
Primary methodIntrospection is indeed the examination and awareness of someone’s feelings, consciousness, and emotions.Using mental testing and behavioral methodologies, this course concentrates on applications.
Main focusConcentrate on the mind’s structure, which is, investigating consciousness by devoting attention to characteristics of the mind such as sensation, perception, etc.Analyze the functionality of the mind, — in particular, “why and how” the brain functions.
CriticismIt’s indeed overly subjective, and as a consequence, it is untrustworthy. Also, it places a lot of emphasis on interior conduct, which cannot be observed or assessed.It focuses on objective issues while ignoring the subjectivity of human mental processes.
Focuses onVarious brain elements and abilitiesAdaptations of the human brain to various settings

What is Structuralism?

Structuralism, often known as structural psychology, was a method of analyzing the human mind by identifying basic components inside it.

The emphasis was on these fundamental units. Introspection was used to examine the mind in order to create a relationship between various interior experiences, such as feelings or sensations.

This was the strategy that resulted in the establishment of the first psychology laboratory and the very first efforts at the scientific investigation of the human mind. The problem with structuralism, however, was that it was founded on an essentially subjective method – introspection.

The participants were required to concentrate on their emotions and sensations in order to file them to the experimenters; nevertheless, this strategy was based solely on subjective assessments, which restricted its accuracy.

When studying Structuralism, it may be viewed as a theoretical approach that emphasizes the importance of a structure in which all aspects of society are included. In linguistics, structuralists like Saussure emphasize how language has structure.

This may also be understood via the study of human culture, habits, and behavior in plenty of other disciplines such as psychology. Structuralism is more subjective and philosophical.

What is Functionalism?

Functionalism emerged as a reaction to structuralism, that was rejected in the United States. Structuralism was questioned by psychologists like William James, who advocated alternatives.

The mind and awareness, according to James, have a purpose, which seems to be the subject of research. He also emphasized that psychology should be practical rather than theoretical, as the structuralist approach recommended.

In addition, so instead of introspection, functionalism concentrated on more objective characteristics. James believed in awareness but couldn’t discover a scientific technique to investigate it, so he focused on behavior, which he could research objectively.

This also places a stronger emphasis on individual differences, which has had a bigger influence on schooling. The school of behaviorism and applied psychology has been impacted by functionalism.

This still has also had an impact on education and the academic system. It focuses on objective issues while ignoring the subjectivity of human mental processes.

Whenever a disruption occurs, it impacts not just a particular organization but also the overall balance of society. This might be interpreted as an example of societal instability.

Main Differences Between Structuralism and Functionalism

  1. William Wundt pioneered structuralism, whereas William James pioneered functionalism.
  2. Structuralism examines the structure of the mind, that is, the aspects of consciousness such as perception, feeling, etc, while functionalism examines the mechanism of the brain, that is, “why and how” the brain works.
  3. Introspection was utilized by structuralism, which was the examination and awareness of one’s consciousness, feelings, including emotions, whereas functionalism was the examination and awareness of one’s consciousness, feelings, and emotions. Using mental testing and behavioral methodologies, this course focuses on applications.
  4. Structuralism is criticized for being excessively subjective, resulting in a lack of trustworthiness. It also places a lot of emphasis on interior conduct, which cannot be observed or assessed. Functionalism, on the other hand, lacks objectivity and dependability because the collected data may not be quantified or analyzed.
  5. Structuralism became a component of experimental psychology, whereas Functionalism arose as a response or counter-argument to structuralism, influenced heavily by Charles Darwin’s hypothesis.


It’s apparent that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution captivated 19th-century psychologists, as evidenced by the hypotheses. Individuals and thinkers feel that consciousness originated primarily to serve a purpose in a person’s day-to-day actions. Both structuralists, as well as functionalists, share a huge focus mostly on the science of human consciousness, regardless of their distinctions. Regardless, both have made major contributions to psychological research and have had an impact on future thought, systems of thought, or schools of thinking.

The debate over how to explain human behavior and analyze thought began once psychology was established as a distinct field from philosophy. Evaluate these past concepts and their impact to gain a good grasp of how psychology evolved and developed to where it should be today.


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=88UCe6KEcLQC&oi=fnd&pg=PA429&dq=Difference+Between+Structuralism+and+Functionalism&ots=2EAtu8eZrB&sig=ipX3JxqgXL9zlvxVsB0uaGxWs6M
  2. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/284311