Functionalists believe that behavior can be understood by looking for patterns and understanding the purpose that they serve. To do this, they often use objective measures to quantify and analyze behavior. The following is an example of an objective measure used by functionalists:
Self-report measures are a type of questionnaire that people complete that assesses their thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. These self-report measures typically involve the individual rating items on a numerical scale. For example, a self-report measure might ask a person to rate how much they enjoyed a movie on a scale from 0-10.
Observational measures involve observing behaviors directly, often in a controlled laboratory environment. Observational measures involve quantifying behaviors, such as frequency or duration. For example, an observational measure might involve measuring how many times a person smiles in a five-minute period.
Physiological measures involve measuring physical responses, such as changes in heart rate, skin conductance, or brain activity. These measures provide an objective measure of a person’s reaction to a stimulus, such as a movie or task. For example, a physiological measure might involve measuring a person’s heart rate when they watch a scary movie.
Functionalists use objective measures to better understand behavior and the purpose it serves. Some common objective measures used by functionalists include self-report measures, observational measures, and physiological measures. Each of these measures provides a quantitative assessment of behavior and helps functionalists better understand behavior.