Episode #8 of the course “Major Schools of Thought in Psychology”
Humanistic psychology focuses on the whole person, and this school of thought recognizes that each individual is unique and people’s thought processes may be different from one another. This viewpoint is also unique in that it not only observes the individual’s behavior, it also considers that individual’s perspective of the situation. Like other schools, humanistic psychologists maintain that a person’s behavior is connected to their inner feelings and ideas of themselves. However, this type of psychology is often considered a rejection of both the behaviorist theories and the psychodynamic approach. It was particularly popular in the 1970s and 1980s.
One of the focuses of humanistic psychology is that individuals have free will, and therefore they have the ability to make their own choices and determine their own paths in life. Humanistic psychologists refer to this concept as “personal agency.” They also assume that all humans are basically good and that they have an innate desire to make the world (and themselves) better. The emphasis is on the person’s perception of their self-worth, creativity, and overarching human values. They place little value on objective reality and focus instead on the person’s perception of their environment and how it affects them.
Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow are both well-known psychologists who practiced humanistic psychology. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is very famous, focusing on the human desire to achieve all of one’s mental and emotional needs. Rogers describes this process of achievement as attempting to reach self-actualization. Only if the individual reaches this stage will they have true fulfillment and happiness in life.
Humanistic psychology completely rejects some of the more formal science-based methods of study. Instead, researchers use processes like journaling, open-ended questions, interviews, and observations to enhance their studies. They do not compare humans to animals in the way that other schools of thought have done. This focus on the individual has furthered education and workplace development in a very significant way.
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