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Humanistic Psychology

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Humanistic Psychology emerged in the USA during the 1950's. The humanistic approach began in response to concerns by therapists against the perceived limitations of Behaviourism and Psychoanalysis. Individuals like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow felt that existing theories failed to adequately address issues like the meaning of behaviour and the nature of healthy growth. However, the result was not simply new variations on the then current theories, but rather a fundamentally new approach. There are several factors which distinguish the Humanistic Approach from other approaches within Psychology, including the emphasis on subjective meaning, a rejection of determinism in favour of individual choice, and a concern for positive growth rather than pathology. While one might argue that some psychodynamic approach theories provide an image of healthy growth (including Jung's concept of individuation), the other characteristics distinguish the Humanistic Approach from every other approach within Psychology. The basic assumptions of the humanistic approach are that behaviour must be understood in terms of the subjective experience of the individual, and that past or current circumstances do not limit behaviour. Human behaviour is not simply a response to an immediate stimulus. If you wish to understand behaviour, the humanists argue, you must understand the person producing the behaviour, including how the person sees the world - sometimes described as the phenomenological ...read more.


Maslow coined the term "The Third Force" to describe the humanistic approach, emphasising how it differed from the Psychodynamic and Behaviourist Approaches, which dominated psychology in the 1950's. His theory, under lines motivation as the key to understanding human behaviour. One difference between Maslow and Rogers is the importance that Maslow gave to peak experiences. Peak experiences are moments in life, which take us beyond our original thoughts, perceptions and feelings. Peak experiences arrive unexpectedly and transform the individuals understanding of themselves and the world. Because of the ambiguous nature of peak experiences, some psychologists are less comfortable with Maslows' theory than Rogers, which uses concepts more easily related to "mainstream" psychology. This may account for Maslow being viewed as less influential among therapists. Evaluating the Humanistic Approach by conventional scientific criteria is difficult because of its phenomenological emphasis. The sources of evidence used to reinforce the theories are almost entirely correlational (case histories and interviews), which in comparison to experiments do not produce falsifiable predictions. Although the Humanistic approach remains important, it has limited influence in psychological research because of its untestible ideas and emphasis on the experiences of the individual. Nevertheless in the past 30 years, few approaches in psychological thought have had as much influence on our culture as Humanistic Psychology. ...read more.


One of the greatest challenges involves the complexity of the human body. There are approximately ten billion neurons in the cortex of the brain alone, which are interconnected in diverse ways. In addition, there are countless chemical interactions involving neurotransmitters, hormones and neuropeptides, as well as considering environmental factors. This complexity makes achieving a complete understanding of the processes affecting behaviour a daunting goal. The second important aspect of the biological approach, is the role of heredity upon behaviour. The study of heredity involves both the direct study of genes and how they function, as well as looking at interactions between hereditary and environmental factors, by studying twins who have identical genetic makeups. Several twin studies of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have been carried out in recent years. These studies have pointed towards the high heritability for hyperactive symptoms. Genetic links have been found. Other research has shown that reading disability also shows moderate heritability - concordance for non-identical and identical twins are about 40% and 70%. Schizophrenia, mood disorders and anxiety is also heritable. Genetic influences are not limited to behavioural disorders; they also contribute to normal variations in personality and in cognitive abilities, as well as psychopathology. Recently, researchers have announced that the mapping of the human genome is nearing completion. Identifying our genes poses the possibility of understanding what role genetics plays in our Behaviour ?? ?? ?? ?? 4 1 ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

The writer has covered many of the important aspects of humanistic psychology in the first part of this work. However, there appears to be a disconnect between the humanistic approach and the last few paragraphs which go off on a tangent about biology and brain function. The first part of the writing could be improved by adding an introduction and some historical background as to why the humanistic approach emerged. A bit more detail about behaviourism and psychoanalysis would also improve the work.

Marked by teacher Linda Penn 26/03/2013

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