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Humanistic School of Psychology - Essay Example

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Humanistic School of Psychology

Humanistic psychology emerged in the 1950s, the time marked by profound social changes, the onset of global movements, emergence of new scholarly paradigms questioning the traditional empiricist and positivist conceptions of the world and human being, the change in physics which "discarded the requirement of total objectivity and the complete separation of external world from observer", etc (Schultz and Schultz, 2004: 483). In psychology, these transformations took shape of the rise of cognitive and humanistic perspectives that actively criticized psychoanalytic theory for portraying people as being directed only by their unconscious wishes and irrational forces. They also did not support the behaviorist school because the latter viewed people as biological robots "who are mechanically programmed by the conditioning force of external stimuli" (Vander Zanden, 1993: 45).
These principles rely almost exclusively on the research and findings of two American psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, the brightest and most proliferate representatives of humanistic psychology.
The essence of Maslow's theory is the hierarchy of needs and "self-actualization" - development and self-improvement of personality. Human have a complex hierarchy of needs that emerge at the moment of birth (food, drink, shelter) and continue throughout life (social security, status attainment, etc). Visually, these needs are organized in the form of the famous 'pyramid of need' with physiological needs being at the bottom and self-actualization being at the top. Maslow believes that the lower layers of needs must be fulfilled first before passing over to the upper layers. However, it does not mean that each person must follow the same template: fulfilling the non-basic needs depends entirely upon the individual. Musicians must make music, artists must paint, and poets must write if they want to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be: they must be true to their own nature and if they are it is called "self-actualization". This category is less a need than a final development stage for the person (Maslow, 1987).
Poor amenability to being quantified and lack of predictive power is perhaps the most often mentioned drawback of Maslow's model: it is a general idea or shape that is descriptive and represents a great analytic interest. Maslow's theory is also weak on the exact points of transition. Thus, for illustrative purposes one may speak of someone's needs being 85% satisfied, but there is absolutely no possibility available to quantify the ...Show more

Summary

Humanistic psychology adopts a holistic approach to human personality viewing the human condition as one integrate unity, something more than a mere sum of physical, social, and psychological characteristics. Humanistic psychology is often referred to as the 'third force' in contrast to two major psychological schools that dominated in American psychology throughout the first half of 20th century, behaviorism (the first force) and psychoanalysis (the second force) (Vander-Zanden, 1993).
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