the humanistic perspective

'We fear to know the fearsome and unsavory aspects of ourselves, but we fear even more 

to know the godlike in ourselves.'

~ Abraham Maslow


Humanistic psychology emerged as a third force during the late 1950's in the United States as an alternative to the deterministic orientations of behaviorism and psychoanalysis. There was a powerful element of European existentialism and phenomenology present in its earliest years of development, but humanistic psychology has now developed into an eclectic movement that attracts a diverse range of theorists.

The influence of the zeitgeist in the 1960's in the United States, where the rights of the individual was an issue in both political and personal matters, was also important in the development of humanistic theories.

Humanistic psychology's emphasis on the possibility of personal growth and change found immediate acceptance among academics from various disciplines. In particular, much of its ideology appealed to those who wished to see fundamental changes within society. Assumptions such as the innate goodness of the individual, self-direction and human potential have attracted broad debate in diverse fields. 

The methodology applied by humanistic psychologists tends to use alternatives to those focusing on quantification and scientific rigour, but often produces useful data.

 Concepts from the humanistic perspective have been applied to many areas, including international relations, counselling, parenting classes, and personnel management. However, the humanistic perspective is not applied universally, perhaps because of its emphasis on the individual and its optimistic view of human potential. 


Historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the humanistic perspective:

  • humanistic psychology as a third force in reaction to previous deterministic perspectives
  • European phenomenology and existentialism

Contribution of the humanistic perspective to the study of behavior:

  • use of qualitative techniques
  • personality theories


Key Concepts:

  • peak experience
  • heirarchy of needs
  • congruence

Assumptions on which key concepts are based:

  • free will in humans
  • humans are intrinsically good
  • uniqueness of individuals
  • innate drive of humans to achieve their maximum potential

Theoretical explanations of behaviour:

  • self-actualization
  • facilitation
  • conditions of growth
  • unconditional positive regard
  • empathy
  • congruence



  • self-report
  • case studies, including archival research
  • Q-sort

Strengths and limitations of methods:

  • lack of scientific rigour
  • generation of useful qualitative data

Ethics and controversies of research:

  • accuracy of biographical data
  • relevance of phenomenological approach


Effectiveness (relative strengths and limitations) of the perspective in explaining psychological or social questions:

  • understanding of relationships, groups, and individuals, conflict resolution and cross-cultural understanding, and promotion of peace

Application of theories and findings of empirical studies from the humanistic perspective:

  • contribution of the humanistic perspective in areas such as education (for example, classroom management), work (for example, organizational management), or therapy (for example, different types of humanistic counselling). 




What I am is good enough, if only I would be it openly.

The good life is a process, not a state of being; it is a direction, not a destination.

The curious paradox is that when I can accept myself just as I am, then can i change.



 What is to give light must endure burning.

Those who have a 'why' to live can bear with almost any 'how'.

Ultimately , man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he should recognize that it (is) he who is asked.

 EXAM ESSAY and SHORT ANSWER QUESTIONS                                                                                                          

  • QUESTION 1: a) In the context of human behaviour, outline one theory from the humanistic perspective. [4 marks]
    b) Explain one way in which methodological or cultural considerations have an impact on the theory outlined in part a). [4 marks]

  • QUESTION 2: Examine the contribution of the humanistic perspective as an alternative approach to the psychological study of human behaviour. [20 marks]
  • QUESTION 3: (a) Identify two contributions of the humanistic perspective to the study of behaviour. [2 marks]
    (b) Explain and evaluate one of the contributions identified in 
    part (a) [6 marks]
  • QUESTION 4:  Identify and explain the strengths and limitations of humanistic explanations of human behaviour. [20 marks]
  • QUESTION 5: a) Outline two assumptions of  the humanistic perspective.  [4 marks]
    b) Evaluate one of the assumptions outlined in part a). [4 marks]

  • QUESTION 6: Examine the contribution and current standing of the humanistic perspective as an alternative to the scientific study of behaviour. [20 marks]
  • QUESTION 7: Explain how one historical or cultural condition has contributed to the rise of the humanistic perspective.  [8 marks]
  • QUESTION 8: (a) Outline one theory from the humanistic perspective.  [6 marks] 
    (b) Discuss how the theory outlined in part (a) has been applied.  
    [14 marks] 
  • QUESTION 9: (a) Describe one key concept used in humanistic explanations of behaviour.  [4 marks]  
    (b) Explain the assumption on which the concept chosen in part (a) is based. [4 marks]
  • QUESTION 10: Compare the humanistic and cognitive perspectives in terms of determinism and free will. [20 marks] 
    QUESTION 11: (a) Outline one research method (e.g. self-report, case study, Q-sort) used by humanistic psychologists. [2 marks] 
    (b) Explain one strength and one limitation of the research method outlined in part (a).  [6 marks]
    QUESTION 12: Discuss contributions of the humanistic perspective to the study of behaviour. [20 marks]
    QUESTION 13: (a)  Describe one method used by humanistic psychologists to collect research data. [4 marks]
    (b)  Explain how the method of data collection described in part (a) reflects the interpretation of behaviour from a humanistic perspective.  [4 marks]

    QUESTION 14: “The humanistic perspective’s universality is limited by its emphasis on the individual.”
    Discuss this statement using relevant psychological theory and/or research in your argument. [20 marks]
     QUESTION 15: (a) Outline one key concept associated with the humanistic perspective [4 marks]
    (b)Explain one assumption on which the concept outlined in part (a) is based  [4 marks]

    QUESTION 16:  Examine theoretical explanations of behavioural change from a humanistic perspective [20 marks]
    QUESTION 17: Explain the influence of one historical or cultural condition on the rise of the humanistic perspective. [8 marks]
    QUESTION 18:  Explain the extent to which human behaviour is self-directed, according to the humanistic perspective. [20 marks]  



- Humans are intrinsically good. 

- Humans have free will; not all behaviour is determined 

- All individuals are unique and have an innate drive to achieve their maximum potential 

- A proper understanding of human behaviour can only be achieved by studying humans - not animals.

 - Psychology should research areas that are meaningful and important to human existence, not neglect them because they are too difficult. Psychology should be applied to enrich human life.

 - Psychology should study internal experience as well as external behaviour. 

- Psychology should study the individual case (idiographic) rather than the average performance of groups (nomothetic). 

- The whole person should be studied in their environmental context

 humanism, overview

humanistic psychology 

  existentialism and humanistic psyc

existential therapy



humanistic psyc, zietgeist 

humanism as third force, pp 

existentialism, powerpoint




hierarchy of needs


peak experiences 

maslow biography 

maslow, power point 

maslow notes


rogers, empirical research 

rogerian therapy 

Here and Now


Unconditional Positive Regard

person-centered therapy 

person-centered approach 

Ideal Self



viktor frankl, biography 

viktor frankl, existentialism 

Man's Search for Meaning

Logo Therapy

viktor frankl institute 


Motivation/ Achievement



 rollo may, biography

rollo may, more info 

existential primer, rollo may 

rollo may, existential psychologist 

rollo may, first generation 

rollo may on myth 

the courage to create 

the courage to create, book summary 

the human dilemma, interview with rollo may 

Love and Will



ken wilber online 

transpersonal psychology

trans (individual); ego (personal)


all lines, all quadrants 


Positive Psychology

 emergence of positive psychology

positive psychology center 

applied positive psychology 

positive psychology + buddhism 



athletic burnout 

education in humanistic psyc 



criticisms and limitations, humanism 


Highlights the value of more individualistic and idiographic methods of study.

Emphasizes the importance of self-actualization, responsibility, freedom of choice, and social context in therapy.

Their belief in free will is in opposition to the deterministic laws of science.

They seek the unique aspects of individuals, rather than producing generalized laws of behaviour.

They investigate issues such as emotion and consciousness which are difficult to study objectively.

There is some question as to the cross-cultural relevance of the highly individualistic approach.

Qualitative data provides more holistic information, but also is more difficult to apply.