History of Psychology – Now for my favourite psychologist…

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog for ages, as it’s on one of my favourite psychologists; the humanist Abraham Maslow. The reason I like Maslow so much is that he was different from the psychologists before him:  he did not use psychology for looking at people’s symptoms, but instead for looking at the healthiest and most whole people- for example, he studied only the healthiest 1% of college students in most of his experiments.

Maslow continued Rogers’ optimistic approach to psychology, seeking to understand what drove the most successful and productive people. His theory was that people were driven by needs at 4 different levels, which correspond with the 4 ways of seeing the world that Existential Psychology talked about. Unfortunately,  I have no idea if this was coincidental or not. These levels formed his moderately famous Hierarchy of Needs, where the lower needs have to be met to enable later needs to develop and be met. However, there are flaws with this theory, such as why people who temporarily reach self-actualisation are able to ignore their other needs…a good example of this is the stereotype of the “starving artist”.

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History of Psychology -Carl Rogers

As I mentioned last week, Humanistic Psychology is based on aspects of life specific to humans, which borrows from Christian thoughts about the uniqueness of humans. The main areas of study include personal responsibility, values, and freedom, and it also studies the process of conscious experience (known as phenomenology, which is a very fun word to pronounce).

The Humanist psychologists believed that people were basically good, and everybody naturally wanted to be the best person they could. Rogers named this best version the “real self”, but later Humanists had different terms for it. For Rogers, people already have the ability to grow and solve their problems, they just need to be made aware of that. Related to that, he believed psychological problems weren’t inbuilt in a person but were caused by incongruence– the gap between their real self’s “I am…” and their learned views of “I should be…”.

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What happens when Philosophy invades Psychology…

In the last 200 years the dominant views in psychology have changed, and gradually became more complex and comprehensive. Despite this, many would argue that they are all flawed,  because they only use one thing to explain behaviour. E.g in behavioural psychology every behaviour is a learned association, in psychodynamic psychology almost every behaviour can be explained by unconscious conflicts.

In my opinion, reducing human behaviour down to one function means that a theory can never completely explain how we behave, as we are too complicated for that. Luckily, philosophy got to that conclusion years before I did.

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