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Humanistic Theory of Self

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Humanistic Theory of Self

The humanistic theory of self focuses on the aspects of personality that come together to make who you are, with particular attention paid to the theories exploring the concept of the self.

The founders of humanistic psychology are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Humanistic psychology takes a holistic viewpoint, viewing a person as a 'whole'. It came about as an opposite stance to prevailing branches of the time, behaviourism and psychodynamic theory.

Behaviourism reduces people's behaviour as only being a conditioned response. Psychodynamic psychology views behaviour as mainly due to unconscious thoughts. In addition, these branches of psychology tend to only focus on the negatives of human behaviour. Humanistic psychology celebrates the positive.

Let us now give an overview of the humanistic theory of self.

  • According to the humanistic viewpoint, we are all unique – there is no one else like you in this world. We all grew up with different experiences and surroundings, which shaped us individually.
  • Central to the humanistic theory of self is the idea of free will. Humanistic psychology believes that we all have the power to make our own decisions, choose what we will do with our lives, and shape our future. This is in contrast to theories such as behaviourism which have a determinism viewpoint, i.e. external forces shape our behaviour such as through conditioning.
  • Humanistic psychologists also believe people are inherently good and assume an idiographic approach.

Free will

We all have the power to make our own decisions, choose what we will do with our lives, and shape our future.

Humanistic Theory of Self, man meditating with a brain and leaves behind him, StudySmarterHumanistic psychologists view a person as a whole, unique being, driven to achieve their full potential, freepik.com/pch.vector

Humanistic theory of self-concept

The humanistic theory of self-concept was developed by Carl Rogers and had three components.

Self-concept

The view we have of ourselves, such as 'I am a smart person', 'I'm popular and people like me.'

Carl Rogers thought that self-concept was made up of three components: ideal self, self-concept, and self-esteem. The ideal self is who we would like to be, and our self-concept is how we view ourselves at the present moment. The relationship between our self-concept and ideal self affects our self-esteem.

Our self-esteem will be high if our self-concept is close to our ideal self (who we would like to be). However, if our self-concept is drastically different from our ideal self, our self-esteem would be low, resulting in incongruence.

Incongruence is where the ideal self and the self-concept do not match up, and Rogers believed this was one of the root causes of psychological problems people experience.

Humanistic theory of self [+] self concept [+] StudySmarterSelf-concept is the view we have of ourselves, www.freepik.com/vectors/perception, perception vector created by vectorjuice

An important part of the idea of self-concept is unconditional positive regard.

Unconditional positive regard

When a person is loved and accepted no matter their actions or mistakes

Unconditional positive regard is necessary for a positive self-concept.

Rogers believed that for a person to develop healthily, they need to be shown unconditional positive regard. When a child is shown unconditional positive regard, they feel safe and open to explore who they really are as a person, even if they sometimes make mistakes, which is crucial to the healthy development of the self.

People who are shown unconditional positive regard have a very close self-concept and ideal self. However, if a child is shown conditional positive regard (they only receive love and acceptance if they have behaved in a way their parents approve of) this can lead to incongruence between self-concept and ideal self. The child is not free to be who they wish to be and learns to only act in a way that pleases others. Their self-concept and ideal self are very far apart as they cannot be their ideal self, and their current self is shaped by approval from others.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs to explain human needs and motivation. The hierarchy starts with basic physiological needs such as food and shelter, and once we have these needs, we can move up the hierarchy until we reach the last stage of self-actualisation.

According to Maslow, the five stages of needs are:

  • Physiological needs

  • Security and safety needs

  • Love and social needs

  • Esteem needs

  • Self-actualisation

Let us take a closer look at each of these stages.

Physiological needs

These are the basic needs required for survival, such as food, water, and shelter.

Security and safety needs

Needs in this stage include things such as financial security and good health. Thus, some examples of things we do to satisfy this stage are finding a job and putting money away in savings.

Social needs

At this stage, the needs become emotional and include love, acceptance, and belonging. Thus, we may form romantic relationships and friendships, develop close bonds with family, join community groups, etc. Acceptance and belonging are core concepts at this stage.

Esteem needs

At this stage, people find it essential to be respected and appreciated by others. We want to accomplish goals and be recognised for our efforts. This stage also includes self-esteem and personal worth. We might achieve esteem needs by focusing on academic achievements, sports teams, and hobbies.

Self-actualisation needs

Self-actualisation refers to reaching our fullest potential and being the best that we can be, seen through being creative, self-aware, fully accepting, and dealing with change and the unknown. Maslow said about self-actualisation:

What a man can be, he must be.—A. Maslow (1954)

Humanistic theory of self [+] Maslow hierarchy of needs [+] StudySmarterMaslow's hierarchy of needs, commons.wikimedia.org, by Chiquo

Alternative theory: Eysenck's trait theory

Humanistic psychology emphasises that humans have free will and are unique; however, Eysenck's trait theory suggests there are several stable traits that people's personalities can be classed into. Eysenck believed that genetics determine our personality. He proposed there are three overall traits that people's personalities fall under. These traits are on a scale, so our personality differs as to where we lie on the scale regarding the traits. The three traits are:

  • Extraversion: extroverted people are sociable and outgoing. This trait lies on a scale ranging from introversion to extroversion. Introverted people need to be alone and spend time doing activities that don't involve others.

  • Neuroticism: this refers to emotional stability. This trait lies on a scale ranging from neurotic to emotionally stable. A neurotic person is anxious, has a poor emotional adjustment, and intensely experiences emotions.

  • Psychoticism: this personality trait was added later by Eysenck. People high on the psychoticism scale are independent thinkers, aloof, do not like to conform, spontaneous, anti-social, and hostile.

A strength of Eysenck's theory was that he tried to explain his findings scientifically. Such as he proposed that differences in extraversion were because of differences in cortical arousal; introverts get aroused much more easily than extroverts.

Key study: van Houtte and Jarvis (1995)

van Houtte and Jarvis (1995) conducted a study to investigate whether having a pet helps in the psychosocial development of children. The hypothesis was that owning a pet would lead to higher autonomy, self-concept, and self-esteem.

Participants

The participants were 130 American third to sixth graders. They were from various socioeconomic backgrounds and grouped into pet owners and non-pet owners. The children in the two groups were matched on parents' marital status, socioeconomic status, and number of siblings.

Procedure

Data was collected using questionnaires and interviews that measured autonomy, self-concept, self-esteem, and attachment to animals.

Results

The study found that having a pet led to higher autonomy for children of all grades. Sixth-grade pet owners had a higher self-concept. Fifth and sixth-grade pet owners had higher self-esteem.

Conclusion

Pets may have a great impact on children as they enter adolescence. Pets are a source of support and can help people suffering from low self-concept and self-esteem. This is because pets show unconditional positive regard towards their owners.

Limitations of the study

Let's evaluate the study.

  • The study was only conducted on American preadolescents, so the results cannot be generalised to other cultures and age groups.
  • The methodology may not have been the most suitable as quantitative data measured deep insights such as self-esteem.
  • Responses may not have been accurate as the children may have been affected by social desirability, so given responses; they thought they would make themselves look better.
  • The concepts measured were quite complex (e.g., autonomy, self-concept), so it may have been difficult for the children to answer.

Application of the theory: counselling

Counselling is where a client shares with the therapist the difficulties and struggles they have gone through, and the therapist listens and helps the client on how they can solve and improve their situation. The type of counselling that Rogers developed is called client-centred therapy.

This type of therapy assumes that each person is the expert in their own lives, and we have what is needed to grow and develop as a person. In client-centred therapy, the therapist shows unconditional positive regard to the client.

Client-centred therapy for depression

The therapist shows unconditional positive regard and empathy towards the client. The goal is for the client to work towards self-actualisation. The counsellor is genuine towards the client, so the client feels comfortable being who they really are.

Criticisms of the theory of self

While some famous names in psychology have proposed the theory itself, the name alone does not mean the theories are true. We need to evaluate them to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

  • It is difficult to provide research evidence of the theory as the ideas, in theory, are very subjective (self-actualisation, free will, unconditional positive regard). These ideas are difficult to measure objectively.

  • Not a lot of scientific evidence proves the concepts of humanistic psychology.

  • People are not as unpredictable as the theory suggests.

  • The theory focuses too much on individuals. This idea may be culture-specific as collectivist cultures such as in Asian countries focus more on working together for the benefit of the group and everyone in the group.

  • The theory does not consider genetics; 20-60% of a person's development is from genetics; thus, some aspects of our personality are determined at birth and cannot be changed through self-actualisation.

  • There are other explanations for personality traits, such as Eysenck's trait theory.


Humanistic Theory of Self - Key takeaways

  • The humanistic theory of self states that we are all unique. We all grew up with different experiences and surroundings, which shaped us individually. Humans have free will, which means we have the power to make our own decisions, choose what we will do with our lives, and shape our future.
  • Self-concept is the view we have of ourselves. Self-concept comprises three components: ideal self, self-concept, and self-esteem. Unconditional positive regard is when a person is loved and accepted no matter their actions or mistakes.
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an explanation of human needs and motivation. There are five stages that humans are motivated to achieve, starting from physiological needs and progressing towards self-actualisation, which is reaching our fullest potential, and being the best that we can be.
  • An alternative theory is Eysenck's trait theory. Eysenck believed genetics determine personality and that it lies in three overall traits: extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.
  • van Houtte and Jarvis (1995) conducted a study to investigate whether having a pet helps in the psychosocial development of children. The study showed that pets might greatly impact children as they enter adolescence. Pets are a source of support and can help people suffering from low self-concept and self-esteem. This is because pets show unconditional positive regard towards their owners.
  • An application of the theory in counselling. The kind of counselling that Rogers developed is called client-centred therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions about Humanistic Theory of Self

The humanistic theory of self states that we are all unique. We all grew up with different experiences and surroundings, which shaped us individually, assuming an idiographic approach. Central to the humanistic theory of self is the idea of free will. This means that we all have the power to make our own decisions, choose what we will do with our lives and shape our future.  

The founders of humanistic psychology are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. 

Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs, which explains human needs and motivation. There are five stages that humans are motivated to achieve, starting from physiological needs and progressing up towards self-actualisation, which is reaching our fullest potential. This includes: 

  • Physiological needs
  • Security and safety needs
  • Love and social needs
  • Esteem needs 
  • Self-actualisation

Humanistic psychology believes in free will, in contrast to behaviourism which has a determinism viewpoint, i.e. external forces shape our behaviour through conditioning.   

Humanistic theory is applied to counselling. Carl Rogers developed this specific type of counselling and called it client-centred therapy. 

Final Humanistic Theory of Self Quiz

Question

Who is regarded as the founders of humanistic psychology? (Two people)

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Answer

Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow

Show question

Question

What is the humanistic view of the self?

Show answer

Answer

According to the humanist viewpoint, we are all unique.  We all grew up with different experiences and surroundings which shaped us individually. 

Show question

Question

What is free will?


Show answer

Answer

We all have the power to make our own decisions, choose what we will do with our lives, and shape our future.

Show question

Question

How is free will in contrast to theories such as behaviourism?


Show answer

Answer

Other theories such as behaviourism have a determinism viewpoint; that is external forces shape our behaviour such as through conditioning. 

Show question

Question

Rogers suggested what three components when describing the self?

Show answer

Answer

Ideal self, self-concept, and self-esteem.

Show question

Question

How does the relationship between our ideal self and self-concept affect our self-esteem?


Show answer

Answer

If our self-concept is close to our ideal self, our self-esteem would be high. However, if our self-concept is drastically different from our ideal self, our self-esteem would be low. 

Show question

Question

What is unconditional positive regard?


Show answer

Answer

When a person is loved and accepted no matter their actions or mistakes.

Show question

Question

If a child is only shown conditional positive regard, how can this lead to incongruence between self-concept and ideal self?


Show answer

Answer

The child is not free to be who they wish to be and learns to only act in a way that pleases others. Their self-concept and ideal self are very far apart as they cannot be their ideal self and their current self (self-image) is shaped by approval from others.

Show question

Question

What is self-actualisation?


Show answer

Answer

Self-actualisation refers to reaching our fullest potential, being the best that we can be.

Show question

Question

What is Eysenck’s trait theory?


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Answer

Eysenck's trait theory suggests several stable traits that people’s personalities can be classed into. These are known as extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism, shown on a scale. 

Show question

Question

Eysenck proposed that our personalities can be classed into what three overall traits?


Show answer

Answer

Extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.

Show question

Question

What is neuroticism?


Show answer

Answer

Neuroticism refers to emotional stability. A neurotic person is anxious, has poor emotional adjustment, and experiences emotions very intensely. 

 

Show question

Question

What did van Houtte and Jarvis (1995) conduct a study to investigate?


Show answer

Answer

van Houtte and Jarvis (1995) conducted a study to investigate whether having a pet helps in the psychosocial development of children.

Show question

Question

What was the hypothesis of van Houtte and Jarvis (1995) study?


Show answer

Answer

The hypothesis was that owning a pet would lead to higher autonomy, self-concept, and self-esteem.

Show question

Question

What were the findings of van Houtte and Jarvis (1995) study?


Show answer

Answer

The study found that having a pet led to higher autonomy for children of all grades. Sixth-grade pet owners had higher self-concept. Fifth and sixth-grade pet owners had higher self-esteem. 

Show question

Question

van Houtte and Jarvis (1995) concluded that pets are a source of support, why may this be?


Show answer

Answer

Pets show unconditional positive regard towards their owners. 

Show question

Question

What is the kind of counselling that Roger’s developed?


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Answer

Client-centred therapy

Show question

Question

What is the definition of self-concept? 

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Answer

The self-concept definition is the image we paint in our head of how we see ourselves In terms of how we think about our skills, behaviours, thoughts, motivations and personality traits. 

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Question

What three components make up self-concept, according to Roger?

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Answer

  1. Self-image
  2. The ideal self 
  3. Self-esteem 

Show question

Question

What did Mann, Housman, Schaalma & de Vries (2004) find? 

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Answer

Mann, Housman, Schaalma & de Vries (2004) found a link between low self-esteem and mental illnesses such as depression, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, anxiety, substance abuse and violence problems. 

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Question

Why is a balance between self-image and the ideal self needed? 

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Answer

A balance between self-image and the ideal self needs to be maintained as self-image maintains an individual's reality and prevents people from 'getting out of touch with reality'. In comparison, the ideal self is needed to motivate and drive people to reach their full potential; self-actualisation. 

Show question

Question

What happens when there is an imbalance between self-image and the ideal self? 

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Answer

When there is an imbalance between self-image and the ideal self, this will negatively affect self-esteem. Lower self-esteem has been linked to physical and mental health problems. 

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Question

According to Rogers, what factors influence how the self develops? 

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Answer

  • Innate desires to reach self-actualisation 
  • Interactions experienced 

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Question

What factors influence self-concept? 

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Answer

  • Age 
  • Life events 
  • Mental health 
  • Social norms

Show question

Question

What is the definition of the ideal self? 

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Answer

The ideal self is the person you would like to become, whether this is specific skills, traits or even how you would like to look.

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Question

What is the definition of self-image? 

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Answer

Self-image is how you currently see yourself.

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What is the definition of self-esteem? 

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Answer

Self-esteem is how you evaluate yourself. For instance, if you have positive or negative feelings about how you view yourself. 

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Question

What is incongruent? 

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Answer

An incongruent person is someone whose self-image and ideal self do not match. 

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Question

What is Maslow's (1943) hierarchy of needs?

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Answer

Maslow's (1943) hierarchy of needs explores how people can reach their full potential by providing a pyramid (hierarchy) of needs a person must work through to achieve self-actualisation, the embodiment of their 'full potential'.

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Question

Humanistic psychology believes in _______.

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Answer

Free will.

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Question

Free will works alongside motivation to help a person achieve self-actualisation, true or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

What is self-actualisation, according to Maslow (1943)?

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Answer

Maslow uses self-actualisation to describe a person who has reached their full potential. They have reached the stage of realising their full capabilities. They have developed themselves to the point of truly appreciating the different aspects of life (e.g., through reflection and appreciation).

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Question

What quote summarises self-actualisation in Maslow's (1943) own words?

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Answer

"What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization."


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Question

What are the five levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory?

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Answer

  1. Self-actualisation (full potential)
  2. Achievement and esteem needs (achieving and gaining respect)
  3. Love and belonging needs (affection, acceptance, intimacy, and the sense of belonging, e.g., family)
  4. Safety needs (psychological and physiological, including financial safety, a home to live in)
  5. Physiological needs (water, food, sleep, reproduction)


Show question

Question

A person can reach self-actualisation without satisfying their other needs, such as physiological and safety needs, true or false?

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Answer

False, a person needs to meet their physiological, safety, love and belonging, and self-esteem needs first, according to Maslow. 

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Question

Is self-actualisation a common or rare achievement for people?

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Answer

It is a rare achievement; according to Maslow, many people do not reach self-actualisation. 

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Question

_____ _____ is a famous example of a person who Maslow believed had reached self-actualisation. 

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Answer

Albert Einstein.

Show question

Question

Those who have achieved self-actualisation tend to show what characteristics?

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Answer

  • Self-awareness
  • Creativity
  • Ability to deal with the unknown
  • Acceptance of others


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Question

How do we measure self-actualisation?

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Answer

In peak experiences, according to Maslow. 

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Question

Why is Maslow's hierarchy of needs important?

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Answer

It can help people identify areas of development, both in their personal and professional lives. 

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Question

Maslow has been criticised because he used biographies as evidence for his theory, true or false?

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Answer

True. 

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Question

Maslow's theory has been criticised because it does not account for those who have not followed the hierarchy but have achieved self-actualisation, true or false?

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Answer

True.

Show question

Question

What did Aronoff (1967) find in their study on fishermen and cane cutters?

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Answer

Aronoff (1967) found that fishermen had higher levels of self-esteem as they had worked through the hierarchy of needs and gone through more stages of the hierarchy compared to cane cutters. Cane cutters still struggled with the first stages of the hierarchy. Overall, the study supports Maslow's theory of needs.  

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