The roots of humanistic psychology are in humanism -- a point of view begun in classical Greek philosophy, lost during the middle ages, but reintroduced in the years before the Renaissance. Though the definitions of humanism vary, the main thrust is that the qualities of humans differ from the qualities of animals or of Gods. Humans have feelings, perceptions, intelligence, memory, free will, and self determination. They can carve out their own futures. Thus, humanists reject mechanistic explanations on the one hand and supernatural determinism on the other. Further, they feel obligated to care not only for themselves but for others as well. This latter point of view, known as humanitarianism, flourished at the end of the nineteenth century. The major characteristics of humanistic psychology thus appear to be self determination and social consciousness. The notion of self determination derives partly from the English (each man is equal and his future is not contingent on special status) and partly from German vitalism (there is within each person a force for growth and development). The notion of social consciousness is also English and partly French.

OUTLINE Definitions
Classical Meanings
Humanism in Different fields
Humanism in America
Humanistic Psychology
Applications of Humanism


1. What are the different definitions of humanism?
2. What are the classical meanings of humanism?
3. How is the term humanism used in different academic disciplines?
4. What is the relationship between humanism and humanitarianism?
5. What are Rogers' assumptions about growth and what is his therapy?
6. How has humanistic psychology contributed to the development of community psychology, human services, ecology, and human rights?


Producing a comprehensive definition of humanistic psychology is not easy. Humanism is not a theory, it a point of view about man. As in existentialism, attempts to define humanism produce controversy. Because existentialism and humanism both defy neat summary abstractions, the resulting untidiness is sometimes wearisome, though never dull. Either humanism covers everything in psychology or it covers nothing. On the one hand, it is so general as to represent no clear theoretical position; on the other hand, it is so vague as to be meaningless.

Vincent Cronin begins his 1971 article entitled "The Humanists" by stating that: "Humanism has become a catchword of our day, and like many a catchword is used vaguely and sweepingly." In order to clarify the meaning of the term he examines the works of the first humanists. We can perhaps do no less when attempting to define humanistic psychology.

Another writer, Perry (1956) begins his book The Humanity of Man with a chapter entitled, "The cult of humanism," and his first sentence is:

There is no logically or mathematically precise definition of humanism. The various meanings which are associated with the term are the reflections of different periods of human history and different personal and social contexts. If the word "humanism" is to be significant, it must retain this versatility as the name for a tendency or an emphasis which mirrors the ambiguity of man's nature.

Man springs from his physical nature; he also transcends that very nature by special faculties that he alone possesses. Thus, ". . . The humanistic model is neither natural man nor a supernatural substitute . . .," but both (Perry, 1956, p. 3).

Gabriel (1940), in his definition suggests that humanism is a point of view and an approach to living; it is not a philosophical system. The notion ". . . that human life is of supreme worth," is as old as Christianity. A corollary to that notion is that ". . . man must be treated as an individual, not as a means (1940, p. 374)."

Another writer, Singer (1931), suggests that humanists emphasized the importance of loving other human beings. The opposing point of view was that one loved argumentation and debate, activities perfected by the monastery "schoolmen" of the Middle Ages. But by the middle of the fifteenth century, Greek texts came into Italy. With the beginning of the printing presses, these works of antiquity, which placed a high value on the uniqueness of man, were reproduced. Some scholars thus began to identify not only with the ancients but with other men and with humanity in general. This led to a love of Greek and Roman antiquity and the classics. It also led to a hatred of Arabic, the basis for scholasticism. Subsequently, Latin and Greek names substituted for the Arabic words (Singer, 1931, p. 83-85).

These, then, are some general concepts of humanism. Let us turn now to what humanism has come to mean in the classical sense of the term -- not necessarily in the sense used in recent years by psychologists.

Classical Meanings

Before examining the meanings of humanism, let us identify who the humanists were. One can then return later to examine their writings in greater detail. Hough (1952) suggests that the great humanists were: Aristotle, Cicero, Erasmus, Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More. Toffanin (1954) states that history identifies the humanists as: St. Thomas, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Bruni. There are other lists but we wish to make only the point that the term "humanist" refers to diverse groups of individuals over a wide period of time. Not let us turn to some of the common classical definitions of humanism. There are three in number.

1. Anti-medieval. Humanism originally emerged as a reaction against the Middle Ages and the prevailing church dogma of the time. During the latter half of the thirteenth century, classical Greek and Roman scholars were rediscovered. These scholars had written from the point of view of humans, rather than from the point of view of supernatural beings. Thus, humanism is a reaction against Catholic church dogma and also the accompanying deductive, philosophical, and logicalistic thinking with which that dogma became associated. Though inductive thinking was not immediately embraced, scholars did shy away from the deductions that began with "legalistic," traditionalistic, religiostic, and perhaps authoritarian generalizations. Arguments were no longer resolved by looking to the scriptures and arguing over different interpretations of what was written there. This new climate of more independent thought thus provided a foundation for the Protestant reformation in the sixteenth century and the scientific revolution which followed later in the seventeenth century.

2. Return to antiquity. The onset of the Renaissance during the fourteenth century and later, led to a rediscovery of the ancients, particularly the Greek philosophers and dramatists. The emphasis by the ancients on human as opposed to superhuman qualities was the hallmark of the humanistic movement. This rediscovery of Greek writers supported a perception of man as the center of the universe rather than subordinated to an inferior position in the eyes of a God.

3. Historical perspective. Since the ancient past was admired, humanism has been sympathetic to a sense of history when examining culture and understanding one's place in the scheme of things. Although the humanistic psychology of today emphasizes the present rather than the past, appropriate recognition is given to the importance of gaining historical perspective. Just as an optical illusion provides space around figures in a painting, so an historical sense gives "time space" around persons. This space provides aids to persons as they attempt to develop their own individuality.

Humanism in Different Fields:

Because humanism has many connotations, there are different meanings of humanism in different fields. Now let us examine the definitions of humanism in different academic disciplines.

Political theory. A humanistic interpretation of the function of the state is that the state is to provide for protection and for the welfare of individuals. This may imply a democratic form of government. Or it may imply a utopian (non-competitive) society in which all the needs of the individual are met; thus, a totalitarian state.

Literature. The term humanism originated in literature and refers to the writings in the Classical Greek and Latin human documents, as opposed to those of the Catholic scholasticism of the Middle Ages.

Religion. A humanistic form of religion stresses ethics and the right relations among persons. It is opposed to either another world, or theism, a powerful figure beyond man (e.g. Emerson's notion).

Ethics. A humanistic ethic is one based on action rather than upon abstract absolute truths. Ethical principles are discovered pragmatically, by what works through trial and error rather than by abstract laws.

Science. A humanistic approach to science is one that emphasizes the importance of discovering techniques and laws which have practical value in solving the problems of humans. Marie Curie, Albert Schweitzer, George Washington Carver, among others, are examples of scientists who made sacrifices in order to contribute to the welfare of mankind.

Philosophy. A humanistic philosophy is one that echoes Protagoras' reminder that "man is the measure of all things." Thus, a relativistic philosophy, one that endorses a variety of values and life styles, would be more humanistic. Humanistic philosophy has been said to spawn current social movements (e.g, feminism, Black psychology, gay liberation, etc. which argue against categorical reasoning and Aristotelian forms of deductive thinking. Since these movements reject absolute life styles, they also reject the notion of "natural rights" and advocate the importance of changing values in a changing society.

Education. A humanistic educational system is one that values the education of the whole person (physical, intellectual, emotional) rather than of simply intellectual skills. Humanistic education may mean stressing education in the humanities (Greek and Roman classics, mythology, languages, literature) rather than in the sciences or the technologies (physics, chemistry, business, industrial arts, physical education, etc.). If humans are unique, then education is best which assists in the understanding of other's as well as of one's own cultural past.

Humanistic education is what distinguishes liberal arts colleges from technical schools, universities from colleges, B.A. from B.S. programs, M.A. from M.S. degrees, and general education studies requirements from the requirements in major fields, though in recent years, this distinction has become blurred, if not reversed.


Science and humanism have common roots.

Humanism and science have similarities and they have common roots; they are linked historically. Humanists said that man discovers truth for himself. Science said man discovers truth for himself. Both emerged during the Renaissance when man escaped from the bondage of established religion. Humanism has always championed man's search for freedom and for individuality. During the Renaissance, humanists condemned the church for not permitting man's attempt to discover himself. Science was thus indirectly supported.

The humanists believed that knowledge led to freedom. A corollary, then, would be that liberty requires understanding. Henry Adams, however, believed that knowledge merely increases energy, both good and bad (Gabriel, 1940, p. 375).

Although sometimes strange bedfellows, science and humanism both oppose authority in all its forms -- religious or political. Both scientists and humanists, concerned about the welfare of man, protest the subordination of man either to a supernatural God or to an all powerful state. Man, not a machine or supernatural being, is the center of all things. Individuals can discover truth for themselves. And in discovering truth, one becomes free -- free of both other humans and of a supernatural being. Humanism and science thus freed man from the shackles of both the church and the state -- traditional forms of authoritarian control.

Science and humanism both had practical values -- aiding man in his search for the good life. "Man the measure," a line by Protagoras and so basic to humanism,is apparently from Diogenes Laertius' Protagoras, though other authorities cite other sources. Nevertheless, most of what is known about Protagoras is from Plato's work by that name. The Greek sophists, who believed that man is the measure of all things, form the basis for the work of F. C. S. Schiller, "one of the leading exponents of pragmatism in Europe . . . disciple of Pierce and James(Sahakian, 1968, p. 268)." It was his views that became known as humanism. His book, Studies in Humanism (1907), listed seven principles of pragmatism -- mostly the idea that truth depends on application and that all meaning and mental life depend on purposiveness. Truth is individual, not universal, and depends on the experience of each person (Sahakian, 1968).

Humanism and science gradually became opposed.

If science had retained its more descriptive phase rather than becoming functional, science and religion (or humanism) would not have clashed but would have continued to be compatible. Before attempts were made to explain the origins and causes of phenomenon, the sheer empiricism of Bacon, early astronomy, biology under Linnaeus, and the work of the naturalists such as Audubon and Darwin and Galton, scientific findings and humanistic values could co-exist. This is illustrated in the writings of some of the earlier poets:

Those things are better which are perfected by nature than those which are finished by art. -Cicero

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.

All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

They required intuition and insight and intelligence and a sense of the beauty in ferreting out the subtle patterns and plans of God and the universe. These were the methods of Agassiz, of Goethe, of Audubon. The purpose of science was primarily to classify and to describe, which required seeing and hearing and becoming attuned to nature. Is it any wonder that many early scientists were also artists? The drawings and paintings of Audubon are not only informative, but they are masterful works of art.

But science changed its method. There was a greater emphasis upon functional relationships and explanatory concepts. And this change in method resulted in changes in theory. The newer methods of science in the nineteenth century increasingly used controlled laboratory studies. Experimental methods replaced naturalistic observation. Cause and effect studies were possible; they replaced geology, astronomy, and the more descriptive sciences. These cause and effect studies had immense practical applications. They suggested ways of changing agriculture and industry, and they influenced the production of foods and goods. And then, with the newer physiology, they suggested ways of changing the human body; with psychology, ways of changing the mind. Thus, the new science had immense applications for the betterment of mankind. But this created certain theoretical problems.

Before the industrial revolution, power was found in nature or in human effort. Hitherto man had used only the localized power of falling water and the fitful power of blowing wind. The only ready force had been the vital energy of man and beast (Rauschenbush, 1907, p. 214).

During the nineteenth century, however, the process of producing a better life was transferred from the effort of humans to that of mechanical objects. Science focused on improving the latter. This, in turn, provided opportunity for certain individuals to make profit through machinery. Materialistic science became mechanistic. This, along with the general disenchantment with the industrial revolution and the proliferation of routine and impersonal work, and the impersonal factory system, led to hostility towards science. Those who endorsed humanitarian ideals of religion objected to the impersonal nature of science to solve man's problems. Humanism, thus, was lauded for emphasizing the personal, human, and emotional; science was accused of being cold, materialistic, and deterministic. Some persons attempted to resolve the resulting friction between the two.

The noted Harvard philosopher, and editor of William James' letters, had this to say in the Preface to his book, The Humanity of Man:

". . . the central idea of the present book. . . is to help in rescuing the creed of humanism from its suicidal isolation and uniting it with the contemporary currents of thought and education which are classified as science. The central thesis of the present book is that humanism and science are fighting the same fight against ignorance and obscurantism. They belong together as the advocates of the free and adventurous mind. . . Man needs all of his sources of light. The tragedy of his intellectual history lies in the fact that one era considers it necessary to destroy its predecessors. They should combine their efforts against the forces of darkness. Man needs all of his centuries, not only the thirteenth but the tenth, not only the eighteenth but the thirteenth. This reconciliation and conservation of truths is the only philosophy of history which passes the test of history and philosophy themselves (Perry, 1956, pp. v-vi).

American humanism.

In the twentieth century, humanistic interest thus flourished again because modern science had progressed too far. The deterministic assumptions of science belittled the freedom of man to choose his own destiny. Pavlovian conditioning and Freudian psychoanalytic theory were but two major examples within psychology.

In America, humanism received a great boost from C. S. Norton. The Archaeological Institute of America, which he helped to found and where he taught, eventually gave America that sorely needed sense of communion with the past of Athens and Florence. Unfortunately, however, the new America soon seemed destined to follow the-more practical and emerging new pragmatism, the literature of Zola, the world of William Randolph Hurst, and the scholarship of Gottingen. As Vanderbilt (1959) suggests:

Norton's work in opposing this trend helped to prepare the ground for the "New Humanists," Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More, whose early writing he heralded in the years just before his death. As a last survivor of an earlier society in New England, Norton thus provides the continuity between Emerson's America and a revitalized humanism in the twentieth century (Vanderbilt, 1959, p. 184).

Norton reserved his sharpest attacks for his cousin, President Eliot of Harvard University. Eliot introduced more independent study, applied subjects, and personally relevant courses for the individual student when changing the Harvard curriculum. Many of the required classics were dropped when an elective system was introduced. As a Harvard professor of the history of art, Norton decried the practical materialistic trend. He saw the modern world as base and ugly. A missionary for taste, he thought it could be saved (Brooks, 1940, p. 251). In these matters, Norton accused Eliot of bowing to the increasing materialism which was capturing America and warned it would ruin Harvard.

A half century later, Foerster, a leading humanist, wrote that humanism was a new force in America. By this he meant that the proper study of mankind is man; but that the critics claimed that humanism was: l) academic; 2) unamerican; 3) reactionary; 4) puritanic (1930, p. xi). A decade later, Joseph Wood Krutch in a book entitled The Measure of Man, wrote a stinging indictment of B. F. Skinner. The era of German influence on the university system, emphasis upon the accumulation of knowledge for the purpose of improving technology, was thus fast coming to an end.

But because science and humanism were frequently linked, humanism was discredited along with science. Critics attack John Dewey, for example, as being "too humanistic and too scientific," because he honors man by elevating him to the highest position in the universe. Dewey says God exists only because man has constructed God in his process of living.

Since both humanists and scientists oppose religion, doctrinary religionists are quick to condemn humanists as being too cold and scientific, and failing to include the "spirit" or the mystery of God or religion in their systems.

Almost in the same breath today you can hear "humanism" both attacked and lauded. Some have long argued that humanism grew as institionalized religion decreased. On one Sunday morning (Feb. 1, 1981) Jerry Falwell could be heard on television blaming the ills of the nation on the humanists who had reduced everything to materialistic, coarse, and scientific terms. Religion somehow had a mission; it was to combat this onslaught of humanistic atheism. And then, on the same day, a Unitarian minister in San Francisco attacked the moral majority and claimed that the world could be saved only by discovering the saving graces of humanism -- a religion sensitive to the needs of persons and not subjecting individuals to supernatural and impersonal gods. Humanism, it was claimed, brought forth the best and the most spiritual in each person. In the same week, a minister for the moral majority was asking that the story of creatiOn be taught in the school; his defense for so doing was that a kind of religion, humanism, was already being taught in the school. He noted that John Dewey, in his humanistic philosophy behind progressive education, had changed education in such a way as to be teaching a religious bias; and that this contention had been supported by a Supreme Court ruling.

Religion declines.

During the 1930's and the 1940's, when humanistic psychology first emerged, organized religion was at its height in the United States and was the major source of humanitarian programs. Churches supported many early educational systems to educate the poor and the large number of immigrants. Settlement houses (which were centers for activity, learning, and play) and other social work movements such as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the YMCA, Boy/Girl Scouts and various youth groups, all were private endeavors and had direct or indirect ties to established religion.

It is not clear whether religious institutions declined because the state assumed many of these functions or whether the state grew larger because religion declined. But following the depression and especially after World War II, generous government benefits to aid returning GI's and their families were available. The presence of the government was more keenly felt. When religion declined, psychologists, social workers, and especially educators who followed Rogers and Maslow and championed the role of a "helping relationship," filled the resulting void. Concurrently, the state provided unparalleled funds for public services. Those believers in individual development saw the church collapse and looked to the state to take on the helping functions. This was really a return to a humanitarian, though not necessarily humanistic, ethic.

Then, in the 1950's, humanistic psychology emerged. This confused and muddied the waters more. The kernel idea of humanistic psychology was that humans, not white rats, should be the center of study. The conception of man should be based on a purposive organism, not the mechanistic models so prevalent in psychoanalytic and behavioristic theories. But by discarding these earlier two popular American systems, the humanists also discarded scholarly approaches to academic study which were associated with these mechanistic models.

Humanistic psychology came to stress action rather than abstractions; personality theory rather than sense perception and learning theory; and personal identity and individualism rather than mechanistic or deterministic conceptions of man.

As can be seen, a coherent theory to encompass all these points of view does not exist. What does exist is an emphasis on action, welfare of the individual, and practical solutions to problems. Part of the confusion resides in the fact that the notion of humanism and humanitarianism have been confused. Let us consider these two concepts, a distinction first proposed by Irving Babbitt.


The terms humanism and humanitarianism are frequently confused. Many persons use the term "humanist" when they really mean "humanitarian." The first refers to a modern, the other to a modernist. One values poise and proportion, the other feeling and sentiment. The humanist, as in modern man, attempts to keep the areas in his life in balance, no one side (heart or head) overruling the other. All is in proportion. Poise, the weight on a balance scale, is what weighs -- what produces balance. Poise is rest and suspended motion or action; it may lead to suspense and indecision. Proportion implies equality and symmetry. The humanist, according to Babbitt, is thus balanced and seeks symmetry and balance in his life -- the antithesis of a dynamic approach. This can be illustrated by comparing, for example, a Renaissance painting by Rembrandt or a drawing by Leonardo DaVinci or the Gothic architectures on the one hand to the active, dynamic painting of a Picasso or Kadinsky or Miro on the other hand. The difference can be found in whether it is thought or feeling that is emphasized as the measure of man.

The modernist, the humanitarian, on the other hand, believes that feeling is a measure of man; he believes that man in his natural state is basically good, as thought Rousseau, while the existentialist believes that man is basically bad, as i World War II. The humanitarian possesses a will to serve. This will to serve may be either an emotional, sentimental feeling or a utilitarian scientific approach. The social worker who believes that some kind of immediate aid and service is necessary, unencumbered by bureaucratic restrictions, is a humanitarian. Some persons, like Walter Lippman, discarded feeling and substituted scientific "objectivity" for handling feelings. This would be scientific humanitarianism and a form of naturalism.

The humanitarians, according to Babbitt, whether of the sentimental or the utilitarian brand, do not advocate restraint or balance. Sympathy for and patronage towards the poor was advocated and was rooted in historic religion. Hebrew prophets, for example, preached that righteousness was demanded by God. This righteousness was not personal but social morality.

Humanitarianism emerged full blown during the nineteenth century. Many persons had grand plans for saving the world: the missionaries, through conversion; the eugenicists (e.g. Galton) through selective breeding; and the social workers, through social planning.

This missionary zeal has penetrated twentieth century culture. Psychology, finally caught up in the 1970's,developed a parlance of euphemistic phrases such as "community psychology" and "human services." Legal services are contracted by the American Psychological Association to defend social issues. Many claim that our complex society demands large scale and concerted efforts at attacking poverty, ignorance, and demoralization. Others, however, claim that those evils in society are produced by the very corrective measures designed to cure them.

The humanitarian movement in the United States centered around two issues -- slavery firstly and of public education secondarily. Horace Mann was the champion of both. Slavery was condemned because it treated persons as property. If persons were property than free expression became inhibited. If free expression is inhibited than a democracy becomes untenable. The anti-slavery movement, therefore, celebrated both individual freedom and individual expression. That was also the focus of the humanitarian movement. The issue was moral. Both the anti-slavery and the humanitarian movements attracted persons who believed that what they were doing was right. They were moralists; and they believed in absolute rights. Since they possessed the answers, they also felt obligated to inform others and to enforce those rights by instituting laws regulating human conduct. They believed that the enforcement of these rights was not only possible but necessary and that the agency to do so was the federal government.


There is . . . an attribute that seems to me the most characteristically and uniquely human of all: the desire to experience new and emergent value satisfactions. . . it is characteristic of man never to be satisfied. . . As soon as a person becomes aware of some new potential satisfaction he apparently wants to experience it for himself (Cantril, 1961, pp 9-10).

Hadley Cantril believed that living things possessed attributes not found in the parts. This holistic approach contained assumptions that the human condition possessed the characteristics of faith, hope, and aspiration. These value laden attributes were concerns of Cantril during the l950's. Kilpatrick (1969) suggests that the current use of the term humanistic psychology stems from an article by Cantril in 1955 called Toward a Humanistic Psychology.

But the roots of humanistic psychology can be traced earlier to the personality theory of Gordon Allport in the 1930's and early 1940's, and later to the self actualizing theory of Abraham Maslow. Allport gave birth to a new science of psychology called personality, when he proposed the concept of functional autonomy to account for the uniqueness of individual behavior. But Allport, given a limited hearing, was overshadowed by the behaviorists. It was not until American writers, reading extensively, were influenced,after World War II, by European writers. The social climate of the times was not the sole contributor to the development of humanism, because the social conditions were similar to those after World War I, when a different kind of psychology (behaviorism and psychoanalytic theory) developed. The influence of European culture and literature,combined with the times,were contributing factors.

Europe has always been a source for humanistic writers -- French, German, Italian. There had been a Goethe Camus, Spranger, and the sociologists. The emphasis upon drives and individual motives made the European psychoanalytic writers more humanistic than behavioristic. Psychoanalytic theory thus became more relativistic. Personal underlying conflicts and unconscious processes, rather than a priori moral principles, explained individual behavior. Morals became relative. William James' stream of consciousness was more believable. The mind, rather than the body, was acceptable again. The mind included individual choices, responsibility for choices, consequences for choices. It was a slow dissociation from the Darwinian revolution. That was the turning point.

Albert Ellis, in his tribute to Adler on occasion of the latter's 100th birthday in 1970, said that Adler founded ego psychology which Freudians only recently rediscovered and that he was one of the first humanistic psychologists.

Major Assumptions:

Humanistic psychology contains one core idea, namely, that man is "involved in life rather than an abstraction from life." This basic tenet is shared with existential psychology. Although there is small difference between these two schools, the humanists value acting or doing in life rather than contemplating about life. The acting and doing are more than existing and responding to the demands of life. The action is to be socially constructive and reciprocally supportive among members of a society. Humanistic psychology, as humanism in all ages, elevates for worship those characteristics uniquely human, not animal or inanimate. Human action is valued and evaluated in terms of ethical standards.

Charlotte Buhler (1967) summarizes humanistic psychology as a concern with wholes, idiographic methods, the understanding psychology of Dilthey, Spangler, Brentano and Husserl, biographical methods, and Bugental's concept of the authentic self. Humanistic psychology also studies the self as object (in Murphy's sense) and the self as "core" used by Allport, Horney, and Fromm. Humanistic psychology centers on both values and wills.

There are three basic assumptions of the humanistic school. We will examine each of these in turn. Each assumption implies that each person is different; generalizing about persons, therefore, is fruitless. Since the business of science is to systematically discover similarities in nature and to arrive at general laws, humanism seeks to demolish a science of psychology.

It also precludes an applied psychology, though not an action psychology. Since the individuality of each person demands individual relevance, it is presumptuous for one person to design programs for other persons. The three assumptions in humanistic psychology are as follows:

Unnecessary abstractions.

Labeling, categorizing, and interpreting, are all processes involving abstractions. Abstractions are criticized by humanists because they supposedly involve value judgments of the action. Here is a major fallacy of humanism. To label or to classify is not necessarily evaluation. To be sure, when one evaluates he necessarily places the subject into a category. To judge a book as good, bad, cheap, expensive, or stimulating necessarily involves classification. But the converse, that judgments necessarily follow from classification, does not necessarily hold. When one categorizes or classifies, he does not necessarily evaluate. The whole history of science, especially those descriptive sciences of geology, biology, and astronomy, illustrates the effort to sort the world into relatively neutral classificatory groups.

Growth potential.

A second assumption of the humanistic school is that each person possesses a growth potential which motivates one to realize and to develop into whatever they are to become. But R. S. Peters, in his book, The Concept of Motivation, has this to say about Maslow's concept of growth motivation:

This is back to Herbert Spencer with a vengeance. Moral philosophers have never been able to make much of the concept of "self actualization" when it has been used as an over-all end to justify actions. To use it as a concept to explain them seems scarcely an encouraging move (Peters 1960, p. 134.


A third assumption is that persons are basically spontaneous. Each person possesses the capacity to be creative. Since humans are spontaneous, many humanistic psychologists seek ways of encouraging, nourishing, and cultivating creativity, spontaneity, and imagination. An example of this is found in Gestalt theory where learning is assumed to occur by insight rather than by accumulation of habit patterns.

These assumptions in humanistic psychology have early roots. The notion of spontaneity goes back to Aristotle, as most concepts do, sooner or later, and to Augustine. The whole humanistic point of view is a continuation of the vitalistic movement which was almost discarded in the nineteenth century. Vitalists maintained that explanation of human behavior required human concepts, not explanation by analogy from animal behavior. Human phenomena involved not only motion but a life seeking and life propelling drive. There was within each individual a tendency to seek, to strive, to preserve that which was basically human. Vitalism, in contrast to mechanism of the mid-1850's to mid-1950's, attracted such persons as: Stahl, McDougall, Lamarck, Carpenter, Fichte, Schelling, and LeConte. Vitalism was a part of the psychology of becoming.


Research Methods

Humanists advocate that the study of psychology should use two major methods-- the idiographic method and the biographical method. Gordon Allport, in books he published in 1937 on personality, advocated the use of these two methods. The idiographic method, a term Allport borrowed from Wildebrand, refers to examining individuals as unique data rather than comparing an individual to group norms. Conclusions, therefore, are about the individual; they are not deductions from a group norm. Evaluative judgments are to be avoided. The second method, the biographical method, makes the study of psychology more personal and less abstract.


Most the applied work in humanistic psychology centers around some form of therapy or counseling. The leading person in the field is Carl Rogers, the most influential and most well known of the group. His work will be examined separately in the next section. Other leaders are Bugental, Moustakas, and Buhler.

Bugental (1967) claims to be the founder of the humanistic movement in psychology. As a graduate student at Ohio State University, he studied under George Kelly and Victor Raimy, and was awarded the Ph.D. there in 1948 for a dissertation entitled, "An investigation of the relationship of the conceptual matrix to the self concept." His dissertation was based on the dissertation by Raimy, a work which influenced Roger's thinking about non-directive therapy. In a sense, then, Raimy is the child who becomes father to the man of humanistic psychology.

There are two journals which publish extensively in the field of humanistic psychology: The Journal of Humanistic Psychology and The Journal of Existential Psychology. A division of humanistic psychology has recently been formed within the American Psychological Association.

Charlotte Buhler actively supported the development of humanistic psychology. During the years 1926-1938, she and her husband, Karl, directed the Psychological Institute in Vienna to which students were attracted because of the scholarly pursuits of Buhler and the clinical activities of Freud. Then, in 1939, the Buhlers migrated to the United States and were later affiliated with the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles. The research which they did on creative thinking and the use they made of the interview as a technique in their cognitive studies, both contributed to the idiographic approach for which both Allport and Piaget later became known.

Carl Rogers. The clearest voice in both phenomenological and humanistic psychology has been that of Carl Rogers. He has enjoyed a longer bit of recognition than any other humanistic psychologist. His point of view sometimes seems to border on the religious. And his attacks upon Freudian theory and traditional clinical psychology, have been noteworthy. Rogers had been influenced by both Otto Rank and Frederick Allen, both of whom had attacked Freudian psychology.

Visit a web site created by the daughter ofCarl Rogers.

But Rogers' attack upon established clinical psychology was more by chance than by design. His intent was not to develop a comprehensive theory. As a matter of fact, he was long criticized for being satisfied with a mere empirical approach, a technique which seemed to work, and for which there was little theoretical basis or research support.

Rogers' position has been that reality is what each individual perceives the world to be. There are, therefore, many realities. The purpose of the therapist is thus to help the client understand his own perceptions and thus his own reality. If the client finds that reality uncomfortable, the perception is modified to provide a more comfortable existence. A person's historical past receives very little attention. The phenomenal present and the immediate experience become the focal points in therapy. Rogers, not too unlike Wundt, uses introspective reports to understand the human mind. While Wundt hoped to explain the generalized human mind, Rogers sought to understand a unique individual. Each sought to comprehend the structure of the mind; as such, they were psychologies of content.

Rogerian therapy avoids, where possible, interpretations of client behavior or placing the client in a theoretical mold. Therapy facilitates client self understanding and acceptance. The verbalizations of the client, not those of the therapist, are important. The therapist indicates his acceptance, though not necessarily approval, of the client. Through certain non-verbal forms of communication, the client must learn to accept and feel comfortable with himself; this is the criterion of whether therapy has been successful.

In formulating his interviewing techniques, Rogers was influenced by a number of persons. Though he makes only limited reference to the contribution of others, the following persons are listed by Matarazzo as influential in Rogers' thinking: Frederick Harold Allen, Otto Rank, Jessie Taft, Leta Hollingsworth, Goodwin Watson, and E. K. Wickman (Wolman, 1965, p. 408).

The techniques which Rogers developed in the 1930's paralleled a phenomenological point of view. When he completed his undergraduate work, Rogers attended Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he studied for the ministry. There is no indication that Union seriously influenced the direction of his psychological activities or his theoretical point of view. After he left Union, he went to Rochester, New York. There, between 1930 and 1939, he was first psychologist for and then director of the Rochester Child Guidance Clinic. Because of his success in working in that capacity with problem children, he was invited to join the faculty of Ohio State University where he went in 1940 and remained until his departure for the University of Chicago in 1945.

While at Rochester, Rogers met many influential individuals in social work education and practice. These persons possessed a phenomenological point of view or a classical Freudian orientation. One of these persons was Frederick Harold Allen. Not only did Allen contribute greatly to the education of social workers but he also influenced Otto Rank who, in turn, influenced Carl Rogers.

Frederick Harold Allen. Born on December 6, 1890, in California, Allen went on in his education to receive the M.A. degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1912, he represented the United States as an athlete in the Running Broad Jump, as a member of the U. S. Olympic team. He obtained his M.D. degree at Johns Hopkins University. While there, in Baltimore, he was supervised in his psychiatric training, by Adolf Meyer. Then in 1925 he organized the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic. Among the several persons whom he asked to assist him was Phyllis Blanchard, who became the chief psychologist for the clinic and remained there until her retirement in 1956.

Allen, professionally active, was president of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child Psychiatrists, the American Association of Psychiatric Clinics for Children, the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Association, the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society, and the International Association of Child Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines. He was also the first Chairman of the Board of Certification in Child Psychiatry, a subspecialty of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. In 1953, he received the LL.D. degree from the University of California (Allen, 1963).

Some of the therapeutic techniques which Allen used were borrowed from August Aichhorn,a Viennese educator who became a psychoanalyst. Aichhorn was an early innovator in the use of residential treatment for delinquent children. He established two reformatories which became models for an inspiration to establish other schools, such as Bettelheim's orthogenic school in Chicago. In his book, Wayward Youth, Aichhorn asserted that children needed a therapist who possessed a warm ego and was an ideal figure. Allen adopted this same point of view. But while Aichhorn trusted education as a potent force for change, Allen believed that a creative potential within children produces healthy development. Allen believed strongly in two notions: a) individual development, and b) some force or vital principle which directs development.

Allen's developmental principle of growth, basic to all species, includes two parts: differentiation-integration, and spontaneity. The first principle suggests that the organism goes through a process of differentiation very similar to self differentiation and then goes through a process of integration of the individual parts or cells. The second and more valued principle, was that of spontaneity. The one important function of therapy, Allen believed, was to maintain spontaneity. Allen believed that traditional therapy, with its authoritarian methods, inhibited the latent creativity which contributes to spontaneity (Rotter).

This spontaneity in children has been said to arise from a creative force. This concept of creative force is similar to the notion of will, as used by Otto Rank. Allen refers to this concept of Rank, as can be seen from a reading of Psychotherapy with Children, (1942, p. 102). There, Allen quotes from page 50 of Rank's Beyond Psychology, where will is defined as:

. . . that autonomous organizing fore in the individual which does not represent any particular biological impulse or social drive, but constitutes the creative expression of the total personality and distinguishes one individual from another.

Allen had a considerable influence upon other persons. In 1963, a group of 55 psychiatrists and psychologists, trained at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, formed an alumni group. From this group, a committee of Evelyn Alpern, Exie Welsch and Paul Zurich arranged for a collection of Allen's writings to be published by Norton in 1963 as Positive Aspects of Child Psychiatry.

One can observe, then, a chain of ideas stretching from Rank and Allen and Taft to Rogers and his notions of non-directive therapy. Frederick Allen was a major link in that chain. It was Allen, also, who was instrumental, along with Southard, in starting psychiatric social work as a new profession. In 1912, Ernest Southard had founded the Boston Psychopathic Hospital. In 1913, he inaugurated there a training program for psychiatric social workers. Psychiatric social work thus got its start both in Boston and in Philadelphia. There was one difference. Southard in Boston worked primarily with adults. Allen, who had founded the Philadelphia School of Social work, worked with children.

Allen was successful in attracting the services of a variety of persons in the mental health field to assist in his undertakings. During the 1930's, he presided over a series of lectures called Theories of Personality Development (Taft, 1958, p. 204), which were offered at the School of Social Work at Philadelphia. These lectures were given by Otto Rank and such other distinguished personages as William A. White, Adolf Meyer of Johns Hopkins, and Franz Alexander of Chicago.

There appears to be more than just an indirect relationship between Rank and Rogers. In 1936, after the Philadelphia School of Social Work had been founded, Otto Rank was invited by Rogers, who was then Director of the Rochester Child Study Department, to give a seminar in Rochester, New York. This seminar was designed for professional social workers and educators (Taft, 1958, p. 215). Although Rogers was not particularly impressed with Rank's theories, he was intrigued with Rank's therapeutic techniques (Rogers, 1967, p. 360). Industrial-Organizational Psychology

During the decade of the 1970's, humanistic psychology made inroads upon what had traditionally been considered a tough minded field -- industrial psychology. Industrial psychologists were tough minded because technological application to industry was based on research conducted in traditional experimental laboratories. This research was based on principles from the fields of perception, learning, and motivation. Careful observations were made. The environment was manipulated to determine the effects of various stimuli on increased worker productivity and morale. The ultimate goal was to discover how the human organism could be accommodated to the machine. This was applied experimental psychology.

The Westinghouse studies, recently criticized (Bramel and Friend, 1981) for yielding erroneous conclusions, had originally and for many years suggested that employee productivity could be improved by increasing the amount of attention accorded to company employees. These and other studies, such as Murray's work on personality and Lewin's novel studies on social facilitation in groups, all served to lead attention away from mechanistic analyses of sensation and attention and to focus instead upon interpersonal variables. The variables (attention, affiliation, group cohesiveness, etc) could be manipulated by the social scientist.

This resulting change of emphasis accompanied by corresponding changes in educational philosophy, developed by John Dewey, and the new educational psychology outlined by Sidney Pressey, along with developments in the newly emerging science of sociology, coalesced into a boom for social psychology. This in turn fed back into the new field of industrial/organizational psychology. Many companies were quick to institute training programs for management personnel, workshops for employees, and sharing sessions where employee and management could cooperatively discuss their common goals.

While it is too early to tell, it is not unreasonable to suspect that extensive government funding of many research and applied programs as well as the public's insistence upon civil rights, minority programs, and affirmative action commitments, have contributed greatly to a humanizing environment. The withdrawal of federal funds undoubtedly will mean that the profit motive will demand greater efficiency as defined by machine systems.

Community Psychology -- Human Services

A new field of applied psychology, and one closely identified with both clinical and social psychology, has been variously called community psychology or human services. These may be euphemistic labels coined in the 1960's and 70's, but abhorrence of civil rights violations at home and international conflict in Vietnam, stimulated interest in a new frontier dedicated to applied problems. This frontier recognizes that complex societies need special assistance in helping relationships. Since monolithic businesses and also governments tend to depersonalize the average individual, specialized help has been called for. Thus, the new social psychological generation is dedicated to assisting, by a variety of techniques, minority groups, oldsters, handicapped children, and others. This work replaces what was once the major activities of religious bodies. Whether a new professional group and possibly professional elite emerges is yet to be seen. But the seeds are there.

Adler, Alfred
Allport, Gordon
Angyal, Andras
Babbitt, Irving
Bacon, Francis
Bugental, J.F.T.
Buhler, Charlotte
Cantril, Hadley
Cicero, Marcus
Combs, A.W. (and Snygg, Donald)
Comte, Auguste
Dewey, John
Fromm, Erich
Goldstein, Kurt
Horney, Karen
Huxley, Julian
James, William
Jung, Carl
Maslow, Abraham
May, Rollo
More, Paul Elmer
Moustakas, Clark
Murphy, Gardner
Murray, Henry
Rogers, Carl
Schiller, F.C.S.
Skinner, B. F.


ego transcendence
psychological health
self actualization
unconditional regard

Module 2

Mark the following items as T or F, and then score yourself from the key at the bottom of the page. When you have finished, go back and change the false statements in several different ways to make them true statements.

NOTE: The page numbers in parentheses are only approximate, having been changed with this printing.

1. is opposed to the medieval ages (11).

2. favors a return to the ancient Greeks (11).

3. favors the present (11).

4. favors the historical past (11).

5. believes that values are absolute (13).

6. believes that values are relative (13).

7. values authority (13).

8. Truth depends on applications, pragmatism, and on purposiveness. (13)

9. Much of the concern in education with applied courses and practical experience is in the humanistic tradition (13).

10. Humanistic psychology stresses ideas and abstractions rather than action (13).

11. Humanists are interested more than humanitarians in feelings and emotions (17).

12. The humanitarians advocate restraint and balance (17).

13. The two humanitarian movements in the U.S. were free hospitals and welfare benefits (18).

14. Allport is noted in humanistic psychology for his emphasis upon generalizations (19).

15. Humanistic psychology studies the self and the individual, rather than the general (19).

Humanists advocate the use of (20):

16. abstractions

17. growth potential

18. spontaneity

Applications in humanism include: (21-25)

19. therapy

20. conditioning

21. community psychology

22. sensation and perception studies

23. Rogers advocates that the therapist should interpret the client's behavior (22).

24. Verbalizations are important in Rogerian therapy (22).

25. Roger's therapy is called non-directive because it does not go any particular direction (22).

26. Rogerian psychology originated before behaviorism (22).

27. Frederick Allen influenced the theories of Rogers (23).


Unit 9 Table of Contents

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