Humanism: A Comparison with Psychoanalysis & Behaviorism


"Humanistic psychology is regarded as the "Third Force", Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism being the first two"*. Humanism at some points agrees with the other two forces in 'human psychology' (note that I used word human, it is explained in the conclusion section), and differs from them widely on some other points. "HUMANISTIC approaches to personality rely upon FIELD-THEORY ORIENTATION, a HOLISTIC view of personality, and empathise personal experience, growth, motivation, and SELF-ACTUALIZATION."** Thus as per Philip G. Zimbardo, humanism gives central place to man and his/her 'subjectivity'. But, "humanistic psychology doesn't deny values, intentions and meaning..."***

 What's the need of its comparisons? Its comparison with Psychoanalysis and Behaviourism, as per a scholar, 'further enlightens its features'. 

Humanism vs. Psychoanalysis

Humanism views man basically 'good' in nature. "Humanistic Psychology shares with psychoanalytic theory the belief that humans are endowed with innate needs and desires, but it differs from psychoanalysis in its assumption that the core of human nature is kindly, cooperative, and prosocial."**** It is no surprise that psychoanalysis project our inner being as dark and pessimistic that we tread to mention them. Whereas humanism denies this projection as baseless.

Humanism vs. Behaviourism

What Humanistic psychology shares with behaviorism is the "belief that humans can expand their interest and activities in an almost infinite variety of direction but, it differs from behaviorism in its assumption that an inner self freely initiates many of these choices."***** Dr. Nazir Qaiser adds in his A Critque of Western Psychology...., "To humanists man is not a machine and robot."

It is worth mentioning, why behaviorists consider man a sole function of his environment/learning/conditioning, when they are very scientific in their methodology? Writers like S. Covey and Barbara Engler have quoted the same experiment carried out by the behaviorists, which led them to the preceding conclusion I questioned. It was the Skinner Box or operant conditioning chamber experiment and like many others. What the results of this experiment suggest is that it's not the 'person' rather "the variables and forces in the environment that influence a person,"******  and BEHAVIOURISM/RADICAL BEHAVIOURISM is founded on this principle. That there is no world of Selfhood poet-philosopher Iqbal conceives of (I may write an articale on it in future). That man is not a proactive animal, only reactive. That although he can learn from the enviornment, he has not capacity of unlearning it.

Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow are two great upholders (that doesn't mean that they're "great") of humanism. They and other humanists "suggest that the study of neurotics or infrahuman species is not particularly enlightening for the study of the personality."******* And, then the dividing line is drawn in the following sentences by Barbara Engler. A difference so important that it gives birth to two utterly different and wholly differentiable streams of paradigms of thought, which later on translate into concrete actions. (Thus, knowledge precedes action.) The missing link: as Barbara Engler writes, "There is a radical difference between a rat in a Skinner box, and a human being in the every day world."******* I must repeat the difference of opinion between Humanism and Behaviorism here in case you're if lost in thoughts: "Humanism differs from behaviorism in its assumption that an inner self freely initiates many of the choices [he has at his disposal]." That, as Stephen Covey says, between operant enviormental influences/stimulus and the consequential action/reaction lies a quality only man on earth possess is his own 'free will'. A freedom of initiation.


What may lie beyond Humanism must be probed as Humanistic Psychology is centered on human beings only. I do not mean to say that animal psychology must be linked with human psychology, because there lies a concrete difference in both these fields of study for man is blessed with rationality  and animal is not. Yet, there can be other things which have a one-to-one/direct relationship with human psychology. And, the study of which may yield benefits, be it of health or understanding.

* Encyclopedia of Psycholgy ed. Raymon J., Corsini
** Philip G. Zimbardo, Psychology and Life, p. 494
***  Dr. Nazir Qaiser, A Critque of Western Psychology...., p. 35.
**** William Samual, Personality, p. 89.
***** Ibid.
****** Carl Rogers, article in Theories of personality, Ed. by Gardener Lindzey/Calvin S. Halll, p. 473
******* Barbara Engler, personality Theories, Introuction, p. 302.

4 did criticisms:

The Luscious one! said...

Good show!!

I recently started a blog of mine. I would love it if you would add me to your blog roll and vice verse.

Awais said...

I think that the question lying at the bottom of these different psychological approaches is the question of free will. What is free will, and does it exist?

Umer Toor said...

@ Awais,

I'll start to see these theories from this viewpoint for I have not allowed myself yet to go into the discussion of free will.

Thanks for the criticism,
Humble regards.

Rhodora Online said...

Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis are 'deterministic' schools of thought, one believing that environment determines our behaviors, the other that unconscious forces do. Humanists believe in free-will thought I have not read much detail on this part of their theories so can't explain their view point further.
Now my viewpoint (if it counts):
Take any situation, analyze it and you will find that your final behavior (physical or mental) was shaped by both, circumstances beyond your control and your own rational or emotional thinking.
Quran also places an equal emphasis on both. We are created by Him in this particular manner, can't do anything about. Will die one day, can't do anything about it. But decisions we take in this world will effect what happens afterwards we die, and YES we can do A LOT to 'determine' that. We use our free-will to (try to) determine a lot of things in our lives -- one of the paradoxes of the whole issue!
I'm enjoying reading your blog, Mr. Toor!

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