Why Humanistic Psychology is Still Relevant

The development of humanistic psychology began in the late 1950s and was ‘born‘ in the early 1960s. Given the time that humanistic psychology grew, there’s no doubt that it informed the civil rights movement. However, some say that humanistic psychology peaked in the 1970s. An article last year in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology argued that humanistic psychology is, in fact, more important in the 21st century than many had previously thought.

DeRobertis enumerates the ways in which, “numerous contemporary transformations in the field are directly attributable to humanistic currents of thought within psychology.” Among those ways:

  • Qualitative research subgroup within the APA
  • Humanistic neuroscience
  • Hermeneutic approach to cognition
  • Social constructivist movement in the psychology of education
  • Student enthusiasm in the classroom
  • Ecological perspectives in perception
  • Existential-phenomenological thought in developmental psychology
  • Positive psychology
  • Discussion of the feasibility of reconceptualizing psychological suffering
  • Shift to holistic and relational processes in psychotherapy
  • Emotion-focused therapy
  • Peace psychology

The author also argued that humanistic psychology is making waves in other areas of psychology, but that aren’t directly attributable to humanistic psychologists. Among those ways:

  • Changes in emotion and intelligence research
  • Shift away from ‘testing the null’ to ‘building a model’

Towards the end of the article, DeRobertis pointed out that “the second postulate of humanistic psychology, the fact that human beings have their being in a context, has seen the most widespread application across academic areas.” While I’d love to see the four other postulates have widespread application in addition to the above-mentioned postulate, it’s great that the one about context is proliferating in influence. Context is so important — I’ve written about it before, even in the context of psychological research.

Humanistic psychology certainly has applications outside of psychology, but it’s important for psychology writ large to take humanistic psychology seriously or, at a minimum, take its findings seriously. The positive effects that humanistic psychology has had on psychology and continues to have on psychology, are growing. For instance, I’d be interested to see a collaboration between humanistic psychology and international relations. Of course, the obvious place for humanistic psychology in international relations would be in the context of nation states negotiating, but what about in the context of how a nation state views itself and its citizens? That is, do world leaders look at their countries from a behavioral perspective or do world leaders look at their countries from an humanistic perspective? And if world leaders did look at themselves from a humanistic perspective, would that make them less likely to violate the sovereignty of another nation or start a war?

ResearchBlogging.orgDeRobertis, E. M. (2013). Humanistic Psychology: Alive in the 21st Century? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53 (4), 419-437 DOI: 10.1177/0022167812473369

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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