Contributions of the Humanistic Approach
How should we evaluate the humanistic approach to personality? We certainly need to be cautious about the claims offered by Maslow, Rogers, and their contemporaries. After all, their key terms, like self-actualization or being yourself, are only vaguely defined, mak-ing it difficult to evaluate the humanists’ claims. In light of these (and related) concerns, some critics contend that the humanists’ concepts are too vague and their assertions too unproven (and maybe unprovable) to count as serious scientific accomplishments.
At the same time, the humanists have reminded us of several important points that more modern researchers have since developed in detail. These points include a crucial role for each person’s sense of self—a sense that colors their perceptions, shapes their behavior, and in many ways defines their experience. The humanists also highlighted the fact that people strive for more than food and sex and prestige; they read poetry, lis-ten to music, fall in love, and try to better themselves. Psychologists in the positive psy-chology movement are exploring these desires and tendencies using the tools of science to ask what makes us content with our lives and our relationships. Thus, among other specific issues, researchers are beginning to answer questions about how to stimulate creativity, acquire wisdom, and nourish the intellect. Positive psychology is leading researchers in new directions, and it certainly carries on Maslow’s vision of a psychol-ogy concerned not only with what is basic about human nature, but also with what is good and admirable about us.
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