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Psy 250 - Biological and Humanistic Approaches to Personality

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Biological and Humanistic Approaches to Personality


June 19, 2012

Biological and Humanistic Approaches to Personality

Prior to Abraham Maslow putting forth his research on human motivation, researchers had focused on factors such as achievement, biology, and power to explain the forces that direct, energize, and sustain human behavior. The topics for this paper are Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the biological factors that influence the formation of personality. This paper will look at the relationship between biological factors to Maslow's theory of personality. Then this paper will look at the basic aspects of humanistic theory that are not compatible with biological explanations of personality.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow introduced his concept of the hierarchy in the paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" published in 1943. Maslow theorized that people have five classifications of needs which act as motivators. These classifications are physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization needs (Berl, Williamson, & Powell, 1984). Maslow defined physiological needs as the most basic. These needs include food, air, water, and shelter (Sadri & Bowen, 2011). Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic level and that all other needs become secondary until the psychological needs are met. The next level, safety, as defined by Maslow, consisted of the need to be safe from both physical and psychological harm (Sadri & Bowen, 2011). The third level is the belongingness level. The desire to belong includes the need to love and be loved and affection (Sadri & Bowen, 2011). Interpersonal relationships such as friendships, romantic relationships, and families fulfill this need. The fourth level is the esteem level. This need includes the needs of responsibility, reputation, prestige, recognition and respect. This leads to self-confidence and strengthening the motivation and productivity of a person (Sadri & Bowen, 2011). The fifth level and final level is the need for self-actualization and to become the best a person is capable of becoming (Sadri & Bowen, 2011). At this level people are self-aware, and concerned primarily with personal growth, and less concerned with the opinions of others. There are basic assumptions that underlie this theory. One, that unsatisfied needs stimulate behavior. Two, that people's needs range from basic, to more complex. Third, individuals have to minimally satisfy a lower level of need before activating a need on the next level (Berl, Williamson, & Powell, 1984).

Biological Factors

There are some biological factors that help to determine personality. These factors are present from the birth of a person and can help provide answers as to why babies respond differently to the world of which they are a part. The physical environment such as land is the person from an urban area or from a country setting. The social environment can impact the personality. Some examples of the social environment are the child's parents, family members, and friends. The next environment is cultural. Culture is a combining of tangible and intangible attributes of society. Examples of tangible items are clothes and homes. Examples of intangible things would be family reunions, and values. The last environment is biological. An example of a biological factor that can help determine personality is genetic material and its effect on the nervous system (Mercer, 2009).

Biological Factors vs. Maslow's Theory of Personality

Maslow believed that psychoanalysis and behaviorism focused too strongly on the negative aspects of humans and the way they function. He decided to instead focus on more positive things such as joy, love, laughter, and happiness that exists in every human life, emphasizing growth, resilience, and the achievement of human potential. He argued that "it is not the "Big Five," but rather the qualities of a "self-actualized" person that are the most important personality traits" (Cherry, 2010).

Maslow also believed in what he called "peak experiences" or "rare moments of rapture caused by the attainment of excellence or the experience of beauty". Maslow along with Carl Rogers and Rollo May created the Humanistic approach as a "third force" of psychology, focusing more on personality and the human potential, conclusioned heavily on the idea that humans are born with a healthy mind and soul, compared to Freud's beliefs.

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers (1902 - 1987) created his theories of self-actualization, as well as Maslow based many of his ideas on the accomplishments and writings of Albert Einstien. He believed the self-actualized person is "really-centered" as well as comfortable being alone and in social situations. He reasoned that the way that each person's needs are fulfilled are just as important as their fulfillment, both defining the human experience. Roger's theorized using patients in therapy, focusing on the fully functioning individual rather than the dysfunctional individual. He coined the idea that we all need "unconditional positive regard," which is love or support given to one another with no conditions attached. His idea applied especially to the children. He believed



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