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Humanistic Approach to Personality vs Biological Perspective

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Updated: Oct 10th, 2019


Several theories have been employed in the study of personality. Notable among them are those entailing the aspects of psychoanalytic, behavioral, biological, and humanistic approaches. It is the biological and the humanistic approaches that this paper briefly aims to analyze.

Maslow’s theories have dominated this issue because they explain the relationship between human and biological factors and how they affect personality growth.

The Biological Approach

The biological approach tends to propose that genetics are to blame for personality. Scientists have found that there is a strong linkage between genetics and personality traits. A common example cited by scientists is the angelman syndrome in which children suffering from this gene disorder tends to be excessively happy and are of good humor (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Careful observation however reveals that such individuals are also mental retards and have a jerky posture.

The Williams syndrome, another gene disorder, also reveals that biological factors are of influence to personality. Persons suffering from the Williams syndrome are of extreme social personality but with limited intellectual ability. Other biological factors which affect personality include disease, drugs, neurochemical alterations, and physiological arousal.

The Humanistic Theory

This theory is based on the belief that any individual has the capacity of being productive and loved in the society if at all their basic needs are met. The humanistic approach credits the human spirit and stresses the importance of human characters such as creativity, spontaneity, and their active nature.

This approach tends to be optimistic as they cleverly employ the ability of the humans to conquer hardships and hopelessness (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). According to this theory, the achievement of happiness is the result of the urge for one to achieve or allowing yourself to pursue your own interests. Thus, it puts emphasis on the concept of self actualization.

Self actualization is an important aspect which is needed for an individual growth that affects their behavior. Fear must be overcome before one can meet a set goal and to finally reach ‘self actualization’. Maslow and Carl Rogers made the greatest contribution towards the development of the humanistic theory.

Humanistic approaches are concerned about an established formula which all human beings use in order to attain the highest level of productivity. This is exemplified by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy of needs represents how growth needs affect the formation of a personality.

Maslow’s Holistic Theory

Maslow, unlike other theorists, preferred to study humans as whole rather than study them in portions. According to Maslow, a whole, complete, and healthy individual was always motivated by need. He conceptualized that humans will always have a need that keep motivating them.

He went further and proposed a pyramid representing the human needs with the more basic physiological needs having to be satisfied first before any other need. In Maslow’s view, an individual’s physiological needs that motivate him/her include food, love, security, and self actualization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicates that a person may have more than one need motivating him at the same time.

The basic physiological needs are the human’s growth needs. The fulfillment of the human needs in an ascending order would finally make him reach the self actualization stage. His study using normal people who were healthy and successful made him reach into a conclusion. That when ones needs are fully met, the individual show self acceptance and respect others.

Maslow deduced that there was a natural pressure that kept pushing individuals towards achieving self actualization. This push, according to him, is inherent rather than from the environment. It emerge as one grows. This motivation is not necessary for ones survival as it is not used for the fulfillment of such needs as hunger or sex.

Maslow’s holistic theory aims at achieving a higher level although it does not specify whether this urge emerge due to genetic determination. It is assumed that the driving force is due to the tendency to grow. Maslow summed up his argumentation by stating that conducive social environment is important if any individual is to achieve the highest level of the hierarchy of needs. His higher needs are biologically and inspirationally driven (Friedman & Schustack, 2009).

Maslow’s assumption was that self actualization aimed at bringing peace to oneself. This humanistic approach continues to face oppositions with modern biologists arguing that it is possible for one to have numerous elements of self actualization and thus the hierarchy of needs should not be taken literally.

Personality behavior, according to most social scientist, results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Thus, genetic factors provide a person with particular biological needs while culture and environment determines how the person will meet those needs. Birth order also affects how children view the world in that children with siblings will have a particular perspective of the world which is different from those without siblings (Scribd, 2010).


Biological approaches to personality are factors such as genetics, diseases, drugs, and physiological arousal. They are the major factors that influence the growth of a particular personality. The humanistic theory relates to growth needs that influence personality formation and development.

For one to move a higher level, their basic needs have to be met so that they are comfortable at that level. Maslow employed a holistic approach to substantiate his theories which have been considered controversial because they are faulty if taken literally. It is worth noting that the environment also plays a major role in personality growth.

Reference List

Friedman, H. & Schustack, M. (2009). Personality: classic theories and modern research, Ed. 4. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Scribd (2010). Personality Development. Web.

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