Compare and Contrast Two Psychological Perspectives

1784 words 8 pages
Compare and contrast explanations from two psychological perspectives.

This essay aims to compare and contrast Behaviourist and Humanistic psychology by considering the differing theories these perspectives use about human thought, experiencing and behaviour.

Behavioural Psychology originated in the late 19th to early 20th century and was concerned with the prediction and control of the observable, measurable, external aspects of human experience. Behaviourist psychologists rejected the introspective method used by previous philosophers and psychologists and instead relied on using observation and data that was objective and empirical. This is known as an anti-mentalist approach; Behaviourists considered the workings of the mind
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However, later discoveries from cognitive psychology, neuroscience and biological psychology have confirmed the importance of that which also resides inside the human body and mind. In light of these complexities discovered throughout the twentieth century a Behaviourist perspective can appear a little too parsimonious (Stuart-Hamilton, 1999).

In stark contrast to the determinism of the Behaviourist perspective, Humanistic Psychology came to prominence in the 1960's; a decade renowned for the celebration of free will and human potential. Humanism is diametrically opposed to the mechanistic view of the Behaviourists and one which focuses on an holistic, phenomenological approach. Respect is given to an individual's experiencing no matter how strange or misguided it may appear. (Thorne, 2003)

Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) was a founding figure in humanistic psychology. He used the term 'self-actualisation' to describe how human beings naturally grow to achieve their highest potential. This is on the provision that basic needs such as eating, sleeping, sex, safety, friendship, love and esteem are met. He developed a 'hierarchy of needs' theory in his paper 'A theory of human motivation'. In this paper Maslow asserts that a human has needs which are arranged in a hierarchy of physiological, safety, love, esteem and cognitive needs, with the basic needs at the


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