Humanistic psychology emerged in the 1950s in reaction to both behaviorism and psychoanalysis. It is concerned with the subjective experience of human beings, and views using quantitative methods in the study of the human mind and behaviour as misguided. This is in direct contrast to cognitivism (which aims to apply the scientific method to the study of psychology), an approach of which humanistic psychology has been strongly critical. Instead, the discipline stresses a phenomenological view of human experience, seeking to understand human beings and their behavior by conducting qualitative research.
The humanistic approach has its roots in existentialist thought (see Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre). The founding theorists behind this school of thought are Abraham Maslow, who presented a "hierarchy of needs"; Carl Rogers, who created and developed 'Person centred psychotherapy' and Fritz and Laura Perls who helped create and develop Gestalt therapy. Gestalt psychologists claim to consider behaviour holistically—"the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"—although critics such as Karl Popper have presented forceful arguments against the proposition that entities can be apprehended as wholes.
Humanistic psychologists use a narrow definition of humanism. The American Humanist Association, for example, has had as members many psychologists whom humanistic psychologists would not consider humanist, B.F. Skinner being perhaps a prominent example.
- Rowan, John (2001) Ordinary ecstasy : the dialectics of humanistic psychology. Hove: Brunner-Routledge
- Schneider K., Bugental J., & Pierson JF. (Editors) (2001) The Handbook of humanistic psychology : leading edges in theory, research, and practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications, c2001.