Humanistic Psychology - Orientation To Scientific Research

Orientation To Scientific Research

Humanistic psychologists generally do not believe that we will understand human consciousness and behavior through traditional scientific research. The objection that humanistic psychologists have to traditional research methods is that they are derived from and suited for the physical sciences and not especially appropriate to studying the complexities and nuances of human meaning-making

However, going back to the very beginning of the humanistic psychology movement, scientific research of human functioning has been part of the humanistic psychology agenda. Examples:

  • Abraham Maslow proposed many of his theories of human growth in the form of testable hypotheses, and he encouraged human scientists to put them to the test.
  • In its very first year of the American Association of Humanistic Psychology's existence, then-president, psychologist Sidney Jourard began his column for Volume 1, Number 1 of the organization's newsletter, by declaring "research" as a priority. "Humanistic Psychology will be best served if it is undergirded with research that seeks to throw light on the qualities of man that are uniquely human" (emphasis added)
  • The importance of research to humanistic psychologists, and their interest in special forms of human science investigation, was underscored when the AAHP's May 1966 newsletter editorialized that a central conviction which binds humanistic psychologists includes, "An allegiance to meaningfulness in the selection of problems for study and of research procedures, and an opposition to a primary emphasis on objectivity at the expense of significance".
  • Likewise, in 1980, the American Psychological Association's publication for humanistic psychology (Division 32 of APA), ran an article titled, What makes research humanistic? Donald Polkinghorne noted that, "Humanistic theory does not propose that human action is completely independent of the environment or the mechanical and organic orders of the body, but it does suggest that, within the limits of experienced meanings, persons as unities can choose to act in ways not determined by prior events...and this is the theory we seek to test through our research" (p. 3).

Research has remained part of the humanistic psychology agenda, though with more of a holistic than reductionistic focus. Specific humanistic research methods evolved in the decades since the formation of the humanistic psychology movement

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