Behaviorism and Humanism: Strengths and Limitations

Topic: Schools of Psychology
Words: 2053 Pages: 7

Psychology is a science that studies the human brain and its influence on behavior. Psychologists believe that humans are accustomed beings with a programmable brain. The science aims to comprehend humanity and offer better ways to improve personality. Understanding the brain and its influence on behavior enables scholars and therapists to devise appropriate approaches to promote virtues while curbing vices. Psychology also enables curriculum developers and implementers to establish the best possible classroom designs that help the brain of the learner grasp content with ease. Correctional facilities further use psychology to help the brain of patients develop the right attitudes and mentality for change and healing. Moreover, clinical psychologists apply mental concepts to help the brain of ill people to accept their conditions for the body to heal or tolerate hurting health conditions. Behaviorism and humanism are examples of psychological approaches, each exhibiting strengths, and weaknesses. The present work delves into the two psychology schools by covering their strengths, limitations, and relevance to social work practice. The work posits that humanism and behaviorism are complementary psychological perspectives with harmonizing strengths and weaknesses.

Behaviorism Approaches

Behavioral psychology maintains that human behaviors are learned from people’s exchanges with the surroundings through the conditioning course. The approach further terms behaviors as people’s retorts to stimuli in the environment. Behavioral psychologists thus focus mainly on the observable behavioral facets resulting from either classical or operant conditions. The scholars utilize systematized studies to examine the person or behavior under investigation. Ivan Pavlov and John Watson are known pioneers of behavioral psychology. Some of the leading assumptions under behavioral psychology include the view that psychology is a science requiring the application of empirical data collected through controlled behavioral observations and measurement (Adams et al., 2019, p. 191). Behaviorism further purports that humans and animals learn behavioral concepts similarly. The assumption implies that animal subjects’ behavioral findings are applicable to control and predict humans’ behavior (Adams et al., 2019, p. 193). Moreover, methodological behaviorism maintains that the human brain is an empty slate at birth (Araiba, 2020, p. 158), inferring its ability to condition and influence behavior. Behavioral psychology thus plays a major role in sociology by providing scientific approaches for behavioral correction.

Humanistic Approaches

Humanism psychology focuses on the whole individual and personal uniqueness instead of mere reactions from conditioned stimuli. The psychological approach exists to bridge the gap left by perspectives like behaviorism and psychodynamic models, which view humans as dependent entities (Muhajirah, 2020, p. 39). Humanism appreciates the place and role of biology and gene in humans’ uniqueness. A critical limitation targeted by humanism is behaviorism’s dependence on animal studies to control humans’ behavior. Generally, humanism refutes the deterministic concepts of psychology, which it says are dehumanizing (Knutson and Koch, 2022, p. 119). The existential belief that humans are free beings with free-will forms the basis of humanistic psychology. Moreover, the approach maintains that humans are virtuous and always purpose to realize their best possible selves (Knutson and Koch, 2022, p. 113). That means that people are born with innate optimism that leads them to focus on overcoming hurting aspects such as despair, pain, and hardships. Self-actualization further forms a goal of every human, according to humanism.

Self-actualization is the growth of humans to realize the highest potential and satisfaction in life. Maslow and Rogers maintain that the desire to realize personal development and fulfillment is an innate longing among humans (Lazzeri, 2021, p. 25). Furthermore, humanist psychologists esteem individuals’ subjective awareness and comprehension of the world more than objective actuality. The matter implies humanism’s determination to investigate personality from individuals’ viewpoints instead of generalized scientific findings acquired through animal studies. Unlike behaviorism, which sees psychology as a methodology-based inquiry, humanism refutes scientific experiments and psychology laboratories, typically allowing qualitative investigations using amorphous interviews and open-ended questionnaires (Safrudin et al., 2020, p. 71). Consequently, humanism exists as a third force in psychology and explains several behavioral aspects often assumed by the initially predominant psychodynamic and behaviorism approaches.

Behaviorism Psychology’s Strength

Behaviorism exhibits several strengths as a psychological approach to personality and behavior study. The first such strength concerns the approach’s utilization of scientifically-backed methods to study the brain and its connection to behavior. The utilization of scientific tactics allows behaviorists to offer succinct predictions about personality using verifiable tactics. Controlled experiments, Skinner’s box, and Pavlov’s dog are examples of the scientific methodologies applied in the behaviorism approach. Controlled experiments test hypotheses scientifically using measured trials involving a cause and effect. Any inessential variables are masked to realize the best possible link between the independent and dependent variables (Lazzeri, 2021, p. 41). Variables are also defined in controlled experiments to enable the researcher and peers to comprehend the covered items.

Behaviorism’s application in real-life situations such as therapy and classroom structuring also depicts significant strength and applicability in social work practice. Both Pavlov and Skinner’s experiments provide substantial background for behaviorism’s application in the classroom and counseling settings. Therapy often involves providing psychological assistance to persons experiencing emotional problems such as depression, stress, and insomnia. Applying behaviorism in such cases aids researchers in identifying and using reinforcers to promote healing among the suffering lot.

Numerous experiments that back behaviorism-related theories make the approach a significantly strong psychological perspective. Skinner’s box, Pavlov’s dog, controlled experiments, Bobo doll study, and Little Albert’s experiments are examples of the many scientific experiments contributing to the behaviorism approach’s robustness. Each of these experiments utilizes different tactics but delivers identical results. This aspect makes psychology a real science with a direct impact on humanity. It is also easy for scholars to measure and replicate quantities to prove or disapprove of an individual’s work in psychology under the behaviorism approach.

The utilization of animals to investigate behavioral aspects touching on humans makes behaviorism a robust approach. Ziafar and Namaziandost (2019, p. 115) note that the aspect allows scholars to develop reliable theories that do not involve pretense or acting. The use of animal subjects also makes scientific studies more ethical by reducing the amount of direct harm to humanity and only applying the best results to humans. The ‘ethical consideration’ facet is a behaviorist procedure that ensures that animals used in experiments receive the most humane treatment possible (Foxall, 2021, p. 159). The matter makes behaviorism considerate and informative, thus proving the approach’s strength over the other psychological slants.

Behaviorism’s Weaknesses

The desire to treat psychology as a natural science involving only the observable behavior traits constitutes behaviorism’s critical weakness. Stevens (2021, p.420) notes that the mistake leads behaviorism to deny or ignore crucial behavioral elements such as genetics and self-will. The limitations are covered by humanism, which insists that converting humans’ behavior into mere observable aspects overlooks the whole being (Benjamin, 2021, p. 247). Ignoring biology makes it hard for behaviorism to explain shared behaviors among family linages even when people live in different settings, thus making the approach feeble. Dillon (2020, p. 244) says that conditioning alone cannot explain innate behaviors and characteristics such as the intrinsic desire to succeed in life. The scholar further maintains that behaviorism is too deterministic, making it hard to investigate basic tenets that are hard to measure. Overreliance on experiments and animal subjects also seems to convert humans into objects, which is incorrect, based on the humanism approach. That way, behaviorism exhibits several weaknesses solvable by other complementary approaches such as humanism.

Humanism’s Strengths

The shifting of psychological focus to the whole person instead of observable behavior and the unconscious mind is a crucial strength of humanism. As noted earlier, humanism is a substantially younger psychological approach that emerged to solve the weaknesses of behaviorism and the other older approaches (DeRobertis, 2021, p. 16). The mode thus seeks to correct aspects like behaviorism’s view of humans as a collection of independent parts led by the brain. Humanism focuses on the whole being and seeks to investigate the connection between innate traits and human behavior (McLaughlin, 2019, p. 11). Therefore, humanism corrects the erroneous notion that humans are dependent beings who cannot exist without being conditioned. Humanism applies phenomenology to show that every person is independent, and treating humans as whole bodies gives a better way to understand life and behavior.

Humanism’s applicability in real-life situations also proves the approach’s strength. Motivation, person-centered therapies, anti-depression coaching, and education are examples of actual applications of the approach. Motivation therapies involving humanism tactics purpose to connect humans to their natural purpose. McLaughlin (2019, p. 7) says that all humans exhibit the desire to succeed in life and realize their best possible personalities. Realizing fine stuff and achievements are also innate traits among humans, as per Yakushko and Blodgett (2021, p. 107). Persons lacking motivation thus do that because of a disconnection from the natural course. Applying humanism therapy to such individuals helps social work professionals to reconnect the persons to the natural purpose for success. Moreover, humanistic therapies intend to show people that life’s difficulties and hardships are normal things worth challenging and overcoming (Tennant, 2019). Such therapies stand out in that they do not use external influences that are hard to assimilate among the hurt or demotivated individuals.

Instead of focusing on quantitative measurements, employing qualitative data makes humanism a superior psychological approach. Humanism applies open-ended questionnaires and unstructured dialogs to acquire humans’ holistic view (McLaughlin, 2019, p. 7). The model also employs subjective tactics that view life from specific individuals’ perspectives. The aspect enables people to acquire a whole picture of selves and their environments. Understanding the self also promotes the desire for self-actualization and internal healing, independent of external forces. Therefore, humanism endeavors to promote intrinsic motivation and self-worth, as opposed to behaviorism that tries to locate human’s position in a complex web as dependent parties.

Humanism’s Limitations

Humanism mainly focuses on subjective theories that are hard to examine scientifically. Foxall (2021, p. 187) notes that focusing on abstract elements makes humanism theories unscientific and hard to verify. Examples of the immeasurable concepts under the humanism approach include self-actualization and congruence (Tennant, 2019). Unlike behaviorism, humanism utilizes descriptive methods to collect individualistic sentiments and traits that are hard to generalize. Case studies form a critical part of the model’s investigations, seeking to exploit and understand specific cases (Ghaderi, 2021, p. 205). The matter makes humanism significantly weak and hard to replicate across different subjects.

Moreover, humanism’s rejection of animal subjects in psychological studies weakens the approach significantly. The availability of research-backed connections between animals and humans’ behavioral components makes humanism’s claims weak. That is especially so based on the absence of empirical support for humanism’s argument. Safrudin et al. (2020, p. 76) provide the self-will argument as a concept that opposes the deterministic edicts of science, making humanism substantially weak. Other concerns such as humanism’s ignorance of biology and ethnographic alienation make the model fragile. Nonetheless, the approach’s strengths balance the limitation of other psychological perspectives, making it an essential school of psychology.

Relevance to Social Work Practice

Social work involves the application of principles, techniques, and values to help people achieve stable lives. Social workers thus offer services such as counseling, psychotherapy, family support, community and groups’ guidance, and health and social life-related help (Thyer, 2020, p. 68). The activities mainly involve behavioral corrections and support. Behaviorism and humanism thus play critical roles in the lives and careers of social workers. For example, the two psychological models offer essential therapy guidelines applicable in different settings. Person-centered therapy in social work finds its basis in humanistic psychology, which also influences social workers’ empathy (Ghaderi, 2021, p. 205). Social workers involved in classroom management and design find the behaviorism approach crucial. Those working on depression and motivation problems further find humanism essential. Therefore, the two models offer a critical blueprint for social work practice, thus very important.

In conclusion, psychology is a principal science that influences humanity significantly. Psychologists study the relationship between the human brain and behavior to promote positive character. Different schools of psychology exist, each focusing on specific elements. Behaviorism and humanism are examples of psychological models in application today. Behaviorism is research-based, while humanism applies descriptive tactics to investigate behavioral traits. As discussed above, the two approaches have strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. Humanism and behaviorism’s complementary aspects form an impressive background for social work practices by informing various social work procedures.

Reference List

Adams, G., Estrada‐Villalta, S., Sullivan, D. and Markus, H.R. (2019) ‘The psychology of neoliberalism and the neoliberalism of psychology.’ Journal of Social Issues, 75(1), pp.189-216.

Araiba, S. (2020) ‘Current diversification of behaviorism.’ Perspectives on Behavior Science, 43(1), pp.157-175.

Benjamin, E. (2021) ‘Trump, the coronavirus pandemic, Asian American xenophobia, and humanistic psychology.’ Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 61(2), pp.244-259.

DeRobertis, E.M. (2021) ‘The humanistic revolution in psychology: Its inaugural vision.’ Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 61(1), pp.8-32.

Dillon, J.J. (2020) ‘Humanistic psychology and the good: A forgotten link.’ The Humanistic Psychologist, 48(3), p.244.

Foxall, G.R. (2021) Intentional behaviorism. In Contemporary Behaviorisms in Debate (pp. 151-189). Springer, Cham.

Ghaderi, C. (2021) Importance of Integration and Implementation of Psycho-Social Counseling in Social Work. In Social Work at the Level of International Comparison (pp. 203-210). Springer VS, Wiesbaden.

Knutson, D. and Koch, J.M. (2022) ‘Person-centered therapy as applied to work with transgender and gender diverse clients.’ Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 62(1), pp.104-122.

Lazzeri, F. (2021) Purposive behavior and psychological categories: Thoughts on teleological behaviorism. In Contemporary Behaviorisms in Debate (pp. 21-32). Springer, Cham.

McLaughlin, J.E. (2019) ‘Humanism’s revival in third‐wave behaviorism.’ The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 58(1), pp.2-16.

Muhajirah, M. (2020) ‘Basic of learning theory: (Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and humanism).’ International Journal of Asian Education, 1(1), pp.37-42.

Safrudin, I., Khuzai, R. and Nasir, M.A. (2020) ‘Concepts of humans based on behaviorism, psychoanalysis, Humanism and Islam.’ Opción: Revista de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, (27), p.71-79.

Stevens, R. (2021) Humanistic psychology. In Introduction to psychology (pp. 417-472). Psychology Press.

Tennant, M. (2019) Psychology and adult learning: The role of theory in informing practice. Routledge.

Thyer, B.A. (2020) ‘Behavior analysis and social work. Mental Health and Social Work, pp.67-85.

Yakushko, O. and Blodgett, E. (2021) ‘Negative reflections about positive psychology: On constraining the field to a focus on happiness and personal achievement.’ Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 61(1), pp.104-131.

Ziafar, M. and Namaziandost, E. (2019) ‘From behaviorism to new behaviorism: A review study. Loquen: English Studies Journal, 12(2), pp.109-116.

This essay was written by a student and submitted to our database so that you can gain inspiration for your studies. You can use it for your writing but remember to cite it accordingly.

You are free to request the removal of your paper from our database if you are its original author and no longer want it to be published.

Scientific Research and Its Role in Studying Behavior
Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Learning Objectives