What is Humanistic Psychology and why is it called the third force in Psychology?

Essay by inspiration6400College, UndergraduateC-, November 2009

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Humanistic psychology is best understood as a reaction to two other early psychological approaches. The first, psychodynamic, was developed by Sigmund Freud as a way of investigating and understanding the human mind (1). Sigmund Freud was the first to suggest that much of our behaviour was perhaps influenced by unconscious desires, which he theorised during his work as a neurological consultant at a children's hospital in Vienna (2). Freud attempted to demonstrate how these unconscious thoughts and desires could surface through parapraxis (3), which are now known as Freudian slips, and studied the mind using techniques such as free association and dream interpretation. Dreams, as he saw them, were said to be "the royal road to the unconscious". Today many psychologists believe that the idea of a conscious/unconscious divide is slightly reductionist and prefer to believe that there are merely different levels of awareness.

Another important early approach to psychology is behaviourism, which attempts to explain all behaviour as being learned from the environment.

Burrhus Frederic Skinner, for example, demonstrated how animals can learn by reinforcement with his invention of the operant conditioning chamber (colloquially known as a 'Skinner box'). The box included a loudspeaker, lights, response lever, electrified floor and food dispenser. Using these, Skinner was able to train small animals to accomplish complicated tasks by manipulating their environment. Most famously, he managed to train pigeons to play table tennis (4). While Skinner was successful in showing how operant conditioning can influence our behaviour, John Broadus Watson and Ivan Pavlov were equally as successful in demonstrating the potential of classical conditioning (learning by association). During the controversial Little Albert study conducted in 1920 John Watson conditioned an 11 month old child to fear a small white rat by striking a steel bar with a hammer while the child was...