The History of Psychology: Humanistic and Cognitive Psychology

In the 1960s, the new “force” humanistic psychology emerged. The basic themes of this new kind of psychology were to emphasize on conscious experience; the belief in the wholeness of human nature; the focus on free will, spontaneity, and creativity; and the study of all factors relevant to the human condition. Inspiration for the new field came probably from F. Bretano, O. Kuelpe, Adler, Horney, Erikson, etc. For humanistic psychologists, behaviorism was too artificial and identified only a narrow range of the human nature. Humanistic Psychology was to focus on the positive human qualities of mentally healthy individuals.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was one of the most famous psychologists of this field. He proposed the idea of self-actualization. While individuals develop, they actualize or find their potentials. Furthermore, Maslow noted that there is a hierarchy of needs in the following order: physiological, safety, belonging and love, esteem, and the need of self-actualization. Thus, self-actualizing individuals must have satisfied all preceding needs before they reach the stage of a self-actualizing person.

Carl Rogers (1902-1987) proposed a humanistic method for psychotherapy. His person-centered therapy focuses on the client. The client is the leading person in the conversation. Rogers argued that during development, children should get unconditional love from the mother (positive regard) to avoid conditions of worth in the child. Then, the child can develop freely and start actualizing its potentials. Children that are given positive regard become more creative, open to all kinds of experiences, and spontaneous.

In the late 1960s, the field of Cognitive Psychology began emerging. Cognitive psychology was more concerned with the processes of knowing and the mind’s power to create and organize experiences.

George Miller (*1920) was one of the important persons who made the transition from behaviorism to cognitive psychology. He focused on the word “cognition” and explained that by using this word, we actually emphasize mental activities. However, the word cognition has never been clearly defined in a scientific way.

Ulric Neisser (*1928) then, set the first milestone: he defined cognitive psychology to be concerned with sensation, perception, imaging, memory, problem solving, thinking, and all other mental activities. In total, cognitive psychology has borrowed many terms and ideas from information science and computers. As can be inferred from cognitive psyc. concepts, this part of psychology views human activity as information processing.

Humanistic and cognitive psychology was really the answer to behaviorism. Somehow, psychology could not simplify and explain all human behaviors with reduced stimulus response schemata. The new types of psychology tried to integrate all mental processes into a soup again to avoid fallacious findings or conceptions.