Behaviorism and humanism are two psychological perspectives on human behavior. Most psychologists agree that no perspective is hundred-percent correct and that all have their own weaknesses and strengths. Behaviorism and humanism are two such psychological perspectives. This article aims to compare and contrast behaviorism and humanism.

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Behaviorism emphasizes the importance of observable actions and scientific studies and suggests that behavior is shaped by the environment. Humanism, on the other hand, emphasizes the study of the whole person and inner feelings.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Behaviorism  – Definition, Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning2. What is Humanism – Definition, Characteristics3. What are the Similarities Between Behaviorism and Humanism – Outline of Common Features4. What is the Difference Between Behaviorism and Humanism – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Areas

Behaviorism, Humanism

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What is Behaviorism

Behaviorism is a psychological approach that uses scientific and objective methods of investigation to analyze human and animal psychology. This approach focuses on observable actions, i.e., behaviors, of humans and animals. Stimulus and response are a key concept in behaviorism. Here, stimuli are environmental factors and responses are observable behavior. Moreover, behaviorism studies observable stimulus-response behaviors, and emphasizes all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment.

Behaviorism also suggests two main types of situations where people learn from their environment: classic conditioning and operant conditioning.

Classical Conditioning

In classical conditioning, a neutral stimulus is paired with a naturally occurring stimulus. This neutral stimulus eventually gains the ability to evoke the same response as the naturally occurring stimulus, even without the presence of a naturally occurring stimulus. In brief, two stimuli are linked together to produce a new learned response in a person or animal. We call the neutral stimulus here the conditioned stimulus, and we call the learned behavior a conditioned response. Observe the following image to understand this more clearly.


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Figure 1: Classical Conditioning


Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a type of conditioning where humans or animals learn a behavior by associating it with its consequences. Here, learning occurs through reinforcements and punishments.


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Figure 2: Operant Conditioning


As clear from the above diagram, when a desirable result follows an action, the behavior is more likely to occur again in the future. Similarly, responses followed by negative outcomes are less likely to be repeated in the future.

What is Humanism

Humanism or humanistic psychology is a psychological approach that stresses on the study of the whole individual, and behavior related to an individual’s inner feelings and self-image. This perspective is based on the idea that each person is unique and has the free will to change his or her life at any given time. Moreover, humanism rose to prominence in the 1960s as a response to the limitations of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and behaviorism.

According to this perspective, human beings are responsible for their own happiness and well-being. They have the innate capacity for self-actualization, which is their unique desire to achieve the highest potential as human beings. Furthermore, humanisms believe that human beings are innately good and that their deviations from this natural tendency result in mental and social problems. Besides, humanistic psychologists analyze human behavior through the eyes of the observer, as well as through the eyes of the person that is being analyzed. This is a special feature of humanism.

Unlike other psychological approaches, humanistic approach emphasized that human beings are different from animals since they are capable of thought, reason and language. Humanism also rejects a rigorous scientific approach to psychology as it does not have the ability to capture the importance of conscious experiences. It relied on qualitative research methods like open-ended questionnaires, individual observations, unstructured interviews, etc.


Similarities Between Behaviorism and Humanism

Both of these approaches focus on human beings and their behavior.Moreover, these perspectives may have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Difference Between Behaviorism and Humanism

Definition

Behaviorism is a psychological approach that uses scientific and objective methods of investigation to analyze human and animal psychology. At the same time, humanism is a psychological approach that stresses on the study of the whole individual, and behavior related to individual’s inner feelings and self-image.

Focus

Behaviorism focuses on observable actions, i.e., behavior, while humanism focuses on human beings as a whole, including inner feelings and mental processes.

Basis

Furthermore, behaviorism proposes that behavior is the result of a stimulus and is determined by the individual’s environment. In contrast, humanism proposes that each person is unique and has the free will to change his or her life at any given time.

Animals

Behaviorists used animals in proving theories like classical conditioning and operant conditioning and suggested that this type of conditioning is also applicable to human beings. However, humanists believed that human beings are very different from animals as they are capable of thought and reason.

Studies

Moreover, behaviorism uses scientific and objective methods in their research studies, while humanism uses more qualitative studies like open-ended questions and unstructured interviews.

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Conclusion

In brief, behaviorism is a psychological approach that emphasizes the importance of observable actions and scientific studies and suggests that the environment shapes behavior. Humanism approach, on the other hand, emphasizes the study of the whole person and inner feelings. When we compare and contrast beahviorism and humanism, we can observe that these two perspectives have more differences than similarities.

Reference:
1. “Classical Conditioning Diagram” By Salehi.s – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia2. “Operant conditioning diagram” By Curtis Neveu – I used Adobe illustrator (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia