Biological and Humanistic Approaches to Personality

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In defining personality as which does constitute distinction of individuals, Hans (2006), established his major theory that is based upon fundamental elements of the inherited characteristics. He divided genetic aspects of personality into three factors namely introversion-extroversion, neuroticism and psychoticism in regard to individual personality as well as the individual specific disposition and character. Hans (2006) contends that the genetic composition of any individual is monumental to overrule other external influences as a major means in which people form their personality. Moreover, he affirms that unique environment and genes are quite imperative though shared environment is not usually that crucial. In analyzing as well as comparing the humanistic and biological approaches to personality one can result to difference in opinions. Abraham Maslow did study the development of personalities based on the human needs. His needs hierarchy portrays the influence of human needs to formations of peoples’ unique and individual personalities. There are some biological factors which does influence formation of one’s personality which usually plays a major role. Through reviewing the relationships that are there between Maslow’s theory and biological factors we will be in a position to see some focused similarities as well as its upcoming. Analyzing some of the main tenets of humanistic theory with some of the biological explanations will help us to be enlightened on different views of every personality theory.


Personality is basically defined as the complex of all the attributes which are possessed by individuals and which uniquely defines their temperamental, behavioral, mental and emotional characteristics from the other people (Howard &Miriam, 2008).  Personality psychology on the other hand can be defined as the psychological forces that tend to make individuals unique (Howard and Miriam, 2008). The basic belief of humanistic theories is the fact that people are usually naturally good with their mental and social problems as a result of divergence from their natural tendency. The theory helps to remove stigma during therapy and influence the people to explore on their potentials.

Abraham Maslow (1971), a humanistic psychologist believed that the people are not controlled by the mechanical forces which include the reinforcement and stimuli forces of behaviorism or some unconscious instinctual impulse of the psychoanalysis. He placed his main focus on what people can really do as opposed to their limitations. His hierarchy of needs has established a major precedence on which human interactions can follow so as to make sure that they achieve productive as well as agreeable outcome. The main essence is to actually prepare people for shared existence with themselves and those who are around. The essence of humanistic psychology is usually similar to cognitive psychology as it does acknowledge behavior more than just a stimulus that is determined and hence recognizes perception as the actual essence of actions and behavior. His hierarchy of needs does represent how exactly growth ought to influence formation of personality. He developed his personality theory in relation to the needs of people. It shows the main influences of human needs to formation of their unique personalities.

Maslow reveals to us how exactly he views the entire makeup of personalities. Each stage and need is usually based on a priority. His theory shows us the main influences of people’s needs to their personality. Physiological needs; food, water, clothing, sex, sleep, health and shelter. Coping information is usually needed in order to meet the needs. Security and safety, helping information and a need to feel safe from danger  help an individual to experience life in a better as well as quality way in order to expand on their personality. Living in fear and not meeting safety needs one ends up getting trapped and there is always little room for growth when personality expands one’s experiences. People need a sense of belonging, affection and being part of something thus enlightening information is required in order to fulfill the sense of belonging. The need to be accepted by people, offers one feeling of security which comes in forms of praise, encouragement, support and other virtues thus helping one to build that level of acceptance.

Biological model affirms that our brains, genes as well as hormones are central to our personal development (Howard and Miriam, 2008). The human brain usually consists of more than one hundred neurons and the cortex usually does develop in various stages namely cell proliferation, migration, differentiation, axonal and dendritic growth and finally death that is followed by gliogenesis. Individuals are usually biologically complex and quite unique. Based on the biological perspectives, the physical characteristics are usually central to our major personalities. In contrast, the humanistic psychology usually places a higher emphasis on the spiritual, personal responsibilities as well as self actualization. Humanistic psychology is usually a value orientation which does hold a constructive, hopeful view of the human beings and their main substantial capacity of being self determining. It is usually guided by the conviction that the ethical and intentional values are usually immense psychological forces. The effort hence leads to efforts of enhancing distinctly individual qualities for example creativity, choice as well as the interaction of the mind, body, mind and spirit and the main capacity of being more free, responsible, trustworthy, affirming and aware. Humanistic psychology does acknowledge on the fact that the mind is usually influenced by some determining forces in the unconscious and the society and some of them are usually destructive and negative. It does put emphasis on worthiness and dignity of human beings as well as their conscious capacity in developing self respect as well as competence.

Abraham emphasized on some positive growth factors on the personality development. He states that each individual has unique psychological nature whose structure does comprise of capacities, inherent needs and growth potential. Full development does lead to self actualization.

There are various determinants of personality. Some of the biological factors which do influence formation of personalities comprise of diseases, heredity, brain, physical features, genetics, neurochemical alterations, drugs as well as physiological arousal. Heredity is basically the main transmission of some qualities from the ancestors to the descendants through some mechanisms that lie in the chromosomes of germ cells. Heredity does predispose to some mental, physical as well as emotional states. Generally, psychological and physical characteristics are capable of being transmitted through heredity means.

The other biological determinant is the brain which plays a major role in the shaping of one’s personality (Howard and Miriam, 2008). Depending on one’s brain structure, hence their development of personality. Finally it is the physical features as well as the maturity rate. Individual’s external appearance is a major ingredient of their personality. From a biological base or opinion, personality development is usually primarily governed by the biological maturation of individuals.  To some extent even the environmental influences on individuals’ development are usually viewed under biological characteristics and disposition.

Maslow synthesized vast body of research in relation to human motivation.  Before Maslow, most of the researchers used to focus on some aspects for example achievement, biology as well as power in order to explain what exactly energizes, sustains and directs the human behavior.  Maslow did posit the hierarchy of human needs basing on two groupings namely the deficiency needs as well as the growth needs.  According to him, individuals are always ready to act on their needs only when the deficiency needs are met.  The hierarchy can be used to explain as well as describe the types of information that people seek at different intervals and levels. People at the lowest levels do seek for coping information so as to meet some of their basic needs (Maslow, 1954.  Individuals who are at safety level do require the helping information in order to be assisted to be safe as well as secure. Enlightening information is usually sought by people who do seek to meet their sense of belonging while empowering information is usually sought by the people who are at the most esteem level. Finally people who are in the growth levels of aesthetic, cognitive as well as self actualization do seek the edifying information (Maslow, 1954).

Biological factors are related to some extent with the Maslow’s hierarchy of personality because biological factors for example brains, heredity and physical characteristics are needed during the growth level. All actions including the need for basic needs, security, enlightenment and others are actions and behaviors that are as a result of biological and internal instincts (Freud, 1990.).  For example in the cognitive level (Heider, 1958) which requires knowledge and understanding, obviously the biological factors are paramount.

Humanistic theories of personality do represent an affirmative view of human behavior. Personality is usually defined as the organized as well as the dynamic set of various characteristics which are possessed by people and which influences their cognitions, behavior as well as their motivations. Humanistic psychology does emphasize that people do have a free will and do play active role in the determining of how exactly they tend to behave. Humanistic psychology usually focuses on the subjective experience of individuals as opposed to definitive and forced factors which determine behavior. Maslow does believe that all people who are interested in growing ought to move towards the self actualization level of happiness and satisfaction. The psychological perspectives on development of personality do remain influential which comprises of humanistic perspective, psyodynamic and existential perspectives, cognitive, socioculture and behavioral perspective.

Biological factors to an extent are different or incompatible with humanistic theories and perspective.  Human perspective and theories do focus on self thus one can choose their own actions as well as behaviors rather than having to react to biological rein forcers and stimuli.  Biological factors on the other hand are quite different from humanistic perspectives as they relate to the genes and the brain which are internal and thus people have no control over.  Psychology is usually based on theories which help us to decide exactly what to observe. The humanistic theories do follow the belief that everybody is good and relies on feelings rather than the thought processes (Dennis & John, 2008, pp. 442). Biological theories on the other hand follow the belief that the genetics do control one’s personality. They do rely on thinking and not necessarily feelings. Therefore the tenets of biological and humanistic theories do differ immensely. Humanist does focus on the present and not the past and believes that everybody has inherent worth. It also asserts that it is only through self knowledge and improvement that one can be actually happy. Biological theorists do believe that the genetic makeup does determine one’s personality. Biological perspectives teach that genes as well as intelligence do determine the personality. Mental disorders as well as temperament are usually believed to be determined by biology (Howard and Miriam, 2008). Humanistic theories are oversimplified while biological factors are usually overcomplicated.


There are various factors that determine our personality. Some of these determinants are either humanistic or biological.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and humanistic personality’s theory play a major role in the formation of one’s personality and so are the biological factors. Though humanistic and biological theories are opposites, they do comprise of the main essence of personality and the blend between these two theories produces effective results.