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Example Answer for Question 3 Paper 2: A Level Psychology, June 2017 (AQA)

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA

Section A – Approaches in Psychology: Q3 [16 Marks]

There are many strands of humanistic psychology, but all draw on the work of Maslow and Rogers. Maslow’s (1943) famous hierarchy of needs is an enduring model of psychological development: The most basic needs are biological – food, water, clothing, shelter, sleep; then come safety needs, which include resources, employment, family, and health; next is the need for love and belonging, from friends, family, etc. After that comes the need for esteem, both self-esteem and respect from others. As Tatiana has low self-esteem she is unable to progress any further up the hierarchy of needs until she fulfils these needs and therefore she is unable to self-actualise. According to Maslow, once these ‘deficiency needs’ have been met, people can turn their attention to self-actualisation, which includes, spirituality, creativity and acceptance of the world as it is.

The evidence for the existence of the hierarchy of needs is empirically thin, as would be expected from an approach that disputes the validity of empirical research. Some of the concepts within the hierarchy of needs (e.g. self-actualisation) are difficult to operationalise and therefore very difficult to test empirically. Furthermore, as humanistic psychologists are typically against nomothetic methods of investigation, providing any research support for these abstract concepts becomes difficult if not impossible. Consequently, psychologists are unable to provide any research support for the existence of the hierarchy of needs and other aspects of humanistic psychology making such theories/concepts questionable.

Rogers was primarily interested in just two basic needs: the need for self-worth and the need for unconditional positive regard from other people. Both emerge from good relationships with supportive parents in childhood, and later with friends and partners. For Rogers, unhappiness and dissatisfaction were the outcomes of a psychological gap between self-concept (the way you think you are) and ideal self (the way you would like to be). Tatiana may be experiencing a gap between her self-concept (e.g. she sees herself as socially isolated) and her ideal self (e.g. feeling good as a result of being popular and receiving messages). According to Rogers, when these concepts are congruent, people are healthy; when they are not congruent, like Tatiana, it is necessary to use defence mechanisms to provide protection against feeling bad.

One strength of Humanistic psychology is that it has had a major influence on psychological counselling. For example, many contemporary therapists use Rogers’ ideas of unconditional positive regard to help clients work toward self-awareness. This means it is a useful theory with real-world applications and has helped improve the outlook of many patients support from psychological issues.

Furthermore, many psychologists praise the humanistic approach for its positive and holistic focus. Humanistic psychologists, unlike other psychologists, do not try and reduce behaviour and experience to simpler component parts. For example, biological psychologists reduce psychological disorders to neurochemical imbalances and/or genetic inheritance. In stark contrast, humanistic psychologist put forward a holistic view of human nature and is the only approach that attempts to consider all aspects of human nature in a holistic manner while promoting free will and human choice.

However, some critics argue that the humanistic approach offers an unrealistic view of human nature. Critics point to the more sinister aspects of human behaviour and argue that humanism focuses on ‘growth-orientated’ behaviour while ignoring individual capacity for self-destruction. Consequently, such critics argue that a focus on self-development ignores situational forces that may provide a more realistic explanation of everyday human behaviour.

[~550 Words]

Please Note: These answers have been produced without the knowledge of the mark scheme and merely reflect my attempt at producing a model answer on the day of the exam.

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