Typically referred to as the "third force" in personality psychology, humanistic models arose following behavioral and social learning models. Unlike psychoanalysts and behaviorists, humanistic psychologists believed in free will rather than determinism. Moreover, humanistic psychologists argued that our main intention in personality is self-actualization, the drive to develop our innate potential to the fullest possible extent. Many followers of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, otherwise known as, Freudians believed that self-actualization would result in pandemonium or utter chaos. According to Freudians, we would be unable to control our reservoir or house of primitive impulses, such as sex and aggression. Although Freudians claim our unmanaged sexual and aggressive urges to be destructive towards society, humanistic psychologists consider self-actualization to be a positive goal.
Among the notable humanistic psychologists, I found Abraham Maslow's work to be the most intriguing. Maslow studied individuals who were considered self-actualized. Many of his individuals were popular historical individuals that we are able to recognize by name, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller and Martin Luther King Jr. Maslow claimed that these individuals possessed specific personality traits and behaviors. For example, self-actualized people appear to be self-centered, but are actually quite self-confident. They believe in close friendships, rather than superficial friendships and unafraid of stating their opinion. In addition, self-actualized individuals are inclined to peak experiences. Quite simply, a moment of excitement and serenity due to a connection to the world.
Today, psychologists applaud Maslow for pushing the "positive psychology" movement through his studies on self-actualization. However, psychologists believe that Maslow was a victim of confirmation bias. Meaning, he sought out people with the personality traits of self-actualized individuals for his study.
As I was reading through the traits of an self-actualized individual, I contemplated whether I was self-actualized. I am open to meeting new people despite of race, religious beliefs or sexuality. In addition, I tend to have a few close friends, rather than a lot of shallow ones. At times, I prefer to be alone when doing homework or eating. I realized that Maslow's claims are applicable to many people and that I should not infer that I am an self-actualized individual. I wonder if his studies would be an example of the P.T. Barnum effect.