Humanistic Theory of Motivation
By Julia Calise, Katherine Fazioli, Jordan Jones,
Ashley Motta, & Diondra Perillo

Bibliography: Myers, David G. Myers’ Psychology for AP. New York, NY: Worth, 2011. Print.
“Motivation in Psychology 101 at AllPsych Online.” Motivation in Psychology 101 at AllPsych Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Dec. 2012.

3. Think of an exception, a situation in which the theory will not work or where another theory might be more effective. 

Although the humanistic theory is effective in describing what motivation is needed for a school to function daily, the psychoanalytic theory may better describe a child’s desire to learn and other parts of a school. According to the psychoanalytic theory, we are motivated to perform tasks to ensure our survival and to prevent our own destruction. When considering the motivation to learn under this theory, a student might be unconsciously and intrinsically motivated to learn so that they have the skills they need to survive through what they learn at school. At school, children also learn how to interact with one another, through which children may learn how to predict the tendencies of others in order to prevent their own destruction and aid them in their survival. Students may also be motivated to do their homework, follow the rules and behave in class in order to prevent the destruction of their grades and ‘survive’ the school year. Teachers may be motivated to teach under this theory simply because of the income related to the job, which ensures their financial survival needs will be met. 

2. Create a good example of the theory in every day life.

Humanistic theory is exemplified in schools. Lunch staff fulfill the students’ need for food and drink. Teachers and administration keep the school running in an organized and safe manner. They provide shelter and order to the children during the school day. The teachers work to create a caring and nurturing environment for their students. Schools are where children learn to interact with people outside of their family. It is in schools that children experience the need for social belonging and acceptance. Esteem needs are also met in schools. When children succeed in education, the achievement and recognition of said achievement build their sense of esteem and competence. Teachers push their students to explore and fulfill their potential. The humanistic theory stresses how humans aim to live up to their greatest potential. Teachers instill this drive in their pupils from a very early age.

4. Answer the following question as regards to your theory: Your teacher does not appear to be motivated to teach you anything today. What might be causing the problem? What would be a useful to handle this apparent “instructor amotivational syndrome?”

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a person may only be able to move up the pyramid if they satisfy the needs at the bottom first.

  • Self-Actualization Needs: In order for this level of needs to be reached, all of needs below must be met. Once those needs are fulfilled, the teacher would be motivated to reach her fullest potential by sharing her knowledge with her students.   
  • Self Esteem Needs:  The teacher’s lack of motivation may be due to a poor teacher-student relationship. To create a positive climate in which the teacher would be motivated to teach, the students must show her respect.
  • Love and Belonging Needs:  Another possible cause of the “instructor amotivational syndrome” is that the teacher may not feel accepted in her school environment. In order for the teacher to feel comfortable and willing to teach, she must be surrounded by supportive and friendly colleagues.
  • Safety Needs: The teacher must feel safe in her environment. If the teacher felt threatened by her students or her surroundings, she would be too preoccupied to concentrate on teaching a class. In addition, if she is experiencing job insecurity, she may not be motivated to continue teaching.
  • Physiological Needs: In order for the teacher to be motivated, her basic biological needs must be met. For example, if the teacher was lacking food or adequate sleep, she would be unable to focus on anything else other than her unsatisfied necessities.

1. Put your theory into your own words/think outside the box for presenting it. Note: you should include prominent thinkers promoting your theory. Remember to cite.

Humanistic theory came about in the 1960s as a counter to Freudian psychology and behaviorism. Rather than focusing on past trauma or strictly observable behavior, humanistic psychology focuses on current environmental influences, the need for love and acceptance, and personal growth. Humanistic psychology says that humans will always strive to achieve their maximum potential.

One of the most well-known aspects of humanistic theory is Abraham Maslow’s concept of self-actualization, our need to reach full potential. Maslow based the idea of self-actualization on similar traits shared by productive people; those traits included self-awareness, self-acceptance, spontaneity, love, and the ability to not be paralyzed of the judgement of others. Maslow said that these people were problem-centered rather than self-centered. 

An important aspect of humanistic perspective, and our personalities, is self-concept. Self-concept is important in self-awareness, being true to ourselves, and working for that goal of self-actualization.

Self-actualization is part of the hierarchy of needs, which includes physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs, as represented below.


Self-actualization, according to Maslow, is an impossible goal. No one has ever had complete understanding of themselves, no one has ever stopped growing emotionally or intellectually.

Carl Rogers is another prominent thinker of the humanistic perspective. He said that growth was nurtured by others being open with their feelings and genuine, and by being accepting, what Rogers called the “unconditional positive regard,” or being expressive without judgement. He also believed empathy nurtured growth as well, by sharing our feelings. 


Myers, David G. Myers’ Psychology for AP. New York, NY: Worth, 2011. Print.

"Motivation in Psychology 101 at AllPsych Online." Motivation in Psychology 101 at AllPsych Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Dec. 2012.

"In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?"

Carl Rogers (via i-am-the-ocean-iamthesea)


Our society also leads us astray with conditions of worth. As we grow up, our parents, teachers, peers, the media, and others, only give us what we need when we show we are “worthy,” rather than just because we need it. We get a drink when we finish our class, we get something sweet when we finish our vegetables, and most importantly, we get love and affection if and only if we “behave!”

Getting positive regard on “on condition” Rogers calls conditional positive regard. Because we do indeed need positive regard, these conditions are very powerful, and we bend ourselves into a shape determined, not by our organismic valuing or our actualizing tendency, but by a society that may or may not truly have our best interests at heart. A “good little boy or girl” may not be a healthy or happy boy or girl!

Over time, this “conditioning” leads us to have conditional positive self-regard as well. We begin to like ourselves only if we meet up with the standards others have applied to us, rather than if we are truly actualizing our potentials. And since these standards were created without keeping each individual in mind, more often than not we find ourselves unable to meet them, and therefore unable to maintain any sense of self-esteem.