Biological and Humanistic Approaches to Personality


The purpose of this project is to analyze the biological and humanistic approaches to personality. Personality reflects elements of relatively enduring traits of individuals (Feist & Feist, 2009). It defines the behaviors of people. Both biological and humanistic approaches can be applied to explain personality. The humanistic approach stresses the importance of the personal worth of an individual and the relevance of human values. This approach reflects the creative, natural, and active traits of people and the abilities of individuals to act and attain their optimal outcomes. On the other hand, biological factors have been determined to have significant influences on personality, especially when they interact with environmental factors.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the extent to which growth needs influence personality formation

Generally, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can also be used to explain personality. For instance, one may wonder what factors are responsible for motivating specific behaviors. This humanistic psychologist posits that behaviors and deeds are driven by the desire to attain specific needs.

For growth needs, which are at the top of the pyramid, they do not emanate from a deficiency, but instead from individuals’ desires to grow and realize their full potential (Huitt, 2007). These are self-actualizing needs.

Self-actualization ensures that individuals can realize their full potentials. They become self-aware and develop self-determination (Deci & Ryan, 2000). People concentrate on personal growth, and they show interest in the opinions of other individuals and for society. The major focus of individuals at this stage is to attain full potential. Self-actualization requires the development of self-concept.

A positive self-concept is vital for shaping personality as people strive to be the best they can be at the highest level of Maslow’s pyramid. Individuals begin to know, understand, and accept themselves. People begin to realize that they are unique in the world. Hence, people start to form a distinct personality.

They form habits and characters that influence actions and behaviors to certain standards right from the early stages of development. Personality shows what people consider as essential to them based on choices.

These characters or traits formed in early childhood through learning and interaction with others shape the personality of people. It is expected that normal standards should control behaviors and assist in trait development. Thus, the growth needs the aim to bring the best personality in individuals as they strive to realize their full potential.

Biological factors that influence the formation of personality

Personality scholars have agreed that biological factors interact with environmental factors to form personality. Consequently, scholars have emphasized the role of biological factors on personality (Feist & Feist, 2009).

Heredity is responsible for inherited traits. Generally, people have the predisposition to inheriting certain traits that make them behave and act in a given way. These inherited factors influence personality development. Behavioral geneticists have demonstrated that heritability of personality character occurs at around 50 percent. That is, about 50 percent of a trait or character differences noted in individuals can be linked to genetic factors.

On the same note, environmental factors have been noted to interact with genetic factors to influence personality. Environmental factors may influence personality before or after birth. For instance, the relationship that mothers form with their children and conditions children experience affects their personality traits. Innate traits and characteristics interact with environmental factors to influence their personality. Peers may influence the characters of others. Similarly, temperaments of children are most likely to affect their peers.

Care that children receive from their parents or caregivers could provide a sense of security and protection, which would help children to develop a related personality. In addition, guidance that children receive from their environments also acts in similar manners to reinforce their traits.

The relationship of biological factors to Maslow’s theory of personality

Biological and humanistic approaches to personality differ significantly. Theorists have presented different opinions based on the two approaches. Maslow’s theory of personality may be linked with biological factors of personality formation. From Maslow’s perspective, human needs are fundamental in influencing personality formation. Maslow shows that human needs are the basis of personality development because his hierarchy of needs consists of these needs. These needs, in turn, influence personality development. A lack of these vital needs at a given stage of the pyramid could impair positive personality development.

Some biological factors that affect the development of a person’s personality have been identified. When biological factors and Maslow’s views are evaluated, one may be able to identify certain relations. Maslow listed human needs in terms of hierarchy in which every pyramid was dependent on the previous one. These needs are largely influenced by biological and environmental factors. For instance, environments or biological factors may affect how different individuals perceive various sets of needs presented by Maslow. These needs are known to motivate personality formation among individuals. While some individuals may be focused on their own perception, other people in a similar environment may focus on how others view their relationships with members of a given group (Huitt, 2007).

The basic aspects of humanistic theory that are incompatible with biological explanations of personality

Generally, the primary concepts of biological and humanistic theories vary significantly. The humanistic theory presents four major concepts based on personality. First, the theory focuses on the present as the most vital aspect of an individual. Humanistic theorists concentrate on the now and not the past or the future. Second, healthy individuals should have personal responsibilities irrespective of their deeds. Third, each person possesses inherent self-worth. In this sense, even negative deeds do not undermine the value of an individual. Fourth, the main goal of life is to attain personal growth and self-realization. Thus, self-acceptance, self-improvement, and individual knowledge are vital humanists (Franken, 2001).

Conversely, biological theories strive to understand thoughts instead of concentrating on self-worth feelings. First, biological factors (genetic make-ups) are responsible for individuals’ personalities. The primary concept of biological factors recognizes that even if no direct influence in personality is noted, self-perception may influence how other people interact with an individual. These indirect influences have profound impacts on adulthood traits. Third, biological theories stress that genes and intelligence affect an individual’s personality. Hence, mental conditions and temperament may be linked to biological factors.

Humanistic theories provide explanations on personality that appear to be simple, while biological theories offer deeper scientific aspects about personality. While these present theories aspects of personality from different standpoints, they provide fundamental concepts on understanding personality formation.


This project has analyzed the biological and humanistic approaches to personality. These are two different theories presented by various psychologists. These concepts, however, strive to explain personality development in individuals through presenting outstanding explanations. Humanistic theorists focus on the abilities of individuals to achieve their full potential and, thus, self-actualization is fundamental in this theory. Conversely, biological theorists have demonstrated that personality characters are genetic and hereditary and, therefore, individuals cannot avoid them. The two theories specifically relate when they explain human needs, hereditary, environmental factors, and motivation of individual behaviors and their impacts on personality development. Nevertheless, these two theories have their shortfalls.


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. Web.

Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill. Web.

Franken, R. E. (2001). Human motivation (5th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Web.

Huitt, W. G. (2007). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Web.