Medicine & USMLE

Humanistic Personality Theory

  1. Trait Personality Theory and Five-Factor Model
  2. Social Cognitive Theory of Personality
  3. Biological Theory of Personality
  4. Humanistic Personality Theory
  5. Behaviorist Personality Theory
  6. Psychoanalytic Personality Theory


The Humanistic Theory of Personality states that people are intrinsically good, with an innate drive to make themselves better. The Humanistic theory is built on the premise of a person’s self-concept, consisting of their real self and their ideal self.  People are motivated by a drive towards self-actualization, which describes transforming your real self into your ideal self. This self-actualizing tendency develops best in an unconditionally positive environment. Importantly, this theory places extra emphasis on the idea of free will, with the ability to change one’s personality for the better.

Key Points

  • Humanistic Theory of Personality
    • Humans are inherently good and want to get better
      • Personality is chosen consciously with free will
        • One of few personality theories that is not deterministic
      • Motivated by actualizing tendency (towards self-actualization)
        • Innate drive to improve your real self towards ideal self
        • Incongruence: when one's real actions seemingly contradict ideal self
          • Thought to cause psychological distress
    • Occurs best in a growth-promoting climate, requiring:
      • Genuine character
      • Unconditional positive regard from others


Many superhero plot lines have humanistic characters. For example, in Spider-Man, Peter Parker is brought up in a loving family with unconditional positive regard from his family. He is brought up with a strong sense of civic duty and a desire to be a better person. He is inherently good, and ultimately seeks to become his ideal self in his role as Spider-Man.