Comparison of Humanistic Perspective and Social Cognitive Perspective


Modern psychology includes many major and minor categories and trends. Some perspectives may be consistent with one another or imply others. Specific psychological theories can contradict each other both in theory and in practice. The humanistic perspective and social cognitive perspective are these types of conflicting trends of psychology. The importance of this work is because a competent psychologist should understand the fundamental differences between these two perspectives and their nuances. This essay aims to analyze the main concepts, differences, and limitations of both humanistic psychology theory and a social cognitive one.

Main Concepts of Each Perspective

Humanistic Psychology Perspective

Specialists ascribe several fundamental postulates to the humanistic psychology theory. One of them is that all people have free will, which is called personal agency. The Discovery of personal agency allowed researchers to hypothesize two other humanistic principles. It is the primordial altruistic nature of people and the innate desire for self-realization. The humanistic psychological theory’s adherents argue that subjective reality and individual perception are more important than objective reality (Acevedo, 2018). It is also important to note that this theory denies the influence of someone else’s or observation experience.

Social Cognitive Perspective

The social cognitive theory presents a different perspective on the processes of human personality formation. This psychological perspective asserts that the process of learning and, therefore, personality are formed in society during an interaction between personality, behavior, and environment. Social cognitive theorists consider internal perception and processes and objective reality to have an equal impact on a human character (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). This theory also takes into account the context of time. Past experiences can influence present responses as well as perceptions of possible future consequences. Moreover, social cognitive theory experts consider such a concept as a gradation of the individual’s perfect behavior due to which they determine the level of necessary knowledge and skills.

Fundamental Differences between Humanistic Theory and Social Cognitive Theory

The Issue of Motivation

The genesis of motivation is the cause of disagreement between humanistic theorists and social cognitive specialists. According to humanistic psychology theory, the motivation of the individual comes from natural individualistic, almost genetic inclinations (Acevedo, 2018). The social-cognitive psychology paradigm is that the process of motivation is “personal/internal influences that lead to outcomes” resulting from reciprocal interactions of person, behavior, and environment (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020, p. 1). Therefore, the social cognitive perspective takes into account more of the possible influencing parameters.

The Issue of Subjectivity and Objectivity

Another important topic is the importance of subjective and objective parameters on personality. The humanistic psychological perspective completely denies the influence of the objective factors of reality. Subjective perception, interpretation, and relativity are superior categories (Acevedo, 2018). Social cognitive theory experts believe that both subjective and objective processes have the same effect on a person. The synthesis of these two key factors creates reinforcements, one of the most significant phenomena of the social-cognitive perspective.

Possible Limitations of Each Perspective

Humanistic Psychology Perspective Limitations

The humanistic theory’s most significant limitation is the impossibility of including such a psychological category as objective reality. Specialists cannot investigate objective factors within the framework of the humanistic direction without a subjective approach. There the objective reality must necessarily pass through the prism of personal perception and interpretation. It is why humanistic psychology is less practical and applicable in collectivist communities because it was developed in the Western individualistic world (Mawere et al., 2016). It is also important to note that the humanistic perspective is closed within the theory framework because it rejects scientific knowledge. It can be concluded that this theory is more related to philosophy than psychology.

Social Cognitive Perspective Limitations

One of the shortcomings of the social cognitive theory is the axiomatic relationship between the three major points, which are personality, behavior, and environment. The perspective argues that one affects the other without showing a significant evidence base (Schunk & DiBenedetto, 2020). Outside of this entire interconnected system, the rest of the parameters are chaotic, since social cognitive psychology primarily considers dynamic phenomena and processes. Social cognitive theory has very blurred disciplinary limits because of this. The scientific approach also lacks a systematic focus and application. It is important to note that this perspective is more focused on the exploration of learning rather than individuality. The importance of experience on emotional and motivational processes is also exaggerated.


This work explores such phenomena of psychology from a humanistic perspective and a social cognitive perspective. The main concepts of the humanistic theory are personal agency, primordial altruism, innate desire for self-realization, and subjectivity. The author also identified the main theses of the social cognitive theory. They are constant interaction between personality, behavior, and environment, the context of the time, an assumption about the equal influence of subjectivity and objectivity. These perspectives have radically different views on the genesis of motivation and the actual impact of objective and subjective factors. The author also examined several limitations of each perspective, such as the theoretical isolation of humanistic theory and the chaotic vastness of the social cognitive one. Three scientific peer-reviewed articles support this essay.


Acevedo, A. (2018). A personalistic appraisal of Maslow’s needs theory of motivation: From “humanistic” psychology to integral humanism. Journal of Business Ethics, 148(4), 741-763. Web.

Mawere, M., Mubaya, T. R., van Reisen, M., & van Stam, G. (2016). Maslow’s theory of human motivation and its deep roots in individualism: Interrogating Maslow’s applicability in Africa. In M. Mawere & A. Nhemachena (Eds.), Theory, knowledge, development and politics: what role for the academy in the sustainability of Africa (pp. 55-72). Langaa RPCIG.

Schunk, D. H., & DiBenedetto, M. K. (2020). Motivation and social cognitive theory. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 60, 1-10. Web.

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"Comparison of Humanistic Perspective and Social Cognitive Perspective." PsychologyWriting, 6 Sept. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Comparison of Humanistic Perspective and Social Cognitive Perspective'. 6 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Comparison of Humanistic Perspective and Social Cognitive Perspective." September 6, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Comparison of Humanistic Perspective and Social Cognitive Perspective." September 6, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Comparison of Humanistic Perspective and Social Cognitive Perspective." September 6, 2023.