Rogers’ Humanist Theory of Personality

Carl Rogers was one of the most seasoned humanists whose conceptualization of self and personality was centered around the individual and their ability to strive to achieve their full innate potential. The cornerstones of his personality theory were the concepts of self-actualization and condition of worth and the assumption that an individual can influence personality development throughout life. Below, we explore Rogers' conceptualization of personality in detail.

Basic Assumptions of Personality

Rogers' personality theory is based on assumptions and propositions centered around the humanistic approach. His major assumptions about personality are as follows −

  • Every person has the ability and responsibility to improve and develop their personality.

  • One's personality and development are not predominantly directed by unconscious forces but by one's conscious and rational perceptions, which are subjective.

  • Personality development is directed by one's innate tendency for self-actualization and becoming fully functional.

  • Childhood experiences affect the way we perceive our present experiences.

  • Personality can be understood by an individual's perception of self, which is subjective.


Rogers' personality theory was derived from his therapeutic approach. While conceptualizing the structure and dynamics of personality, he proposed some concepts considered important to understanding the conceptual framework of personality. Some of these concepts were modifications of earlier existing literature, whereas others were unique concepts. These foundational concepts of Carl Rogers' personality theory have been discussed below:

Self-actualization − the concept of self-actualization is very much similar to Maslow's concept of self-actualization. The only major difference is that, for Rogers, self-actualization is a process rather than a final destination. It is the fundamental innate motivation of personality development. Though it is innate, Rogers suggested it is highly influenced by experience and learning. It indicates psychological health in individuals.

Experiential World − Rogers suggested that the experiential world is the aspect of one's internal and external world that one is capable of subjectively perceiving and experiencing. This world broadens as one grows and comes into contact with different experiences.

Self − Rogers defines "self" as one's perception of oneself as "I," "me," and "myself." It is a consistent and organized whole, which develops as we distinguish ourselves from objects and experiences that are external to ourselves. He suggested that the self-concept is the image of what we are (actual self), should be (ought self) and want to be (ideal self).

Positive Regard −The emergence of self requires fulfilling the need to be accepted, approved, and loved by others. This need is called "positive regard, and it is termed unconditional positive regard when this need is fulfilled unconditionally irrespective of a child's behavior. This concept is important for both personal development and therapy.

Condition of Worth − In simple words, it is the conditions under which one develops self-regard for oneself. This develops from parents' behavior and leads to avoiding certain behaviors considered wrong.

Incongruence and congruence − Rogers suggested that the difference between an ideal and actual self leads to incongruence within an individual, eventually leading to emotional disturbances. Similarly, he also suggested that incongruence is generated when there is a difference between reality and perceived reality, leading to psychological problems for an individual.

Concept Of a Fully Functioning Person

While describing a psychologically healthy individual, Rogers gave an interesting concept of a fully functioning person. He suggested that a fully functioning person is self-actualizing and needs healthy personality development. He proposed some characteristics of a fully functioning person, which are as follows:

  • Such a person exhibits non-distorted awareness and acceptance of all experiences and emotions.

  • Such people strive to reach their full potential and are open to experience.

  • They rest their perceptions and can perceive, evaluate, and weigh from one's subjective perceptions.

  • Such a person has the perceived freedom and power to make choices and act.

  • They are constructive, creative, and adaptive and seek novel and challenging experiences.

It is important to note that Rogers did not describe such people as happy and content. Rather, he suggested that they are merely exciting, enriching, and meaningful, implying that such people may also encounter difficulties, dilemmas, and complexities.

Personality development

Carl Rogers had a lifespan perception of development, believing that one's personality changes and modifies throughout one's life. Nevertheless, the major driver of personality development is different at different stages of development and in different people.

Rogers proposed that self-actualization is the fundamental driving force, which is innately present in every individual. This actualization is stimulated by the development of self and positive regard in an infant. A child develops one's self and self-concept by differentiating between external and internal objects of perception. This differentiation and positive regard created two kinds of self in a child, i.e., an ideal self and an actual self. A child who does not receive unconditional positive regard from primary caretakers is likely to develop distorted conditions of worth guided by the conditions of regard of the caretaker.

Further, Rogers also suggested that one's experiential world broadens as one grows older and our experiential base increases. As we grow and mature, this experiential world becomes more specific, thereby leading to the development of the self. The development of the self is thus highly influenced by our experiential world and the positive regard we receive. On the other hand, one's personality is influenced by their self-concept and self-actualizing tendency.

While talking about personality development, Rogers also suggested that it is a lifelong process and that people can change their personalities.


Carl Rogers has proposed a very optimistic view of personality development. He believed in free will and one's ability to change one's life. He considered the concept of self and self-actualization as the core of personality. At the same time, the experiential world and positive regard are the main drivers of personality development. Overall, Rogers' conceptualization of personality is extremely important in the present context, and his operalization of self is widely used.

Updated on: 12-Dec-2022

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