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Psychology in Humanistic Studies (2018-2019)

English title

Psychology in Humanistic Studies

Course Code



Meaning of Life

Year of Study

Bachelor 2




7,5 ECTS




Dr. Joanna Wojtkowiak

Teaching Staff

Dr. Joanna Wojtkowiak, prof. dr. Arjan Braam

Learning Objectives

After participation in this course Z2-A1 Psychology, students are able to:

  • define, illustrate and compare important psychological concepts and methods in relation to meaning-making. Students become familiar with psychology as academic discipline and how it relates to Humanistic Studies. This implies that students learn important psychological theories and empirical methods that are relevant for questions of meaning in our society.
  • read, understand and contextualize psychological literature within different sub-disciplines and within their historical perspective (such as narrative psychology, neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, psychopathology, psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology and cultural and social psychology) .
  •  use psychology as sub-discipline of humanistic studies, understand and describe the implications of the psychologisation of society.

Content Description

How is meaning-making understood from a psychological perspective? This course offers an introduction into psychology as academic discipline in relation to humanistic studies. Psychology focuses on studying and understanding mental processes, such as emotions, but also human behaviour and social relations. We will discuss main psychological sub-disciplines, such as neuropsychology and cultural neuroscience, cognitive psychology, psychopathology, social and cultural psychology, as well as read classical texts by Rogers and Frankl. Throughout the course different psychological perspectives are approached on the basis of five themes/questions: (1) Meaning-making from a psychological perspective (narrative, personality and cognitive psychology) (2) How can neurobiology explain aggressive behavior? (neuro- and biological psychology) (3) What is abnormal behavior? (psychopathology) (4) What is deindividuation and dehumanization? (social psychology) (5) What is happiness? (positive psychology). Throughout the course, we will investigate to what extent psychology helps in understanding human action towards meaning in life and processes of (de)humanization of society. Humanistic psychology will be referred to as counter-perspective towards mainstream psychology, but we will also critically reflect on issues with this view on human beings.


During the lectures, theoretical and empirical literature will be discussed in relation to current issues References from media, newspapers, video and examples from popular psychological literature will be used in order to illustrate learning material as well as the role of psychology in contemporary society. During the seminars, we will discuss the subjects more deeply by means of presentations. Students are asked to actively prepare tutor sessions on the basis of group-presentations.


In the closed book exam, theoretical knowledge and insights from this course will be examined. Next to general knowledge of the subject matter, students are expected to be able to define and illustrate theoretical concepts and methods from different psychological sub-disciplines.

Literature &

Obligatory literature (a.o.):

  • McAdams, D. (2001). The psychology of life stories. Review of General Psychology, 5(2), 100-122. 
  • Park, C. (2010). Making sense of the meaning literature: An integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 257-301. 
  • Newman, E.J. & Lindsay, D.S. (2009). False memories: What the hell are they for? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1105-1121. 
  • Domíngues Duque, J.F., Turner, R., Lewis, D.E. & Egan, G. (2010). Cultural neuroanthropology: a humanistic science for the study of the culture-brain nexus. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 5, 138-147.
  • DaLilla, L. F. (2002). Behavior genetics in aggression in children: Review and future directions. Developmental Review, 22, 593-622. 
  • Salmivalli, C. (2010). Bullying and the peer group: a review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 112-120. 
  • Hewstone, M., Fincham, F.D. & Foster, J. (Eds.) (2005). Chapter 15 Abnormal Psychology. From, Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Rogers, C.R. (2007: 1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Psychotherapy: Theory, Practice, Research, Training, 44(3), 240-248.
  • Frankl, V. (1972). The feeling of meaninglessness: A challenge to psychotherapy. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 31(1), 85-89. 
  • Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: An integrative review. Personality and Social Psychology, 10(3), 252-264.  
  • Frankl, V. (1966). Self-transcendence as a human phenomenon. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 6, 97-106. 
  • Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review on research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141-166.