Winston, C. N. (2016). An existential-humanistic-positive th…

Title: An Existential-Humanistic-Positive Theory of Human Motivation: A Critical Analysis


The study of human motivation has been a longstanding topic of interest in psychology. Over the years, numerous theories have been proposed that seek to understand and explain the underlying drivers of human behavior. One such theory is the Existential-Humanistic-Positive (EHP) theory put forth by Winston (2016), which offers a unique perspective on the factors influencing human motivation. This paper aims to critically analyze the key tenets and contributions of the EHP theory, assessing its strengths and weaknesses in the context of existing motivational theories.

Overview of the EHP Theory:

The EHP theory posits that human motivation is driven by three core aspects: existential, humanistic, and positive. The existential aspect emphasizes the need for individuals to find meaning and purpose in their lives, focusing on the search for self-identity and the realization of personal potential. The humanistic aspect emphasizes the importance of growth, self-actualization, and individual autonomy, recognizing the innate drive of individuals to fulfill their unique potentials. The positive aspect emphasizes the role of positivity and optimism in motivating individuals, highlighting the significance of positive emotions, experiences, and expectations in influencing motivation.

Existential Aspect:

One of the central elements of the EHP theory is the existential aspect, which emphasizes the individual’s search for meaning and purpose. According to Winston (2016), individuals are motivated to find significance in their lives and make sense of their existence. This aspect of motivation is closely linked to existential philosophy, which suggests that individuals strive to create meaning amidst the inherent absurdity and uncertainty of life. In this sense, the EHP theory offers a unique perspective by integrating existential concepts into the study of motivation.

By recognizing the importance of existential concerns, the EHP theory addresses a gap in many traditional motivational theories, which often prioritize more instrumental and outcome-driven factors. The existential aspect highlights the significance of subjective experiences, personal values, and long-term goals, suggesting that individuals are motivated not only by external rewards but also by internal drives for self-discovery and personal growth.

Humanistic Aspect:

The humanistic aspect of the EHP theory is rooted in the principles of humanistic psychology, which emphasizes the importance of subjective experiences, self-determination, and personal growth. According to Winston (2016), individuals have an inherent drive towards self-actualization, which involves realizing their unique potentials, cultivating their strengths, and achieving personal fulfillment. This aspect of motivation places a strong emphasis on human agency and autonomy, suggesting that individuals are motivated by the pursuit of authenticity and personal development.

By incorporating the humanistic perspective, the EHP theory provides a holistic understanding of human motivation that goes beyond mere behaviorism or external incentives. It acknowledges the complex interplay between an individual’s internal motivations and their external circumstances, highlighting the significance of personal values, self-awareness, and a sense of purpose in driving motivation. This aspect aligns the EHP theory with other humanistic theories like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Carl Rogers’ person-centered therapy, which also emphasize the role of self-actualization and personal growth in motivating individuals.

Positive Aspect:

The positive aspect of the EHP theory focuses on the role of positivity and optimism in motivation. Winston (2016) argues that positive emotions, experiences, and expectations play a crucial role in influencing motivation by enhancing individuals’ well-being and promoting constructive behaviors. This aspect draws from positive psychology, which emphasizes the importance of positive emotions, strengths, and virtues in promoting human flourishing.

By highlighting the positive aspect of motivation, the EHP theory complements other theories that focus on negative aspects such as conflict, fear, or deprivation. It recognizes the significance of positive experiences such as joy, gratitude, and hope, suggesting that individuals are motivated not only by the alleviation of negative states but also by the pursuit of positive emotions and well-being. This aspect underscores the broader shift towards a strengths-based approach in psychology and offers a refreshing perspective on the factors that drive human motivation.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the EHP Theory:

The EHP theory offers unique insights and contributions to the study of human motivation. By integrating existential, humanistic, and positive aspects, it provides a comprehensive framework that captures the complexities of human motivation beyond traditional theories. However, like any theory, it has its strengths and weaknesses that warrant further examination.

One strength of the EHP theory is its amalgamation of various perspectives, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of human motivation. By incorporating existential concerns, humanistic principles, and positive psychology, it provides a comprehensive conceptualization of motivation that addresses both individual uniqueness and universal human needs. This integrative approach can shed new light on the complexities of motivation and open up new avenues for research in the field.

However, one limitation of the EHP theory is its broad and abstract nature, which can make it challenging to operationalize and test empirically. The theory encompasses a wide range of concepts and constructs, making it difficult to pin down specific mechanisms or causal relationships. Due to its abstract nature, it may also lack the precision and specificity characteristic of more empirically grounded theories.


In conclusion, the Existential-Humanistic-Positive (EHP) theory of human motivation offers an innovative perspective that integrates existential, humanistic, and positive aspects of motivation. By recognizing the importance of subjective experiences, personal growth, and positive emotions, the EHP theory provides a holistic understanding of what motivates individuals. While the theory has its strengths in providing a comprehensive framework and highlighting neglected aspects of motivation, it also suffers from a lack of specificity and empirical grounding. Further research is required to validate and refine the EHP theory, but it stands as a valuable contribution to the field of human motivation.