Developing Human Potential

W. Huitt

June 2005


A comprehensive model of education and schooling requires an understanding of what it means to be a human being. Based on a review of scientific literature one might state that human beings share aptitudes and abilities with animals as well as possess unique capacities:



1.      Biochemical functioning (Pauling, Feingold, Schauss, many others)

2.      Learn through reinforcement and punishment (Skinner, operant conditioning)

3.      Learn from others, modeling, observation, imitation (Bandura, social learning)

4.      Experience emotions (Freud, Erikson, Maslow)

5.      Develop relationships with others (Erikson, Maslow)

6.   Social relationships and bonding (Bandura, Erikson, Maslow)


        Unique to human beings


6.      Create symbols for realities; abstract symbolic thought as mature adults (Piaget, genetic epistemology)

7.      Awareness of consciousness (Churchland, philosophy; Morin, self-consciousness; neurologists)

8.      Knowledge of right and wrong, moral character, ethics (Plato, Aristotle, many others, see Purple & Ryan)

9.      Self-reflection, including self-efficacy (Bandura, social cognition)

10.  Plan alternative strategies, engage in forethought (intelligence; Feuerstein et al., instrumental enrichment; Sternberg, Triarchic theory of intelligence; Gardner, multiple intelligences; Bandura)

11.  Regulate own behavior, volition, conation, self-regulation (Bandura, Dweck, social cognition; Snow, conation)

12.  Search for meaning (Frankl, logotherapy)

13.  Susceptible to subtle spiritual influences (Wilber, integral psychology; Transpersonal psychologists)

14.  Need for actualizing potential for self and others (Maslow, hierarchy of needs)





Bandura, A. (1985). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bandura, A. (1976). Social learning theory. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Churchland, P. (1986). Neurophilosophy: Toward a unified science of the mind-brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Dweck, C. (2000). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

Erikson, E. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Feingold, B. (1985). Why your child is hyperactive. New York: Random House.

Feuerstein, R., et al. (2003). Feuersteinís theory and applied systems: A reader.  Jerusalem, Israel: The International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential.

Frankl, V. (1997). Manís search for meaning (rev. ed.). New York: Pocket Books.

Freud, S. (1995). The Freud reader (reissue ed.). New York: W. W. Norton.

Gardner, H. (2000). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.

Maslow, A. (1998). Toward a psychology of being (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley.

Morin, A. (2004). A neurocognitive and socioecological model of self-awareness. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 130(3), 197-222.

Pauling, L. (1986). How to live longer and feel better. New York: W. H. Freeman & Co.

Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1969). The psychology of the child. New York: Basic Books.

Purpel, D., & Ryan, K. (Eds.). (1976). Moral education...It comes with the territory. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

Schauss, A. (1980). Nutrition and behavior. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing.

Snow, R. (1989). Toward assessment of cognitive and conative structures in learning. Educational Researcher, 18(9), 8-14.

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Random House.

Sternberg, R. (1984). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. Cambridge, UK:  Cambridge University Press.

Wilber, K. (2000). Integral psychology. Boston & London: Shambala.


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