In Carl Rogers’s theory of personality, the organismic valuing process refers to evaluating subjective experiences to determine their possible impact on self-improvement.
The concept is rooted in humanistic psychology and Rogers’ client-centered therapy.
Essentially, Rogers proposed that people possess an innate tendency to evaluate their lives and experiences based on their own internal, subjective frame of reference.
The organismic valuing process is this ongoing internal mechanism that people use to evaluate the meaning and significance of the experiences they have in their lives.
Understanding the Organismic Valuing Process
According to Rogers, the underlying motive that drives behavior is the need for self-actualization. In other words, we are always striving to become the best possible versions of ourselves that we can be.
The actualizing tendency motivates us toward self-actualization, but it is the organismic valuing process that helps guide this actualizing tendency.
As we approach an experience or event, we consider both the short-term and long-term potential it has to aid us in our quest toward reaching our full potential.
Rogers believed that when presented with two different alternatives, people who are emotionally healthy and self-aware will always choose the option that best promotes the actualizing tendency.
Effects of the Organismic Valuing Process
When you evaluate different experiences, the organismic valuing process influences whether you view them positively or negatively. Those that have the potential to enhance the self are viewed in a positive way. Those that post a threat or are inconsistent with how a person views themselves will be judged negatively.
If you are at a party and decide to stop drinking, friends might pressure you to keep drinking in order to “have fun.” While this pressure might lead to short-social acceptance, the evaluation of the organismic valuing principle might cause you to place more weight on the long-term risks associated with getting drunk such as being arrested for drunk driving on your way home from the party.
Rogers fundamentally believed that people are capable of assessing both their inner situation and external influences and making choices that are the most beneficial to the self.
Key Things to Know About the Organismic Valuing Process
Some of the key components of the organismic valuing process:
It Is Innate
The organismic valuing process is biological and inherent in each person. Rogers believed this is a fundamental aspect of human nature that leads people to assess and value their experiences.
It is Subjective
The valuing process is highly subjective. How it functions in each individual is influenced by their personal history, perceptions, feelings, and personality. In other words, the things that are valuable to you may not be the same for others.
It is Internal and Ongoing
The organismic valuing process occurs internally, often unconsciously. It is also continuous, happening constantly as dynamic events unfold around us.
Congruence Plays a Role
The organismic valuing process involves valuing events and determining how they relate to self-concept. Experiences and events that are aligned with a person’s sense of self are more likely to be seen as more meaningful. When these experiences are incongruent, they are valued less positively or may even contribute to feelings of cognitive dissonance.
Organismic Valuing Process in Therapy
According to Rogers, it is important to create an environment that encourages poeple to fully utilize the organismic valuing process. In psychotherapy, this includes:
- Helping people better understand their internal evaluations of their experiences
- Encouraging self-discovery
- Fostering greater authenticity
- Promoting self-actualization
- Facilitating personal growth
When people utilize the organismic valuing process to align their experiences and behaviors with their values, they are able to live more authentic, fulfilling lives. Staying in tune with this process can help people better understand their values, needs, goals, and desires.
Carducci BJ. The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing; 2009.
Maurer MM, Daukantaitė D. Revisiting the organismic valuing process theory of personal growth: A theoretical review of Rogers and its connection to positive psychology [published correction appears in Front Psychol. 2021 Jun 03;12:698829]. Front Psychol. 2020;11:1706. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01706
Thomas JC, Segal DL. Comprehensive Handbook of Personality and Psychopathology, Personality and Everyday Functioning. (Eds.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2006.
Kendra Cherry, MS.Ed., is an author, educator, and founder of Explore Psychology, an online psychology resource. She is a health writer and editor specializing in psychology, mental health, and wellness. She also writes for Verywell Mind and is the author of the Everything Psychology book (Adams Media).
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