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Understanding and explaining the difference between humanistic and scientific communication is a challenge. While the first has yet to be formally defined, the second encompasses a wide range of subcategories and is even an academic discipline of its own. However, one major difference distinguishes the two.
Human communication can be categorized as verbal or non-verbal and formal or informal. Verbal communication is achieved through speech and written characters, while non-verbal communication comprises all other methods of communication, such as images, facial expressions, body language and gestures. Formal communication is bound by rules and often associated with professional or academic settings and most business interactions. In contrast, informal communication generally occurs within intimate interpersonal relationships, that is, interactions with friends and family members.
Although our knowledge of human communication is vast, the term “humanistic communication” has yet to be formally defined. The term "humanistic" can refer to the psychological perspective, which approaches human existence through the exploration of values, personal responsibility, spirituality and self-actualization. Humanistic psychology is a theoretical framework and therapeutic approach that focuses on people's uniqueness and their power over their own destiny.
The term "humanistic" can also simply refer to the humanities (e.g., psychology, anthropology, sociology, history, and politics). So "humanistic communication" can mean communication within or about one of these topics.
Scientific communication generally involves the public media's informing the general public about matters related to science. However, scientific communication also refers to interactions between practicing scientists and academics. The general public obtains scientific information through documentaries, televised news segments and newspaper and magazine articles, while the scientific community interacts mainly through scientific journals, networking events, workshops and conferences. Scientific communication is also an academic discipline in its own right, due to the high demand for professional training from scientists who want to learn how to communicate with the general public about scientific research and development.
Humanistic communication has yet to be formally defined. However, comparing humanistic psychology and scientific communication gives us an idea of the difference between humanistic and scientific communication. The former is often related to questions of philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology and human emotions, while the latter takes science as its primary focus. Thus, the two simply concentrate on opposite arenas of knowledge, research and theories.
Marie-Pier Rochon has been writing since 2005. She has served as a writer at PlaceForPoeple and a newsletter writer for the Creative Sydney festival. Previously, Rochon also worked as a communications adviser for various Canadian federal agencies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors in organizational communications from the University of Ottawa.