When you hear the name Abraham Maslow, the first thing that comes to mind is the “guy” who created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and you would be correct. But Maslow is also considered by many to be the “Founder” of humanistic psychology, the Third Force in American Psychology, the other two being behaviourism and psychoanalysis. Along with the help of Anthony Sutich, Maslow founded the Journal of Humanistic Psychology in 1961 and created the Association of Humanistic Psychology in 1962. Humanistic psychology also gave birth to the human potential movement, and Maslow also popularized the concept of peak experience, “An unusual moment of extreme joy, serenity, beauty, or wonder that he believed closely related to self-actualization.”
Name: Abraham Harold Maslow
Birth Date: April 1908 – June 1970
Job Functions: Psychologist and humanistic psychologist
Fields: Humanistic Psychology
Known For: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Founder of Humanistic Psychology, the Journal of Humanistic Psychology and Association of Humanistic Psychology.
Influenced By: Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Kurt Goldstein, Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, and Karen Horney.
Abraham Maslow rejected behaviourism and psychoanalysis because he believed there was an over-reliance on human frailty. Instead, he wanted to focus more on human strengths. Maslow believed that human nature was essentially good,and that “Relieved of deficiency-derived constraints, humans could work and relate in a truly synergistic manner.” He asked himself what a fully functioning human being might be. To explore this thought, Maslow proposed a theory of motivation and came up with the five basic needs.
Maslow Hierarchy of Needs – Five Levels of Basic Needs
|B-needs(being or growth needs)||
When basic survival needs are met, individuals seek to fulfill higher needs until they reach self-actualizations. You have to fulfill a lower level of need before you can fulfill a higher level need. Maslow believed that only one percent of the population ever becomes self-actualizers.
The five levels of needs are broken down into D-needs or deficiency needs, which are the bottom four level needs; and B-needs or being/growth needs which is at the top. Those who have satisfied their D-needs and are motivated by B-needs are actualizing their deeper potential of being human.
To study his theory of motivation, Maslow decided to study a select group of people who he believed reached a certain level of self-actualization: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. In studying these self-actualizers, Maslow came up with a list of 11 common traits.
- Realistic orientation
- Acceptance of themselves and others
- Spontaneity of expression
- Attitudes that are problem-centered rather than self-centered
- Identification with humanity
- Emotional depth
- Democratic values
- Philosophical rather than a caustic sense of humour
- Transcendence of the environment
Maslow used naturalistic research method, which includes the following steps.
- Identify a method of enquiry
- Data collection
- Talk to many people
- Conduct formal interviews
- Allow subjects to express their opinions and offer comments
- Get views from other observers
- Read widely (amass a body of information)
- Make sense of the information
- Devise lists of probable attributes or tentative implications
- Go through the process again
- Or explore further
Despite the widespread acceptance of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, his critics said that there was a lack of empirical support for the hierarchy, sample sizes were too small and the research methods were pseudoscientific. Maslow encouraged his critics to replicate his research to address the issues. The hierarchy of needs still holds today, and many of the new theories of motivation embody Maslow’s concept at the core.
Lessons from Abraham Maslow
- Approach learning with the eagerness of a child. Maslow devoured new information and developments in his field.
- Push the boundaries and discover new frontiers: “What gave a particular potent thrust to Maslow’s thinking and writing was his willingness to go beyond method when the topic he was pursuing could not be contained in the approved modalities of the discipline. In this way, he not only offered fresh conceptions, but he lessened the rigidity of those modalities so that others might similarly grapple with fresh concerns.”
During his lifetime, Abraham Maslow published over 100 articles in magazines and professional journals, and published 10 books which include: Motivation and Human Personality, Toward a Psychology of Being, Religions, Values and Peak Experiences, Eupsychian Management, The Psychology of Science, Principles of Abnormal Psychology: The Dynamics of Psychic Illness (with Bela Mittelmann) and a posthumous collection of papers The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.
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Encyclopedia of Psychology
American National Biography
The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology
The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology
International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
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