Abraham (Harold) Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist. Maslow is mostly noted today for his proposal of a hierarchy of human needs and is considered the father of humanistic psychology.
Abraham Maslow's Life
Abraham Maslow was born and raised in Brooklyn, the eldest of seven children. His parents were uneducated Jewish immigrants from Russia. Abraham Maslow was smart but shy, and remembered his childhood as lonely and rather unhappy, because, as he said, "I was the little Jewish boy in the non-Jewish neighborhood. It was a little like being the first Negro enrolled in the all-white school. I was isolated and unhappy. I grew up in libraries and among books, without friends".
Abraham Maslow attended City College in New York. His father hoped he would pursue law, but he went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin to study psychology. While there, he married his cousin Bertha, and found as his chief mentor Professor Harry Harlow. At Wisconsin he pursued an original line of research, investigating primate dominance behavior and sexuality. He went on to further research at Columbia University, continuing similar studies. He found another mentor in Alfred Adler, one of Freud's early followers.
From 1937 to 1951, Maslow was on the faculty of Brooklyn College. In New York he found two more mentors, anthropologist Ruth Benedict and Freudian psychologist Max Wertheimer, whom he admired both professionally and personally. These two were so accomplished in both realms, and such "wonderful human beings" as well, that Maslow began taking notes about them and their behavior. This would be the basis of his lifelong research and thinking about mental health and human potential. He wrote extensively on the subject, borrowing ideas from other psychologists but adding significantly to them, especially the concepts of a hierarchy of needs, metaneeds, self-actualizing persons, and peak experiences. Maslow became the leader of the humanistic school of psychology that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, which he referred to as the "third force" — beyond Freudian theory and behaviorism.
Abraham Maslow saw human beings' needs arranged like a ladder. The most basic needs, at the bottom, were physical — air, water, food, sex. Then came safety needs — security, stability — followed by psychological, or social needs — for belonging, love, acceptance. At the top of it all were the self-actualizing needs — the need to fulfill oneself, to become all that one is capable of becoming. Maslow felt that unfulfilled needs lower on the ladder would inhibit the person from climbing to the next step. Someone dying of thirst quickly forgets their thirst when they have no oxygen, as he pointed out. People who dealt in managing the higher needs were what he called self-actualizing people. Benedict and Wertheimer were Maslow's models of self-actualization, from which he generalized that, among other characteristics, self-actualizing people tend to focus on problems outside of themselves, have a clear sense of what is true and what is phony, are spontaneous and creative, and are not bound too strictly by social conventions.
Peak experiences are profound moments of love, understanding, happiness, or rapture, when a person feels more whole, alive, self-sufficient and yet a part of the world, more aware of truth, justice, harmony, goodness, and so on. Self-actualizing people have many such peak experiences.
Abraham Maslow's thinking was surprisingly original — most psychology before him had been concerned with the abnormal and the ill. He wanted to know what constituted positive mental health. Humanistic psychology gave rise to several different therapies, all guided by the idea that people possess the inner resources for growth and healing and that the point of therapy is to help remove obstacles to individuals' achieving this. The most famous of these was client-centered therapy developed by Carl Rogers.
Maslow was a professor at Brandeis University from 1951 to 1969, and then became a resident fellow of the Laughlin Institute in California. He died of a heart attack in 1970.
Maslow's primary contribution to psychology is his Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow contended that humans have a number of needs that are instinctoid, that is, innate. These needs are classified as "conative needs," "cognitive needs," and "aesthetic needs." "Neurotic needs" are included in Maslow's theory but do not exist within the hierarchy.
Maslow postulated that needs are arranged in a hierarchy in terms of their potency. Although all needs are instinctive, some are more powerful than others. The lower the need is in the pyramid, the more powerful it is. The higher the need is in the pyramid, the weaker and more distinctly human it is. The lower, or basic, needs on the pyramid are similar to those possessed by non-human animals, but only humans possess the higher needs.
The first four layers of the pyramid are what Maslow called "deficiency needs" or "D-needs:" the individual does not feel anything if they are met, but feels anxious if they are not met. Needs beyond the D-needs are "growth needs," "being values," or "B-needs." When fulfilled, they do not go away; rather, they motivate further.
The base of the pyramid is formed by the physiological needs, including the biological requirements for food, water, air, and sleep. Once the physiological needs are met, an individual can concentrate on the second level, the need for safety and security. Included here are the needs for structure, order, security, and predictability. The third level is the need for love and belonging. Included here are the needs for friends and companions, a supportive family, identification with a group, and an intimate relationship. The fourth level is the esteem needs. This group of needs requires both recognition from other people that results in feelings of prestige, acceptance, and status, and self-esteem that results in feelings of adequacy, competence, and confidence. Lack of satisfaction of the esteem needs results in discouragement and feelings of inferiority.
Finally, self-actualization sits at the apex of the original pyramid.
Hierarchy of Needs
In 1970 Maslow published a revision to his original 1954 pyramid , adding the cognitive needs (first the need to acquire knowledge, then the need to understand that knowledge) above the need for self-actualization, and the aesthetic needs (the needs to create and/or experience beauty, balance, structure, etc.) at the top of the pyramid. However, not all versions of Maslow's pyramid include the top two levels.
Maslow theorized that unfulfilled cognitive needs can become redirected into neurotic needs. For example, children whose safety needs are not adequately met may grow into adults who compulsively hoard money or possessions . Unlike other needs, however, neurotic needs do not promote health or growth if they are satisfied.
Maslow also proposed that people who have reached self-actualization will sometimes experience a state he referred to as "transcendence," in which they become aware of not only their own fullest potential, but the fullest potential of human beings at large. He described this transcendence and its characteristics in an essay in the posthumously published The Farther Reaches of Human Nature.
In the essay, he describes this experience as not always being transitory, but that certain individuals might have ready access to it, and spend more time in this state. He makes a point that these individuals experience not only ecstatic joy, but also profound "cosmic-sadness" at the ability of humans to foil chances of transcendence in their own lives and in the world at large.
Maslow's theory of human needs draws strongly on the pioneering work of Henry Murray (1938). This provides the basis for wide-ranging and extensively validated work relating to achievement, affiliation, power and ambition."We move toward self actualization". This quote brings in Maslow's theory of motivation, tying along with the growth, happiness and satisfaction of every person. He believes to be motivated that it is not driven by reducing tension or avoiding frustration that people look for a positive view.