Related or contrasting ideas may be found in the sections on Kohlberg’s taxonomy, Needs, and Self-Actualization



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MASLOW

Related or contrasting ideas may be found in the sections on Kohlberg’s taxonomy, Needs, and Self-Actualization



Maslow’s hierarchy is useful


Maslow posits a hierarchy of needs, from basic to growth needs

Mary Lou DeMarco (director, radiation therapy program, School of Health Professions, Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia) and Elwin R. Tilson (clinical coordinator of radiologic sciences at Armstrong Atlantic State University), “Maslow in the classroom and the clinic,” Radiologic Technology, September-October 1998, p. 91+

“Abraham Maslow studied both behavioral and psychoanalytic psychology, but he rejected the idea that human behavior is controlled only by internal or only by external forces. Instead, Maslow developed a theory he called ‘humanistic psychology,’ based on his belief that human behavior is controlled by a combination of internal and external factors. Maslow’s studies led him to believe that people have certain physiological and psychological needs that are unchanging, identical in all cultures and genetic in origin. Maslow described these needs as being hierarchical in nature and classified them as either ‘basic’ needs, which are low on the hierarchy, or ‘growth’ needs, which are high on the hierarchy. According to Maslow, an individual must satisfy lower-level basic needs before attempting to meet higher-level growth needs. The basic needs are instinctual needs for food, shelter and safety. Once these necessities of life have been satisfied, higher needs such as understanding, aesthetics and spirituality become important. (See Table 1.) Maslow called the highest-level need ‘self-actualization’ and claimed that it could not be attained unless all the needs below it on the hierarchy had been met. Self-actualization or self-awareness is the process of thinking about one’s own thought processes.”
Maslow’s theory has five ascending stages of needs

Michael P. Bobic (Dept. of social sciences, Emmanuel College) and William Eric Davis (prof. of political science, Community College of Southern Nevada), “A kind word for Theory X: or why so many newfangled management techniques quickly fail,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 13 No. 3 (July 2003), p. 242

“Maslow believed that human beings have five ascending types of needs that they seek to satisfy or fulfill within different environments (1999, 39-40). At the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs are the basic physiological needs for food, shelter, and clothing. These needs must be ‘reasonably satisfied’ before a person will turn his or her attention to the next higher order need, though ‘“reasonable satisfaction” is culturally defined. A subsistence level of satisfaction of physical needs in our society today is far higher than that, say, in the villages of India’ (McGregor 1967, 11). Once physiological needs are met (and there is a certain assurance that they will continue to be met), a person turns his or her attention toward the need for safety from danger. McGregor’s observations about the work environment led him to conclude that most employees were not primarily concerned about either physiological or safety needs. The culture and structure of the workplace in the mid-twentieth century generally seemed to satisfy such needs (1960). Once a person feels reasonably certain that he or she can obtain necessary food and shelter, and that these items will not be taken away, that person will then turn his or her attention toward social relationships. Humans have a need for a sense of belonging and to share personal experiences with other human beings, but that need is pursued only when lower level needs have been met. Beyond the need for belonging are two forms of ‘esteem’ needs. The first is the need for respect from one’s peers, or status, which Maslow called a ‘lower’ form of esteem (1998, 23; Rowan 1998). The higher form is self-esteem, a sense of confidence and autonomy in which a person may not care as much about the respect or esteem in which others hold him or her (without being self-centered). At the top of the hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. Self-actualization needs are complicated, but they encompass the idea of reaching one’s fullest potential, doing work that is important and challenging and that provides a sense of creative satisfaction.”
Failure to satisfy low-level needs prevents progress

Mary Lou DeMarco (director, radiation therapy program, School of Health Professions, Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia) and Elwin R. Tilson (clinical coordinator of radiologic sciences at Armstrong Atlantic State University), “Maslow in the classroom and the clinic,” Radiologic Technology, September-October 1998, p. 91+

“Most people want to move up the hierarchy toward self-actualization. Unfortunately, the process often is disrupted by a failure to meet lower-level needs.”
The purpose of human existence is to grow toward self-actualization

Barbara Marx Hubbard (author; founder and president, Foundation for Conscious Evolution), “Seeking our future potentials,” The Futurist, May 1998, p. 29+

“In his book Toward a Psychology of Being, Abraham Maslow studied healthy people rather than sick people and discovered that all joyful, productive, and creative people have one trait in common: They have all chosen work, creative expression, or something that they were doing as a life purpose that they feel to be of intrinsic value and self-rewarding. This tells us something important about human nature. We are all constructed so that, beyond our needs for food, shelter, love, and self-esteem, there are growth needs. If we do not express our growth needs for chosen work, if we do not find meaning and purpose in our lives once we have enough food and shelter, then we get sick, depressed, even violent. This view of human nature means that most of us deeply and passionately want to give our best, just as we want food to survive. Modern society is the first to offer this possibility to masses of people. The purpose of our new powers, then, is to free ourselves as individuals to be able to express that unique creativity in constructive action. This is the meaning of affluence, mobility, education. We are being liberated to find that unique purpose and give it to the world. Through this expression we become ‘self-actualizing,’ self-fulfilling humans.”
Maslow’s theory confirms our intuitions about what motivates people

George F. Hayhoe (staff editor), “Why we do the things we do,” Technical Communication, May 2004, p. 181

“Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs holds that much of human behavior is motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that lower-level needs must be satisfied before higher-level needs can be addressed. If we examine our experience, I think we find that Maslow’s theory makes a lot of sense. First, Maslow said, we must address physiological needs — shelter and food. Similarly, we must satisfy our safety needs, attempting to ensure stability despite the chaos around us. Until we address these requirements, we can’t be bothered to think about the impact of a new market segment on our approach to documenting a product or the best choice of typeface for a new Web site. To translate these needs into job-market terms, we must be compensated adequately to house, feed, and clothe ourselves and our families, and we must believe that our work situation is relatively stable.”
Understanding Maslow’s hierarchy is crucial to all motivational efforts

Mary Lou DeMarco (director, radiation therapy program, School of Health Professions, Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia) and Elwin R. Tilson (clinical coordinator of radiologic sciences at Armstrong Atlantic State University), “Maslow in the classroom and the clinic,” Radiologic Technology, September-October 1998, p. 91+

“The understanding of motivational theory centers on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Although no grand theory of motivation exists, motivational strategy must be planned in the classroom or clinical education settings for learning to occur. Teachers must consider students’ needs when planning motivational strategies. Unless students have adequately satisfied their biological needs for food, water, sleep and temperature regulation, it is unlikely that they will become interested in the implications of the photoelectric effect. Higher-level hierarchical needs also are important because adults are motivated to seek out a learning experience primarily because they have a use for the knowledge or skill — such as job security. Increasing and maintaining one’s sense of self-esteem are strong secondary motivators for engaging in learning.”
Maslow’s hierarchy is crucial for modern business management

Nancy K. Austin (management consultant based in Capitola, Calif.; co-author of A Passion for Excellence), “The power of the pyramid: the foundation of human psychology and, thereby, of motivation, Maslow’s hierarchy is one powerful pyramid,” Incentive, July 2002, p. 10

“Anybody who sat through Psych 101 will remember Abraham H. Maslow and his ‘hierarchy of needs,’ a pyramid with basics like food, water, air and shelter at the bottom, and the fancier stuff — self-expression, creativity and independence — on top. Low-priority needs have to be met before the next level can motivate behavior, and so on, until you max out with what Maslow called ‘self-actualization.’ Maslow’s theory may be 60 years old, but for modern managers looking to pump up performance, it’s still got zing. If you want employees to get their mojo on, you’ve got to create the kind of environment that allows them to rise to every occasion. Because people’s needs change, and what ignites one person leaves another cold, you’ll have to gear your incentive to the need, or else watch your talent head straight for a more motivation-savvy employer.”
Maslow’s theories have never been disproven

John Rowan (board member of the Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners in the United Kingdom), “Maslow amended,” The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Winter 1998, p. 81+

“Maddi (1976), in his classic work, says that Maslow’s model of personality has never been empirically contradicted (p. 265).”

Maslow’s hierarchy is dubious


Maslow rejected standard scientific procedures in developing his model of behavior

Michael P. Bobic (Dept. of social sciences, Emmanuel College) and William Eric Davis (prof. of political science, Community College of Southern Nevada), “A kind word for Theory X: or why so many newfangled management techniques quickly fail,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 13 No. 3 (July 2003), p. 248-249

“Maslow developed his model of needs largely through a series of lectures and writings, and in no one place presented formal discussion of his theory (Heylighen 1992). Moreover, in developing his theory of needs, Maslow used personal interviews and read biographies of great individuals. Heylighen (1992) pointed out that Maslow himself was often ambiguous about the methods used to select subjects and the criteria used to evaluate biographies. Maslow conceded that he consciously rejected the canons of scientific study (Goble 1970), but he justified the departure on the grounds that ‘it is preferable to carry out methodologically primitive research about fundamental problems ... rather than restrict oneself to technically sophisticated observations about minor issues’ (Heylighen 1992, 45). Scholars have pointed out that Maslow failed to consider key elements of human motivation. For example, Maslow overlooked such motivators as power-seeking and group approval (Groves, Kahalas, and Erickson 1975; Rabinow and Dreyfuss 1983; Pearson 1994, 1999). Aron (1977) feared that the hierarchy’s amoral structure would lead to a disregard for ethical and political considerations other than the self, a fear Maslow shared (Rowan 1999).” [Ellipsis in original text]
Maslow drew his data only from happy people

Ron Zemke (senior staff editor), “Maslow for a new millennium,” Training, December 1998, p. 54+

“A professor first at Brooklyn College and then at Brandeis University, Maslow studied the psychology of happy, well-adjusted people. He is considered one of the founders of the school of humanistic psychology, the contemporary home of the personal-growth movement.”
Maslow rejected the influence of capitalism on society

Ron Zemke (senior staff editor), “Maslow for a new millennium,” Training, December 1998, p. 54+

“Maslow and Rogers embraced self-actualization — the highest level of personal motivation, according to Maslow — as a core value and an important goal for healthy, striving humans. Their view of human nature, that people are intrinsically good and naturally seek opportunities for growth, became the major theme of the human-potential movement. They argued that the working world and all its institutions existed first to further the growth of the individual and only secondly to serve more mundane goals such as return on equity or a profit for investors. Ardent followers of the human-potential movement spoke out against any ideology or practice that considered human beings subservient to the economic or political goals of an institution — be it a government, church or corporation.”
There have been numerous criticisms of Maslow’s theory

Dr. Joan M. Kiel (Department of Health and Management Systems, Duquesne University), “Reshaping Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Reflect Today’s Educational and Managerial Philosophies,” Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 1999, p. 167

“Since Maslow’s unveiling of his Hierarchy of Needs Theory in 1954, his critics have been apparent. The Theory has been challenged on its lack of scientificity (Heylighen, 40), integrated conceptual structure, (Heylighen, 45), supportive research evidence (Wahba, 212), and validity of the concept (Schott, 109).”
Maslow’s scheme confuses self-esteem with esteem from others

John Rowan (board member of the Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners in the United Kingdom), “Maslow amended,” The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Winter 1998, p. 81+

“The first thing that mars the existing scheme is the lumping together, under the heading of ‘esteem needs,’ of two quite different sets of needs that are on two quite distinct levels. Maslow (1987) himself acknowledged this. The need for esteem from others and the need for self-esteem are not the same.”
Self-actualization is an elusive goal

Nancy K. Austin (management consultant based in Capitola, Calif.; co-author of A Passion for Excellence), “The power of the pyramid: the foundation of human psychology and, thereby, of motivation, Maslow’s hierarchy is one powerful pyramid,” Incentive, July 2002, p. 10

“A pyramid is a lot smaller on top than at the base. That’s why Maslow capped his with self-actualization: Few people ever fully realize their potential and exercise their true capacity for creativity and intellectual curiosity. Whether you buy that argument or not, take this bit of Maslow to heart: ‘The only happy people I know are the ones who are working well at something they consider important.’ You betcha.”
Maslow discounts Christian religious values

J. Fraser Field (Executive Officer of the Catholic Educator’s Resource Centre, Powell River, British Columbia.), “Psychology II,” Catholic Insight, December 2001, p. 31

“The founders of modern counselling and psychotherapy weren’t at all timid about voicing their hostility toward orthodox Christianity. Abraham Maslow described traditional religion as ‘pathological’, Rollo May asserted that traditional Christianity was for ‘weaklings’, while Eric Fromm likened it to spiritual Nazism and called it ‘idolatry’. Carl Rogers, probably the most influential psychologist of the twentieth century, asserted that traditional religious morality was ‘ridiculous.’”
The American bias in Maslow’s theory calls the entire hierarchy into question

Michael P. Bobic (Dept. of social sciences, Emmanuel College) and William Eric Davis (prof. of political science, Community College of Southern Nevada), “A kind word for Theory X: or why so many newfangled management techniques quickly fail,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 13 No. 3 (July 2003), p. 249

“Most critics also point to the fundamentally Western and specifically American bias found in Maslow’s concept of self-actualization. Pearson (1999) argued that Maslow’s concept of self-actualization was based on a uniquely American concept of the individual. Mook (1987) argued that this concept of the individual as the highest good contradicted many cultural constructs in non-Western societies. Related to this is the undercurrent of elitism in Maslow’s writings (Buss 1979). Shaw and Colimore (1988) argued that Maslow’s discussion of self-actualized individuals was actually a validation of social and political elites and implied a certain social Darwinism. As a result of these criticisms, some scholars wonder if the hierarchy is itself an invalid concept (Schott and Maslow 1992).”
Studies suggest that people act in ways that defy Maslow’s progression on the hierarchy

Michael P. Bobic (Dept. of social sciences, Emmanuel College) and William Eric Davis (prof. of political science, Community College of Southern Nevada), “A kind word for Theory X: or why so many newfangled management techniques quickly fail,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 13 No. 3 (July 2003), p. 249

“Mook (1987), for example, studied prisoners in Nazi death camps. Contrary to Maslow’s expectations, these people, when deprived of basic physical and safety needs, still demonstrated a pursuit of higher needs through compassion for fellow prisoners and altruism. Heylighen (1992) summarized a substantial body of literature questioning the order of needs outlined in the hierarchy. In particular, scholarly studies fail to confirm at what point the need for love emerges.”
Maslow’s theory has never been validated by empirical science

Michael P. Bobic (Dept. of social sciences, Emmanuel College) and William Eric Davis (prof. of political science, Community College of Southern Nevada), “A kind word for Theory X: or why so many newfangled management techniques quickly fail,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 13 No. 3 (July 2003), p. 249



“The most common criticisms of Maslow’s hierarchy are that it has never been validated empirically (Wahba and Bridwell 1976), that it is hard to reproduce (Heylighen 1992), and that efforts to use or validate the construct often rely on redefinition or restructuring of Maslow’s categories. Despite the creation of a valid index of self-actualization (Shostram 1965) and a demonstration of the scalability of Maslow’s needs hierarchy (Porat 1977), the performance of Maslow’s hierarchy in empirical settings is not impressive.”


Prager’s LD Vault: Maslow · Revised June 2009 · © 2009 John R. Prager


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