Abraham Maslow



Holistic-Dynamic theory of human behavior


Champion of Self-Actualization


Interested in human potential, and how we

fulfill that potential.

Sometimes called "The Third Force" in psychology (Freud & Behaviorism are 1 & 2)










A brief biography of Abraham Maslow

1st of seven children, born and raised in Brooklyn.

Mother was devoutly religious.

Briefly studied law at CCNY, and briefly attended Cornell.

Married 1st cousin at age 20.

Worked with Harry Harlow

Graduated from Wisconsin

Taught at Brandeis University

President of the APA from 1967-1968

Published Motivation and Personality in 1970.




The Holistic - Dynamic Theory of Maslow

Maslow’s theory of personality is based upon his understandings of human motivations towards action.

5 basic assumptions of Motivation in the Maslow model.

1. The whole person is motivated, requiring a holistic approach.

(This is in marked contrast to Freud, who discussed the roles each mental structure plays in producing behavior)

2. Motivation is usually complex: several sources can contribute to the eventual appearance of some behavior.

For example, the desire for sexual union may reflect needs for dominance, companionship, love and self-esteem.


Maslow Motivation assumptions (continued)


Additionally, certain motivations may be unconscious. For example, using a telephone as a way to feel love and belongingness.

3A. People are continually motivated by one need or another. Satisfying one need only results in the individual trying to satisfy other needs.

4A. People are universally motivated by the same basic needs.

Maslow believes in the fundamental similarity of the human experience. Although we may achieve needs in a culturally specific (or culturally proscribed) manner which is idiosyncratic, the needs which must be satisfied are universal in nature.

5A. Needs can be arranged in a hierarchical fashion.

The Hierarchy of Needs

Certain human needs are more fundamental than others, and satisfaction of these "basic" needs is necessary before "higher" needs can be addressed.

Theory of prepotent needs : Lower needs must be satisfied (and take precedence over) higher order needs.

The Basic (or conative) Needs :

Physiological Needs : The most basic needs of oxygen, food, water, and maintenance of body temperature (food, shelter, & clothing)

Commonly satisfied in first world countries.

Physiological needs are the only needs which can be completely or even over satisfied.

Physiological needs are continually recurring, so we must seek satisfaction of this basic need on a daily basis.

Basic (conative) Needs (level 2)

Safety Needs : protection from harm, the need for law and order.

Safety needs can never be over satisfied.

When children due not have their safety needs met, they develop basic anxiety and may become neurotic adults.

In peaceful societies, safety needs are relatively easy to satisfy.

Safety needs become highly important during natural disasters, fires, accidents, and other life threatening situation.


If both our physiological needs and are safety needs are satisfied, than we can turn our energy toward our "Higher" needs.



Higher Order Basic Needs of Maslow

Higher order needs are needs which develop after early childhood, and represent a more "phylogenetically" recent need. (Evolved need)

First level of higher order needs :

Need for Love and Belongingness : Maslow states that this level is what the majority of the population remains at. The desire for friendship, the search for a mate and the desire to be part of a family are all reflections of this need. According to Maslow, 3 situations can exist:

A person who has never experienced love and closeness will eventually devalue love and not be particularly worried over their inability to find it.

A person who has received love and closeness during childhood will be able to love others, and not be devastated by the occasional rejection.

A person who has experienced just a little love and affection will be strongly motivated to meet these needs, and might go about satisfying the need for love and belongingness in a pathological way.


Maslow states that children need love in order to grow psychologically.


If people find a way to satisfy their needs for love and belongingness, than they can concentrate on satisfying the next level of:

Esteem Needs : The need for self-respect, confidence, competence, and the respect of others.

Maslow distinguished between two levels of esteem needs : Reputation and Self-Esteem.




If people are fortunate enough to meet their esteem needs, then they are ready to try to satisfy the highest level of needs in Maslow’s hierarchy.

A major difference between people who don’t progress farther than the esteem needs stage is due to the adoption of core B-Values.

B-values (Being-values) : Are what distinguishes the truly enlightened person (one who is self-actualized) from an individual who has satisfied all basic needs, yet still lives a life without purpose.

Maslow believes it is fundamentally important to find meaning within your life. People who embrace B-values will live a life of meaning and fulfillment.

The B-Values are : truth, goodness, beauty, wholeness, Aliveness, Uniqueness, Perfection, Completion, Justice, Simplicity, Totality, Effortlessness, Humor, & Autonomy

If you hold these B-values to be an important determinant of your behavior, than you may be able top satisfy your :

Self - Actualization needs : the desire for self-fulfillment, to realize one’s potential.

People who reach this level are "fully human"

Maslow stated that only 2% of the general population and .1% of the college population is self-actualized .

The self-actualized individual represents the future of human kind (similar to Roger’s idea of "People of Tomorrow")









In addition to the 5 conative needs, there are other needs which don’t fit into the hierarchical structure of conative needs.


Cognitive Needs : the desire to know, to solve mysteries, to be curious.

Cognitive needs must be constantly satisfied before any other needs can be satisfied. We need knowledge in order to satisfy our conative needs, and our cognitive needs motivates us to find answers which will satisfy our other needs.

Aesthetic Needs : Not thought to be universal, but reflective of the idea that some people are motivated by the need for beauty and order.








Neurotic Needs : nonproductive needs which perpetuate an unhealthy style of life. Neurotic needs are seen as compensatory reactions to a failure to fulfill one or more basic needs.

Examples: If safety needs are not satisfied early in life, an individual might develop the need to hoard material possessions.

If you fail to satisfy the need for love and belongingness, you might become overly aggressive and hostile.

Maslow estimated the degree to which all of these needs are satisfied within the general population :

Physiological Needs : 85 %

Safety Needs 75 %

Love & Belongingness 50 %

Esteem Needs 40 %

Self-Actualization Needs10 %

A self-actualized individual would satisfy 100% of the first four conative needs, and a majority of self-actualization needs.

The Self-actualized person

Show "expressive" behavior, rather than Coping Behavior.

Coping Behavior is behavior specifically aimed at need satisfaction. Coping behavior is motivated by need deficiencies.

Expressive Behavior is more indicative of "free will" and encompasses how someone walks, talks, gestures, and smiles. Expressive behavior is motivated by internal forces, rather than external stimuli.

Self-actualizes have metamotivation (motivation based on B-values) which propels them towards self-actualization.

When an individual can not meet their self-actualization needs, metapathology can develop.

Metapathology : the lack of a meaningful philosophy of life.

Other Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

More efficient perception of reality : Self-actualizers are better able to distinguish fact from fiction.

Greater acceptance of self, others, and nature.

Live with spontaneity and without artifice.

Problem-Centered, instead of ego-centered.

Have a higher need for privacy.

Are more independent and autonomous.

Renewed appreciation for the world.

Can have "peak experiences"

Gemeinschaftsgefuhl : Social Interest

Profound Interpersonal Relations : serious relations are few, yet deep.

Have a democratic character structure : Self-actualizers are friendly to people without regard to race, gender, age, ethnicity, or social status.

Clear Sense of Right and Wrong

Philosophical Sense of Humor

High Creativity

Resistant to enculturization : Although self-actualizers typically fit in, they can go against prevailing wisdom when the accepted cultural practice violates their own sense of right and wrong.

Self-Actualizers are more likely to experience B-Love : love for the essence or being of the other. This type of love is qualitatively distinct from

D-Love (deficiency love) In which you love another person because you are driven to satisfy your needs for love and belongingness.

Measuring Self Actualization

Two tests have been developed which attempt to tap Maslow’s conception of self-actualized people.

The Personal Orientation Inventory (POI) 150 forced choice items, such as: (Shostrom, 74)

A. Two people will get along best if each concentrates on pleasing the other person.

B. Two people will get along best if each person feels free to express themselves.

The POI has 2 major scales, and 10 subscales

The first major scale measures "present orientation", or the degree to which the individual embraces as existential approach to life. The second major scale measures "self" vs "other" orientation. (Ego-centrism)

The ten subscales examine Maslow’s character traits of self-actualized individuals.

The second test of self-actualizing tendency is the Short Index of Self-Actualization developed by Jones & Crandell (1986)


The Short Index uses 15 items from the POI to which the subject must state agreement on a 6 point likert scale (Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree)

Much easier to administer and grade than the POI.

Also, reduces irritability due to the forced choice format of the POI.


Ironically, when Maslow completed the POI, it showed that he had only a slight self-actualizing tendency. He scored much lower than individuals who were identified as self-actualizers.



How Maslow developed his conception of the self-actualized person.


Maslow interviewed people he both knew and admired.

He would :

1. Interview a sample of people he thought were self-actualized.

He would write down a list of traits he felt each person possessed. (Common traits)

2. He would use the trait list from 1 and then see how a second sample of self-actualized individuals matched up with the key traits.

By refining his trait list again and again, he eventually came up with what he felt was a stable list of attributes which would define the self-actualized individual.


Famous People which Maslow felt were self-actualized :

Thomas Jefferson

Abraham Lincoln

Albert Einstein

Jane Addams

Willliam James

Albert Schweitzer

Aldous Huxley

Elanor Roosevelt







Basic Criterion of the self-actualized individual

Remember, Maslow thought that only 2 % of the population were fully self-actualized.

Self Actualized People must be free from psychopathology.

This rules out Van Gogh as a self actualized individual.

Self-Actualized individuals have progressed through the hierarchy of basic needs.

The third criterion for becoming self-actualized is to realize your need to grow and develop, and to increasingly strive to become who you are fully capable of becoming.

Self-Actualizers are not static beings who embrace the status quo -- rather, than embrace change, because change is necessary for growth.


Development of Psychopathology


Maslow realized human beings are capable of terrible things.

He believed neurosis and psychotic behavior arises from need deficiencies

If you can not satisfy your basic needs, pathology is the result.

The pathology may take the form of a neurotic need.

Maslow states that everyone is born with a will toward health, and a tendency to grow towards self-actualization.

Jonah Complex : A fear of success which keeps people from becoming self-actualized.

Maslow believes the Jonah Complex arises due to a) the need for humility, and b)the emotional surge that fulfillment brings with us is too draining to experience on a constant basis.

Maslow and Psychotherapy

Although he did not have traditional "clients",

Maslow felt his holistic - dynamic theory did have practical applications.

Since he believes most people never move past the stage of satisfying needs of love and belongingness, he felt that the therapist must develop an open, warm relationship with the client.

Acceptance within a clinical relationship will hopefully lead to more healthy relationships outside of therapy.

For Maslow, the aim of therapy is to decrease the reliance on others and encourage the systemic urge toward psychological growth and self-actualization.





The Critique of Maslow

Criticism of Maslow focuses (primarily) on two major points.

One, Was Maslow practicing a rigorous scientific study of personality?

The answer is a resounding "sometimes"

Many researchers feel that Maslow’s work, while important, relied too heavily on case studies, and not enough experimental work was done on the construct of self-actualization.

Second Criticism : Maslow’s recognition of self-actualized individuals was almost exclusively limited to Highly Educated White Males.

Can an analysis of personality based upon the upper stratum of the dominant culture truly be a universal description of personality ?

These critics charge that implicit sexism, racism, and classism stem from Maslow’s work and therefore do not represent a valid way of understanding basic human personality.

Worksheet # 3 is posted online now.


This worksheet is due on April 10 (in two weeks)

Maslow notes are also on the web site.

Next Week : Grand Marshall Week

No Class will be held

Participate in the GM week festivities, interact with your fellow students, and don’t forget to have a great time !!

April 10th : We will look at James Cattell.

April 17th: Cover the "Big Five" Personality Dimensions

April 24th 2nd Exam On Rogers, Maslow, Cattell, and the "Big Five".