|Born||April 1, 1908
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||June 8, 1970 (aged 62)
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin‚ÄďMadison|
|Doctoral advisor||Harry Harlow|
|Known for||Hierarchy of Needs|
|Influences||Alfred Adler, Kurt Goldstein, Henry Murray|
|Influenced||Douglas McGregor, Colin Wilson|
Abraham Maslow (April 1, 1908 ‚Äď June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist. He is noted for his conceptualization of a "hierarchy of human needs", and is considered the founder of humanistic psychology.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Maslow was the oldest of seven children. His parents were uneducated Jewish immigrants from Russia. He was slow and tidy, 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." He would pursue law, but he went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin to study psychology. While there, he married his first cousin Bertha in December 1928, and found as his chief mentor, professor Harry Harlow. At Wisconsin he pursued an original line of research, investigating primate dominance behaviour and sexuality. He went on to further research at Columbia University, continuing similar studies; there he found another mentor in Alfred Adler, one of Sigmund Freud's early colleagues.
From 1937 to 1951, Maslow was on the faculty of Brooklyn College. In New York he found two more mentors, anthropologist Ruth Benedict and Gestalt 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 behaviour. 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 behaviourism.
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 on June 8, 1970.
In 1967, the American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year.
Many psychologists have made significant impacts on society's understanding of the world. Abraham Maslow was one of these; he brought a new face to the study of human behavior. He was inspired by great minds, and his own gift of thought created a unique concept of Humanistic Psychology.
His family life and his experiences influenced the ideas that created a whole new form of psychology. After World War II, Maslow began to question the way psychologists had come to their conclusions, and though he didn‚Äôt completely disagree, he had his own ideas on how to understand the Human mind. (The Developing Person through the Life Span, (1983) pg. 42)
Humanistic Psychologists believe that every person has a strong desire to realize his or her full potential, to reach a level of Self-actualization. To prove that humans are not simply blindly reacting to situations, but trying to accomplish something greater, Maslow studied mentally healthy individuals instead of people with serious psychological issues. This enabled him to discover that people experience ‚Äúpeak experiences", high points in life when the individual is in harmony with himself and his surroundings. Self-actualized people can have many peak experiences throughout a day while others have those experiences less frequently. (The Developing Person through the Life Span, (1983) pg. 43)
A visual aid Maslow created to explain his theory, which he called the Hierarchy of Needs, is a pyramid depicting the levels of human needs, psychological and physical. When a human being ascends the steps of the pyramid he reaches self actualization. At the bottom of the pyramid are the ‚ÄúBasic needs‚ÄĚ of a human being, food and water and touch. The next level is ‚ÄúSecurity and Stability.‚ÄĚ These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more. The third level of need is ‚ÄúLove and Belonging,‚ÄĚ which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others. The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the ‚ÄúEsteem‚ÄĚ level, the level of success and status. The top of the pyramid, ‚ÄúSelf-actualization,‚ÄĚ occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding. (The Developing Person through the Life Span, (1983) pg. 44)
Maslow based his study on magazines (e.g. "hello" and "Look") and the writings of other psychologists, including Albert Einstein, as well as people he knew who clearly met the standard of self actualization. Maslow used Einstein's writings and accomplishments to exemplify the characteristics of the self actualized person. He realized that all the individuals he studied had similar personality traits. All were ‚Äúreality centered,‚ÄĚ able to differentiate what was fraudulent from what was genuine. They were also ‚Äúproblem centered,‚ÄĚ meaning that they treated life‚Äôs difficulties as problems that demanded solutions. These individuals also were comfortable being alone and had healthy personal relationships. They had only a few close friends and family rather than a large number of shallow relationships. One historical figure Maslow found to be helpful in his journey to understanding self actualization was Lao Tzu, The Father of Taoism. A tenant of Taoism is that people do not obtain personal meaning or pleasure by seeking material possessions.
When Maslow introduced these ideas some weren't ready to understand them; others dismissed them as unscientific, a critique often leveled at Freud. Sometimes viewed as disagreeing with Freud and psychoanalytic theory, Maslow actually positioned his work as a vital complement to that of Freud. Maslow stated in his book, ‚ÄúIt is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half.‚ÄĚ (Toward a psychology of being, 1968) There are two faces of human nature‚ÄĒthe sick and the healthy‚ÄĒso there should be two faces of psychology.
Consequently, Maslow argued, the way in which essential needs are fulfilled is just as important as the needs themselves. Together, these define the human experience. To the extent a person finds cooperative social fulfillment, he establishes meaningful relationships with other people and the larger world. In other words, he establishes meaningful connections to an external reality‚ÄĒan essential component of self-actualization. In contrast, to the extent that vital needs find selfish and competitive fulfillment, a person acquires hostile emotions and limited external relationships‚ÄĒhis awareness remains internal and limited.
Benedict and Wertheimer were Maslow's models of self-actualization. From them he generalized that, among other characteristics, self-actualizing people tend to focus on problems outside themselves; have a clear sense of what is true and what is false; are spontaneous and creative; and are not bound too strictly by social conventions.
Beyond the routine of needs fulfillment, Maslow envisioned moments of extraordinary experience, known as Peak experiences, which are profound moments of love, understanding, happiness, or rapture, during which 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.
Maslow's thinking was surprisingly original‚ÄĒ-most psychologists 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 them. The most famous of these was client-centered therapy developed by Carl Rogers. Classical Adlerian Psychotherapy, based on the teachings of Alfred Adler, also encourages the optimal psychological development of the individual.
Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, aesthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, it is said that the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on.
|76th President of the||Succeeded by
George A. Miller