I.      Overview of Maslow’s Holistic-Dynamic Theory

       Maslow’s holistic-dynamic theory, sometimes called the third force in psychology, holds that people are continually motivated and that, under the proper circumstances, they can reach a level of psychological health called self-actualization.


II.     Biography of Abraham H. Maslow

       Abraham H. Maslow was born in New York in 1908, the oldest of seven children of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Maslow harbored great animosity toward his mother, an attitude that persisted throughout his lifetime. Although he possessed a brilliant mind, Maslow was only a mediocre student during his early years of college. However, when he transferred to the University of Wisconsin and began working with Harry Harlow, his grades greatly improved. He eventually received a Ph.D. from Wisconsin, spent a short time at Columbia University and more than a dozen years at Brooklyn College. While in New York, he met and was influenced by several important Europeans, including Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, and Karen Horney. In 1951, Maslow became chairperson of the psychology department at Brandeis University, where he remained until poor health forced him to take a low-stress position with the Saga Administrative Corporation in California. There he died in 1970 at age 62.


III.    Maslow’s View of Motivation

       Maslow’s theory rests on five basic assumptions about motivation: (1) the whole organism is motivated at any one time; (2) motivation is complex, and unconscious motives often underlie behavior; (3) people are continually motivated by one need or another; (4) people in different cultures are all motivated by the same basic needs; and (5) needs can be arranged on a hierarchy.

       A.      Hierarchy of Needs

       Maslow held that lower level needs have prepotency over higher level needs; that is, they must be satisfied before higher needs become motivators.

       1.      Physiological Needs

       Before people can become motivated by any other needs, they must have their physiological needs relatively well satisfied; that is, they must have oxygen, food, water, and so forth. Physiological needs have prepotency over all other needs.

       2.      Safety Needs

       The second level of Maslow’s hierarchy is the safety needs, including physical security, stability, dependency, protection, and freedom from danger. Children and neurotic adults often have difficulty satisfying safety needs and thus suffer from basic anxiety.

       3.      Love and Belongingness Needs

       Most people in first world countries are able to satisfy physiological and safety needs most of the time, but many people are only partially able to satisfy love and belongingness needs. These needs include the desire for friendship, the wish for a mate and children, and the need to belong. People who have these needs only partially satisfied are very strongly motivated by them, whereas people who have them nearly completely satisfied or who have never had them satisfied are only weakly motivated by love and belongingness.

       4.      Esteem Needs

       Satisfaction of love needs fosters self-esteem, self-confidence, and the recognition that one has a positive reputation. Because people are dependent on others for the satisfaction of love needs, they must also rely on others for the initial satisfaction of esteem needs. However, once people have their esteem needs relatively well satisfied, they no longer rely on others for the continual satisfaction of these needs, and they can sustain high self-esteem in the absence of a close interpersonal relationship.

       5.      Self-Actualization Needs

       The highest level on Maslow’s hierarchy consists of self-actualization needs. Unlike other needs that automatically are activated when lower needs are met, self-actualization needs do not inevitably follow the satisfaction of esteem needs. Only psychologically healthy people who embrace the B-values achieve self-actualization. The five needs comprising the hierarchy are conative needs, but other needs exist as well.

       B.      Aesthetic Needs

       Aesthetic needs, which are on a different dimension than conative needs, include a desire for beauty and order. Some people have stronger aesthetic needs than do others, and when these needs are not met, these people become sick.

       C.      Cognitive Needs

       A third dimension includes the cognitive needs, or the desire to know, to understand,
and to be curious. Knowledge is a prerequisite for each of the five conative needs.
Also, people who are denied knowledge and kept in ignorance become sick, paranoid,
and depressed.

      D.      Neurotic Needs

       With each of the three dimensions of needs listed above, physical or psychological illness results when the needs are not satisfied. Neurotic needs, however, lead to pathology regardless of whether they are satisfied or not. Neurotic needs include such motives as a desire to dominate or to inflict pain. Neurotic needs are nonproductive and do not foster health.

       E.      General Discussion of Needs

       Maslow believed that most people satisfy lower level needs to a greater extent than they do higher needs, and that the greater the satisfaction of one need, the more fully the next highest need is likely to emerge.

       1.      Reversed Order of Needs

       In certain rare cases, the order of needs might be reversed. For example, a starving father may be motivated by love needs to give up food in order to feed his starving children. Maslow believed, however, that if we understood the unconscious motivation behind many apparent reversals, we would see that they are not genuine reversals at all.

       2.      Unmotivated Behavior

       Maslow believed that not all behaviors are motivated, even though all of them have a cause. Expressive behaviors, such as one’s handwriting or manner of talking, are unmotivated, as are drug-induced behaviors and conditioned reflexes.

       3.      Expressive and Coping Behavior

       Although expressive behavior is often unmotivated, coping is always motivated. Expressive behavior has no aim or goal but is merely a person’s mode of expression. In comparison, coping behavior is a person’s attempt to cope with the environment. The conative needs ordinarily call forth coping behaviors.

       4.      Deprivation of Needs

       Deprivation of any of the needs leads to pathology of some sort. For example, being deprived of physiological needs leads to malnutrition, fatigue, loss of energy, and so forth. On the other end of the scale, people who fail to reach self-actualization suffer from metapathology, defined as an absence of values, a lack of fulfillment, and a loss of meaning in life.

       5.      Instinctoid Nature of Needs

       Maslow suggested that some needs are innately determined even though they can be modified by learning. These instinctoid needs can be identified because their lack of satisfaction produces pathology. Thus, each of the conative needs is instinctoid. For example, people deprived of safety suffer basic anxiety and those deprived of love behave in self-destructive ways in order to secure love and affection.

       6.      Comparison of Higher and Lower Needs

       Maslow believed that higher level needs (love, esteem, and self-actualization) are later on the evolutionary scale than lower level needs and that they produce more genuine happiness and more peak experiences.


IV.    Self-Actualization

       Maslow believed that a very small percentage of people reach an ultimate level of psychological health called self-actualization.

       A.      Values of Self-Actualizers

       Maslow held that self-actualizers are motivated by such B-values as truth, goodness, beauty, justice, and simplicity. He called such motivation metamotivation.

       B.      Criteria for Self-Actualization

       Four criteria must be met before a person achieves self-actualization: (1) absence of psychopathology, (2) satisfaction of each of the four lower level needs, (3) acceptance of the B-values, and (4) full realization of one’s potentials for growth.

       C.      Characteristics of Self-Actualizing People

       Maslow listed 15 qualities that characterize self-actualizing people, although not all self-actualizers possess each of these characteristics to the same extent.

      1.      More Efficient Perception of Reality

       Self-actualizers often have an almost uncanny ability to detect phoniness in others, and they are not fooled by sham.

       2.      Acceptance of Self, Others, and Nature

       They accept themselves and other people for who they are, without any need to change, convert, or rationalize.

       3.      Spontaneity, Simplicity, and Naturalness

       In many ways, self-actualizers are like children or animals in their spontaneity, simplicity, and naturalness. They have no need to appear complex or sophisticated.

       4.      Problem-Centering

       Self-actualizing people are interested in problems outside themselves. They are concerned with age-old problems, which they view from a solid philosophical position.

       5.      The Need for Privacy

       They also have a quality of detachment that allows them to be alone without
being lonely.

6.      Autonomy

       Once people reach self-actualization, they no longer are dependent on other people for their self-esteem. Neither criticism nor flattery will impinge on their self-concept.

       7.      Continued Freshness of Appreciation

       Unlike other people who take many things for granted, self-actualizers view everyday things with a fresh vision and appreciation. Life experiences are rich and rewarding.

       8.      The Peak Experience

       Although the peak experience is not limited to self-actualizers, Maslow believed that believed that self-actualizers are more likely to report peak experiences than are non-actualizers. Peak experiences are mystical and give a person a sense of transcendence and a feeling of awe, wonder, ecstasy, reverence, and humility.

      9.      Gemeinschaftsgefühl

       Self-actualizing people also possess social interest, a deep feeling of oneness with all humanity. Social interest is part of each of the next two characteristics.

       10.     Profound Interpersonal Relations

       Self-actualizers have their love and belongingness needs and their esteem needs satisfied. Therefore, they do not desperately need to make friends. However, they usually have a few close, intimate friendships.

       11.     The Democratic Character Structure

       Self-actualizers place no importance on superficial differences between people, such as differences of gender, race, social class, or age.

       12.     Discrimination Between Means and Ends

       Maslow’s self-actualizing people have a clear sense of right and wrong, and they experience little conflict about basic values. They enjoy doing something for its own sake and not just because it is a means to an end.

       13.     Philosophical Sense of Humor

       Maslow found that self-actualizing people have a nonhostile, nonscatological sense of humor. Their humor is intrinsic to the situation rather than contrived, spontaneous rather than planned.

       14.     Creativeness

       Self-actualizers are creative in the broad definition of the word. They have a keen perception of truth, beauty, and reality—important ingredients in creativity.

       15.     Resistance to Enculturation

       Although self-actualizers may have the appearance of ordinary people, they are not conformists. Their autonomy allows them to set their own standards and to resist the mold into which their culture might attempt to place them.

      D.      Love, Sex, and Self-Actualization

       Maslow compared D-love (deficiency love) to B-love (love for being or essence of another person). Self-actualizing people are capable of B-love because they can love without expecting something in return. B-love is mutually felt and shared and not motivated by a deficiency or incompleteness in either the lover or the loved.


V.     Philosophy of Science

       Maslow criticized traditional science as being value free, with a methodology that is sterile and nonemotional. He criticized scientists who have desacralized science—those scientists who have removed the joy and awe from their investigations. Instead, scientists should resacralize their work and instill it with wonder, rapture, and ritual. Consistent with this philosophy of science, Maslow argued for a Taoistic attitude for psychology, one in which psychologists would be noninterfering, passive, and receptive.


VI.    Measuring Self-Actualization

       Maslow’s ideas have resulted in attempts to measure self-actualization through self-report. The most widely used of these measures is Everett Shostrom’s (1974) Personal Orientation Inventory (POI), a 150-item forced-choice inventory that is difficult to fake. The POI has 2 major scales and 10 subscales. The first major scale is Time Competence/Time Incompetence and the second is a Support Scale. The 10 subscales are (1) self-actualization values, (2) flexibility in applying values, (3) sensitivity to one’s own needs and feelings, (4) spontaneity, (5) self-regard, (6) self-acceptance, (7) positive view of humanity, (8) ability to see opposites as being related, (9) acceptance of aggression, and (10) capacity for intimate contact. Because the POI is fairly lengthy, Alvin Jones and Rick Crandall (1986) developed the Short Index of Self-Actualization, a much shorter scale that possesses adequate reliability and validity. In addition, John Sumerlin and Charles Bundrick (1996, 1998) created the Brief Index of Self-Actualization, a somewhat longer instrument than the Short Index. However, the reliability, validity, and usefulness of the Brief Index have not yet been fully determined.


VII.   The Jonah Complex

       Because humans are born with a natural tendency to move toward psychological health, any failure to reach self-actualization can technically be called abnormal development. One such abnormal syndrome is the Jonah complex, or fear of being or doing one’s best. Although the Jonah complex is especially prevalent in neurotic individuals, probably all of us have some timidity about seeking perfection or greatness. People allow false humility to stifle their creativity, and therefore they prevent themselves from becoming self-actualizing.


VIII.  Psychotherapy

       The hierarchy of needs concept has obvious ramifications for psychotherapy. People on the two lowest levels do not need counseling; rather, they need food and safety. Most people who seek psychotherapy probably do so because they have not adequately satisfied their love and belongingness needs. For these people, the task of a therapist is to help them satisfy love and belongingness needs. Self-actualizing people, as well as those with high self-esteem, probably do not need psychotherapy.


IX.    Related Research

       Researchers have investigated Maslow’s concept of self-actualization in many settings and for a variety of purposes.

       A.      Self-Actualization and Intimate Interpersonal Relations

       Michael Sheffield and his colleagues (Sheffield, Carey, Patenaude, & Lambert, 1995) used the POI as a measure of self-actualization and found that high scores on the POI were inversely related to interpersonal relations. More specifically, people who were near the threshold of self-actualization tended to be self-motivated, accepted feelings of aggression, and were able to sustain intimacy.

       B.      Self-Actualization and Creativity

       Mark Runco and his colleagues (Runco, Ebersole, & Mraz, 1991) used the Short Index of Self-Actualization to assess self-actualization and found a positive relationship between self-actualization scores and two measures of creativity. Although the relationships were not strong, they suggest that, as Maslow’s hypothesized, creativity is at least partly related to self-actualization.

       C.     Self-Actualization and Self-Acceptance

       Some researchers have tested Maslow’s assumption that self-actualizing people accept themselves. One study (Sumerlin & Bundrick, 2000) with African-American businessmen found that those who scored high on self-actualization tended to have increased happiness and self-fulfillment. Another study by William Compton and his colleagues (Compton, Smith, Cornish, & Qualls, 1996) found that self-actualization related to openness to experience and to seeking out new and exciting experiences.


X.     Critique of Maslow

       Maslow’s theory remains popular in psychology and in other disciplines, such as management, nursing, and education. The hierarchy of needs concept seems both elementary and logical, which gives Maslow’s theory the illusion of simplicity. However, the theory is somewhat complex, with four dimensions of needs and the possibility of unconsciously motivated behavior. As a scientific theory, Maslow’s model rates somewhat high in generating research but low in falsifiability. It rates very high on its ability to organize knowledge and high as a guide to action. In addition, it rates about average on parsimony and internal consistency.


XI.    Concept of Humanity

Maslow believed that people are structured in such a way that their activated needs are exactly what they want most. Hungry people desire food, frightened people look for safety, and so forth. Although he was generally optimistic and hopeful, he saw that people are capable of great evil and destruction. He believed that as a species, humans are becoming increasingly fully human and motivated by higher level needs. In summary, his view of humanity rates high on free choice, optimism, teleology, and uniqueness and about average on social influences.