Abraham Maslow Biography: Hierarchy Of Motivational Needs

Abraham Maslow changed the face of psychology in his hierarchy of motivational needs. This motivation model focuses on needs that must be met before one can move on to the next need.

In the past fifty years, much attention has been brought to the motivation of human behavior. Motivations are important especially in the workplace. Employers look at what can be motivating for a potential employee to keep them employed for the company and to motivate them to excel. Psychologists were able to identify two types of motivations for human behavior: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivations are tasks that we do with no visible goal or particular reward in mind: we are motivated from

within, generally because it is pleasurable. Extrinsic motivations focus on a tangible, external reward, such as food or money. Keeping those motivations in mind, Abraham Maslow developed a theory of motivational needs which changed the face of psychology. Maslow was known as a humanistic psychologist. He believed that people were not merely controlled by mechanical forces. Life, as Maslow saw it, should not be controlled by stimuli or reinforcement, or unconscious psychoanalytic impulse; instead,

he choose to focus on human potential. Maslow believed that humans strive to reach the highest levels of their capability.

In order to understand this better, Maslow set up a hierarchy of needs. The model consisted of different motivational needs. In order for higher needs to be met, the bottom, less sophisticated needs must be fulfilled. The model can be thought of as a pyramid with the most basic needs at the bottom and the higher-level needs at the top. In order for a particular need to be activated and guide a person's behavior, the more basic needs of the hierarchy must be met. The first needs to be met are an individual's psychological needs. These are simple basic biological needs such as oxygen, food, water, warmth, and shelter. These needs are the strongest if deprived, because without them a person would die. If these needs are fulfilled, the next level is an individual's safety needs. These needs are most often experienced by children who often display signs of insecurity and their need to be safe. Only when these lower needs are fulfilled can we move on to the other motivational needs. If a person has insecurities they are unable to experience the other motivations.

Love and belonginess is the next motivational need. These needs include the need to obtain and give affection and to be a contributing member of society. It is also our need to escape loneliness and alienation, and our overall sense of belonging. We then move on to our need for esteem. Esteem relates to the need to develop a sense of self-worth. This is also characterized by a human's need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect from ourselves and others. We need to feel valuable and self-confident. If this need is not met, the individual feels inferior, weak and worthless.

Most of us make it to this point but often we cannot make it past this point. Most of us will not reach the top of Maslow's rung which is known as self-actualization. Self-Actualization is a state of self-fulfillment in which people realize their highest potential. Maslow considers this need an ongoing process. Self-actuals are

people who are devoted, they work at a calling or vocation. Self-Actualization is a person's need to do what they were born to do. If these needs are not met, the person feels restless, on edge and lacking something. According to Maslow only one percent of human beings ever reach and satisfy their need for self-actualization. Maslow pointed to individuals such as Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Albert Einstein as individuals who have reached self-actualization. The important thing of self-actualization is that an individual feel at ease with themselves and satisfied that they are using their talents to the fullest. Self-actualization produces a decline in the striving and yearning for greater fulfillment that marks most people's life, and provides a sense of satiation. Maslow believed that the only reason people would not move through the needs to this level is because of the hindrances of society. He thought that education could be one such hindrance. The reason for this is that sometimes education has imposed ideas of the culture. It is not to say that people should not be educated, but educated in a respectful teaching method that promotes personal growth.

There are criticisms of Maslow's theory. There is no concrete evidence that these needs exist. There is no available research that is able to validate Maslow's hierarchy. Also, Maslow's theory is difficult to measure. We cannot put physical values of psychological needs or esteem for example. Nor are we able to say that someone is self-actualized. For example, is the individual who is a couch potato a model of self-actualization? What if he truly believes that he is using his channel-changing talents to

the best of his ability? According to Maslow's theory, it would almost seem that if that were the case, this person could be one of the one percent that have reached self-actualization. Moreover, we get the impression though that Maslow was steering us through personal growth with this model. The model is important in psychology because it highlights the complexity of the human needs, and it emphasizes that fact that until more basic biological needs are met, people are going to be relatively unconcerned with higher-level needs. If someone is hungry, their first interest will be in obtaining food, they will not be overly concerned with their sense of belonging or esteem.

The model can explain why victims of war may suffer the breakdown of family ties and be unconcerned with the welfare of anyone else but themselves. However, probably the most important contribution of this model is that it led the face of psychology away from the issue of the unconscious forces that guide our behavior, and brought us forward towards something tangible such as humanism.

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