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Maslow and Self-Actualization

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Abraham Harold Maslow

American psychologist Abraham Maslow was a member of the humanistic school of psychology. Maslow proposed a theory of motivation based on a categorization of needs, suggesting that an individual progresses from satisfying basic needs such as those for food and sex to satisfying the highest need for what he called self-actualization, or the fulfilment of one’s potential. Maslow believed that self-actualization could only be attained once basic needs had been met.

Hierarchy of Needs

In 1954 American psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that all people are motivated to fulfill a hierarchical pyramid of needs. At the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid are needs essential to survival, such as the needs for food, water, and sleep. The need for safety follows these physiological needs. According to Maslow, higher-level needs become important to us only after our more basic needs are satisfied. These higher needs include the need for love and belongingness, the need for esteem, and the need for self-actualization (in Maslow’s theory, a state in which people realize their greatest potential).


BIO of Abraham Maslow

(1908-70), American psychologist and leading exponent of humanistic psychology. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and educated at the City College of New York and the University of Wisconsin, Maslow spent most of his teaching career at Brandeis University. Judging orthodox behaviorism and psychoanalysis to be too rigidly theoretical and concerned with illness, he developed a theory of motivation describing the process by which an individual progresses from basic needs such as food and sex to the highest needs of what he called self-actualization—the fulfillment of one’s greatest human potential. Humanistic psychotherapy, usually in the form of group therapy, seeks to help the individual progress through these stages. Maslow’s writings include Toward a Psychology of Being (1962) and Farther Reaches of Human Nature (1971).



Phenomenological self

The self-image that represents the way we perceive ourselves as functioning human beings.

Unconditional positive regard

Total acceptance of individuals for who and what they are, even if one disagrees with their actions.

Conditions of worth

Conditions that make being considered a worthwhile human being contingent on behaving in certain ways.


a humanistic view that people will pursue the highest and most idealistic aims unless their development is thwarted by a malevolent social environment


Written by Joseph Eulo

May 28, 2008 at 7:32 am

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