Abraham Maslow

28.04.2015 |

Episode #9 of the course “Influential Psychologists Throughout History”

Abraham Maslow centered his research on determining what motivates individuals. He believed that people’s motivational systems were unrelated the rewards (Skinner) or unconscious desires (Freud and Jung). His greatest contribution to psychology was likely his development of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”

Maslow believed that people were motivated to achieve certain needs, and they could only fulfill some needs by first fulfilling others. His hierarchy is often portrayed in a pyramid shape, which conveys his belief that these needs build upon one another. The lowest needs must be met in order to achieve the highest needs on the pyramid. His basic needs include (in order on the pyramid from lowest to highest): physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love, esteem needs, and self-actualization. Physiological needs are the basic needs of human life, like food, water, air, sleep, and warmth. Safety needs basically include a certain level of security and freedom from harm, like protection and housing. Belongingness is a psychological need based on relationships. Esteem is also a psychological need, but it is based on feelings of pride and accomplishment. Lastly, self-actualization means achieving one’s full potential.

Maslow argued that if the basic needs are not met (like food and water), then there is no hope of achieving the other needs. As an example, when an individual is hungry, it often makes it difficult to concentrate. At the extreme of this example–it is very difficult, if not impossible to teach a child to achieve their full potential when they are starving. Over time, needs have been added to Maslow’s original model, including cognitive needs, aesthetic needs, and transcendence needs.

Maslow’s work has contributed to the development of teaching and learning. Schools often take Maslow’s holistic approach to learning, including making sure that the child is fed, safe at home, and has other very basic needs. Encouraging students to feel emotionally and physically safe in the classroom will also increase their ability to learn.


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