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Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Essay

With the exception of reflexes, the science of psychology portends that all human behavior is motivated. The subject is exhaustively dealt with by different schools of thought and each of which appears to be valid explanations of human behavior. Dr. Abraham Maslow (Halonen & Santrock, 1996) made a strenuous effort to arrange human motives in a hierarchy from stronger and lower at one end to weaker and higher at the other. Maslow essentially suggested that what man really wants is more of everything. Man desires a better and better situation for himself.

He wants only what he does not already have, and thus satisfied needs do not motivate behavior. Maslow said that needs or wants can be arranged in a hierarchy of importance. Thus, when needs on the lower level are fulfilled, those on a higher level emerge and demand satisfaction. The hierarchy of needs he suggested placed physiological needs as lowest or basic, then safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and finally self-realization needs. In other words, Maslow believed that higher needs are expressed only when the prepotent physiological needs are satisfied.

This is also true of needs for safety and security. Until there is a basic amount of order and stability in meeting the lower needs, a person may have little interest in higher pursuits (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). A person with an empty stomach cannot be expected to write literary work or tasked to write an essay about the effects of war on Afghanistan. The paper attempts to scrutinize the validity of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory based on several criteria which shall be discussed as follows. Discussion

Maslow’s theory is classified under the humanistic perspective as it emphasizes the direction towards an individual must proceed which is self-actualization. This point in his hierarchy, Maslow tried to explain in much detail. According to him, self-actualization when attained, demonstrates what it is to be a fully developed human being. It is described as elusive due to the fact that man must have to satisfy the lower needs or those needs preceding this highest need (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). To satisfy further one’s curiosity about this theory, the theory will be determined by the following:

Freedom or Determinism: can a person control their own behavior or is it determined by internal or external forces? In Maslow’s viewpoint, human motives are ordered in hierarchy and thus, man responds to these as they arise (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). With this premise, the theory is basically leaning toward the philosophical idea of freedom. Man is free to chart his course and how he is supposed to fulfill his various needs; i. e. his physiological dimension. In addition, the manner with which he carves himself in a particular niche that satisfies his psychological domains is also based on his own volition.

There is no flavor of unconscious thoughts pervading motivation like when the idea of psychological instincts being interpreted within Maslow’s understanding; in contrast to this notion, any individual can basically control their own behavior. Maslow’s theory believes on the capacities of human nature to achieve what man wants to achieve rather than be held captive by forces within him or in his external world; it is the internal determinants such as self-determination that separates the theory from the rest especially among those with the deterministic stance (Halonen & Santrock, 1996).

Hereditary or Environmental: are the characteristics a person has inherited and inborn or is it developed by social influences? Since the premise of this theory hinges on freedom, a person’s characteristics therefore are developed by social influences. According to Maslow then, people vary in their manner of satisfying their needs because of various environmental influences that surround him/her. Man is free to choose from several options adequately provide for his own needs or desires. What are essentials though, are man’s tendencies or propensity to follow the order of needs.

Biology or heritability is deemphasized, rather the value of experience is pre-eminent in the theory (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). Uniqueness or Universality: individuals are unique or people are all pretty much the same This theory eventually emphasizes individuality or uniqueness, as it fundamentally illustrates in its assertion that every one has the capability for breakthroughs in circumstances which may be difficult. Man is also capable to understand himself and others, showing a lot of hope on the potentials that man possesses that he can exhaust in his lifetime (Halonen & Santrock, 1996).

Proactive or Reactive: individuals act on their own initiative or just in reaction to external stimuli? Since man is free, unique and has the possibilities to accomplish whatever he is set to do, it is also asserted that man is proactive: he can choose how to respond in any situation and may even extend himself to advance his interests, both positive and negative at whatever goal or in whatever circumstance he may be in (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). Optimistic or Pessimistic: individuals can change given the right environment or they are unchangeable?

The Hierarchy theory by design is hopeful and positive in every essence, if one is to follow the line of thinking which Maslow attempted to direct his audience. Individuals then have all the chances to make their lives fulfilling, impact others on virtues of honesty, charity and generosity, if and when he determines himself to be one. Likewise, he can also influence and negatively affect those that surround him when he chooses to do so. In this perspective then, an individual has high hopes of changing his attitudes and disposition, as well as his physical arrangements in life (Halonen & Santrock, 1996).

Part II. Evaluation of the theory If this theory is to be evaluated, the strength of Maslow’s assumptions lies in his recognition of the positives that humans possess. It reminds the audience of the person as a whole being and not just an organism subject to either what the psychoanalysts termed as instincts or behaviorists’ position as merely organismic. The emphasis on developing the potentialities mark Maslow’s crowning achievement in terms of theoretical appeal (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). However, there are obvious or clear discrepancies or weaknesses in the theory.

Since Psychology claims to start and end as a scientific endeavor, thus following scientific procedures to provide proofs to any of its claims, then Maslow’s theory must be ready to be tested accordingly. And this is where his theory fails in almost every measure in essence. At the outset, this viewpoint of explaining behavior is difficult to measure or put to test. Specifically, despite the details and emphasis Maslow placed on self-actualization the concept is still hard to operationally define. Scientists then and now are encountering various dilemmas in making the concept scientifically or empirically acceptable.

In addition, there are illogical and inconsistent presuppositions in the constructs he postulated. He adheres to man’s capability to choose and yet how can he justify the existence of the structure of ordering needs in every individual if man is not born with it in the first place. How can he explain as well on those people who have achieved (jumped to the higher order needs) when they are barely existing or are starving at the same time; being altruistic and yet has no means to adequately meet their own needs (Halonen & Santrock, 1996).

Lastly, studies even show that many who adhere to this philosophical viewpoint shun the scientific procedures imposed on any scientific field or discipline, and choose to lean towards the clinical orientation for the explanation of specific behaviors or motivations. Others who examined this theory explained that the assumptions on human behavior are too high or exaggerating on positives or the freedom and the logical capabilities that humans possess.

Maslow’s theory, especially his self-actualization concept, critics affirm, implies the tendency for man to reinforce his self-centeredness (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). Conclusion If popularity and appeal are benchmarks for a theory to pass with flying colors, Maslow’s theory probably will go to the top. This is evidenced also as to the current prevalence of his theory in business; it is pervadingly present in almost every discussion in any business management course apparently (Halonen & Santrock, 1996).

For convenience, I too would readily fall for his theory and its seemingly simplistic way of explaining behaviors. But if I were to stick to following empirical underpinnings, I should say that the theory is not deep enough to satisfy more difficult human dilemmas, though in some instances, the theory seems to point to some aspects of life’s realities. It is not sufficient to compel me to believe in the theory enough. To illustrate, pursuing many of our own self-centered needs only frustrates us all the time and eventually makes many of us disordered and mentally sick along the way.

Can I use it to predict human nature? In fairness, yes; but to a certain extent only, because as I mentioned, it is not sufficient enough to merit full dependence. The theory can probably modified to some degree as a picture of several aspects of being human, but to explain about the potentialities, may imply believing too much when all that is in there is just hot air, so to speak. Self-actualization may provide hope for those who are so discouraged in life, but it is still very limited in reality.

Some even say that a by-product of this belief is a sense of irresponsibility (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). Remarkably, Maslow suggested that various famous personalities illustrate what his theory posited including Beethoven, the brilliant composer, and Lincoln, one of the greatest leaders of all time. Each of them exemplified individuals who had characteristics of the self-actualized person (Halonen & Santrock, 1996). Reference: Halonen, Jane and John Santrock (1996). Psychology: Contexts of Behavior. Brown and Benchmark Publishers, pp. 453 and 553-556.


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