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The Hierarchy of Needs Theory by Abraham Maslow Essay

In the demanding world of business, motivation of the employers as well as of employees play a tremendous role (McKay, “Importance of Motivation and Goal Setting for Businesses”). Unfortunately, theories about human motivation and what drives the employers and their employees to be motivated have not been studied until only recently.

This paper will cover the Hierarchy of Needs Theory which analyzes the driving factors of human motivation at work place, in a family setting, in hospital organizations as well as in any other organization. The Hierarchy of Needs Theory was first introduced in 1943 by an American psychologist Abraham Maslow in his work called A Theory of Human Motivation. Analyzing the history of the theory, its historical context and landmark studies of the key researchers, this paper will discuss about the theory’s key concepts and examine its importance by comparing and contrasting to the previous theories.

1. Theory History
Abraham Maslow majored in Psychology while studying at University of Wisconsin. His primary goal was social usefulness and practicality, thus he decided to approach the psychological research in a much different way (Emrich, “Abraham Maslow”). As a psychology professor at Brooklyn College, Maslow tried to understand and explain all human motivation by combining existing approaches to motivations, such as Freudian, Adlerian, behaviorist, and cognitive-gestalt into one unique theory.

In 1932 a biologist named Walter Cannon in his work called Self-regulation in Animals came up with the term homeostasis which was the modern word for biological self-regulation (Hagen 96). According to a french psychologist Claude Bernard, by whom Cannon was influenced, an organism was made up of two environments, being external and internal, and described difference between them ( Hagen 96).

He concluded that internal environment was “ a buffer between living cells and fluctuating external environment” (Hagen 96). Maslow was dissatisfied with Cannon’s idea about how organisms balancedthemselves. There were several other theories that pushed Maslow for further research on his work related to a new approach of how organisms worked.

As George A. Luz, Research Psychologist at Luz Social and Environmental Associates, describes : “Dissatisfied with the concept of American academic psychology that the end goal of the organism is homeostasis as well as Freud’s concept that the end goal of psychotherapy is the resolution of neurotic symptoms, Maslow argued that all human beings operate out of what he termed an inborn hierarchy of needs” (1). Maslow’s approach toward the psychology was not the same as of previous psychologists and researches.

He argued that rather than focusing on negative sides of organisms and researching mentally ill or disabled, psychology should be centered on humanistic approach and study positive outliers of society. As a result, Maslow was an initiator that opened a whole new sphere of studying psychology in a positive and humanistic approach. There are several key concepts related to Maslow’s ranking of human motivation needs.

2. Key concepts
Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Needs consists of five stages or levels of needs, that are listed in an ascending order. Basic needs being at the very bottom, the five stages of hierarchy should be fulfilled in a given order and only in case the previous need is fully or partially satisfied ( Luz 1). The basic need in Maslow hierarchy of needs theory is the physiological needs.

2.1 Physiological needs
Physiological needs are considered one of the basic needs in Maslow’s theory. Food, water, clothes, sex are considered as basic needs, that according to Maslow can easily be satisfied. However, in case these needs are not satisfied, it will control the behavior of that organism. It is crucial for a human to fulfill this need prior to switching into the next stage. According to Maslow, physiological needs are rather “unusual than typical, because they are isolable and because they are localized somatically” (85-92). In other words, those needs act independently from motivations and the organism itself.

Maslow mentions that “any of the physiological needs and the consummatory behavior related to them” serve as connections to the other needs, meaning that the physiological needs are isolable (Readings in Managerial Psychology 21). In case a person is missing all the needs, it is highly likely that motivation would be the physiological needs prior to any other needs of the theory (Readings in Managerial Psychology 21). The second stage of needs in the hierarchy list is safety needs.

2.2 Safety Needs
If the physiological needs are satisfied, even not entirely, safety needs come second on Maslow’s list. This stage includes safety in terms of physical body, environment we live in, family, friends, society. Maslow states that even though the primary target of his theory are adults in learning how safety needs affect human, the focus is primarily on infants and children.

This is due to the fact that since those needs are more obvious in young children their observation would be more efficient ( Readings in Managerial Psychology 23). I agree with Maslow’s notion that adults are able to hide their emotions much easier than infants can do, any case of danger or uneasiness can be easily detected in children’s behavior. Additionally, infants react to a sudden change in their environments in a more visible manner, such as when a child is lost or finds himself in different environment. Maslow also mentions about factors that people seek in order to satisfy safety needs, such as insurance for their cars and health, stability at work and many others. Those people in society who see themselves in constant need of protection are called neurotic individuals.

Compulsive-obsessives, people with obsessive-compulsive neurosis “try frantically to organize and stabilize the world so that no unmanageable, unexpected, or unfamiliar dangers will ever appear” ( Maslow and Mittelmann). Another need in Maslow’s list is love needs of people.

2.3 Love Needs
As soon as both the physiological and safety needs are somewhat satisfied, a person starts looking for “love and affection and belongingness needs” (Readings in Managerial Psychology 27). thus, the major concern of a person shifts on into a new stage of need. A full person with shelter above his
head will start looking for someone to share love with, in form of friends, family members, wife or husband. Maslow claims that there has been made more clinical studies and there is more information on this type of need than other needs in the theory, with the exception of physiological needs (Maslow and Mittelmann).

One thing should be noticed that love is not exactly the same as sex, where the latter is considered a part of physiological need (Readings in Managerial Psychology 27). “Also not to be overlooked is the fact that the love needs involving both giving and receiving love” (Maslow 331). Self-esteem need is another one listed in hierarchy of needs theory.

2.4 The Esteem Needs
Maslow claims that all people in society have a desire for “stable, firmly based, high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, self-esteem, and for the esteem of others” (Readings in Managerial Psychology 27). He classifies them into two sets, being (1)“the desire for strength, and achievement, and adequacy, for confidence in the face of world, and for independence and freedom” and (2) “desire for reputation or prestige, recognition, attention, importance or appreciation” (Readings in Managerial Psychology 28). Alfred Adler and his followers supported this need, while Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalysts strongly were against it (Readings in Managerial Psychology 28). Maslow claimed it as very important part of need as well as of motivation, that the lack of it can cause helplessness in people.

This study can be found in A. Kardiner’s work named The Traumatic Neuroses of War. The final need of motivation is called self-actualization.

2.5 Self-actualization
In cases when all the physiological, safety, love, and self-esteem needs are satisfied, a person may still not feel fully satisfied. Self-actualization is exactly what fulfills that need of person. Self-actualization means when an individual is “doing what he is fitted for” (Readings in Managerial Psychology 28).

The term initially was used by Kurt Goldstein, German neurologist and psychiatrist. According to Maslow, self-actualization is defined as “the desire to become more and more like one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming” (Readings in Managerial Psychology 28). Maslow states that only in case when four prior needs are satisfied, an individual can “expect fullest and healthiest creativeness” (Readings in Managerial Psychology 29). Due to the fact that it is hard do conduct research on self-actualization both experimentally and clinically, it remains a problem.

3. Key researchers/Schools
Mark E. Koltko-Rivera in his article Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs named Abraham Maslow as “one of the most important psychologists of modern times”.

He also claimed that the hierarchy of needs theory is “one of his most enduring contributions to psychology”. Maslow’s popularity did not stay with the time period of his life only. Many researchers such as Roberts published studies related to hierarchical needs after Maslow’s death in 1970. Maslow’s theory drew scholarly attention of many researches such as Lester, Hvezda, Sullivan and Plourde.

For instance, an article named A Hierarchical Taxonomy of Human Goals was published in 2001 by three researches Ada S. Chulef, Stephen J. Read, and David A. Walsh. The paper was intended to represent 135 goals “gleaned form the literature”. The researchers divided people into three groups based on their ages, being (1)17-30, (2) 25-30 and (3) 65 and older and and classified goals into “conceptually similar groups”. Next, they developed “a taxonomy of 30 goal clusters for each age group separately and for the total sample”. The main difference within the sample was mainly between interpersonal or social goals and intrapersonal, meaning individual goals.

In 1978 Lynda C. Gratton published the paper called Analysis of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy with three Social Class Groups. The paper was more about an experiment type that served a main purpose to “measure the individual’s need importance for each of the five needs Maslow proposes”. After the experiment was conducted, Gratton concluded that people sharing the same social class had similar notions about the importance of needs. As a result, “ the majority of working class was esteem, belonging oriented”.

Most of middle class people were self-actualization oriented and esteem. And lastly, most of lower class sample were “physiological and belonging oriented”. Comparing and contrasting Maslow’s theory with several other theories will enable us to comprehend our theory in a more unique way and also see its
strengths as well as weaknesses.

4. Compare and Contrast to Other Theories
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is considered as one of the most widely used theories in management, education and health care. Despite of it not being supported with enough empirical evidence (Wahba & Bridwell, 1976), Maslow’s theory remains studied and used in every day life. One of the theories that is most similar among others is Clayton P.

Alderfer’s ERG theory. Alderfer, an American psychologist, first introduced the theory in his article called “”An Empirical Test of a New Theory of Human Need”. He developed his own way of arranging Maslow’s needs, in fact he reduced them into three parts: (1) Existence (2) Relatedness and (3) Growth. ERG theory tried to improve Maslow’s theory by making it more dynamic, meaning needs in ERG theory were not in strict order. He even allowed the needs to be fulfilled at the same time.

Here is how Alderfer altered Maslow’s work: (1) Existence needs consisted of physiological and safety needs originally introduced by Maslow (2) Relatedness needs had social relatedness and external esteem (3) Growth needs consisted of nternal esteem and self-actualization Another researcher named David McClelland in his book named The Achieving Society, introduced his own version of motivation needs. He identifies three types of motivation needs, which are (1) achievement motivation (2) authority/power motivation and (3) affiliation motivation. According to McClelland people have kind of a mixture between these types of motivation needs.

Works Cited:
Association of Surgical Technologists. An Exercise in Personal Exploration: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 2009. Web Cannon, Walter. Wisdom of the Body. New York: Norton. 1932. Web. Chulef, Ada, Stephen J. Read, & David A. Walsh “ A Hierarchical Taxonomy of Human Goals.” Motivation and Emotion 23.3 (2001): 191-232. Web. Gratton, Lynda. “Analysis of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy with three social class groups.” Social Indicators Research 7.1-4 (1980): 463-476. Web. Hagen, Joel. Walter Cannon & Self-regulation in Animals. 95-103. Web. Humanistic Psychology 41.1 (2001): 135-153. Web.

“Importance of Motivation and Goal Setting for Businesses.” Matt McKay, Demand Media, n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. Kardiner, Abram. The Traumatic Neuroses of War New York: Hoeber (1941). Web. Koltko-Rivera, Mark “ Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research, and Unification.” Review of General Psychology. 10.4 (2006): 302–317. Web. Leavitt, Harold J. Reading in Managerial Psychology Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Web. Luz, George “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a model for the process of the development of national noise regulations.” 9th International Congress on Noise as a Public Health Problem (2008): 1-8. Web Maslow, A. H. “A Theory of Human Motivation.

” Psychological Review 1943: 370-396. Web. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Simply Psychology. 2007. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. Maslow, Abraham. “ A Preface of Motivation Theory.” Psychosomatic Medicine 5 (1943):85-92. Web. Maslow, Abraham & B. Mittelmann. Principles of Abnormal Psychology New York: Harper & Bros. (1941). Web. McClelland, David The Achieving Society New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. Web. “Need Theories.” Penn State WikiSpaces. 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. Rathunde, Kevin. “Toward a Psychology of Optimal Human Functioning: What Positive Psychology Can Learn from the “Experiential Turns” of James, Dewey, and Maslow.” Journal of Shirley, Marie. “ Children’s Adjustment to a Strange Situation.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 37 (1942): 201-217. Web.


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