Abraham Maslow


Compiled by Michelle Emrich


Time Line

Abraham Harold Maslow was born on April 1, 1908, in Brooklyn, New York. The first of seven children, he was the son of Samuel and Rose (Schilofsky) Maslow. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia who were quite destitute and rather uneducated. Maslow was the sole Jewish boy in his neighborhood; therefore, he was unhappy and lonesome throughout the majority of his childhood. Because of this, he solicited refuge and comfort in books. "I was a little Jewish boy in the non-Jewish neighborhood. It was a little like being the first Negro enrolled in an all-white school. I was isolated and unhappy. I grew up in libraries and among books, without friends" (Hall, 1968, p. 37).

Furthermore, Maslow had various problems within his own home. He and his father were constantly at odds. His father, Samuel, continually degraded him and pushed him to excel in areas that were of no interest to him. According to Maslow's own recollections, his father loved whiskey, women, and fighting, and regarded his son as ugly and stupid. He even publicly announced that his son was repulsively ugly. His father's cutting comments negatively impacted his self-image. Because he too thought of himself as disgusting, Maslow would often look for empty cars when riding the subway so that no one else would have to come in contact with his detestable image.

His mother, Rose, did not treat Maslow much different. In fact, she may have treated him even worse than his father. Maslow deeply loathed his mother and wanted no interaction with her whatsoever. His intense hatred originated from the fact that she kept a bolted lock on the refrigerator door. She only removed the lock when she was in the mood. On another occasion, Maslow found two abandoned kittens on the street. He decided to take them home and care for them. One evening, his mother discovered him giving the hungry kittens some milk in the families' basement. She immediately became enraged and smashed the kitten's heads against the basement wall right before the youngster's eyes.

Maslow perceived his mother as being entirely insensitive and unloving. She exhibited no sign of affection or love for anyone she encountered, even her own family. Maslow never desired any sort of reconciliation with his mother. His intense hatred continued to grow and he even refused to attend her funeral. However, he eventually reconciled differences with his father and even spoke of him in a positive manner on some occasions. Maslow managed to become quite close with his uncle throughout his lifetime since his parents virtually alienated him.

At the impressionable age of 17, Maslow enrolled at the City College of New York (CCNY). In an effort to appease his father, he registered for evening classes at the Brooklyn Law School in 1926. Within two weeks Maslow discovered that law was not for him and he departed the school. In 1927, he transferred to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Maslow became discouraged and, for the time being, lost his love for psychology when he took an introductory psychology course from Edward B. Titchner. Titchner's theory of "scientific introspection" was dull and temporarily discouraged Maslow. At the end of the semester at Cornell, Maslow returned to New York and re-enrolled at the City College once again. Next, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin in 1928. There he acquired his BA in 1930, his MA in 1931, and his PhD in 1934.

On December 31, 1928, Abraham Maslow married Bertha Goodman, his longtime sweetheart and first cousin. He was 20 years old while Bertha was 19 at the time. The couple had two daughters, Ann and Ellen. While Maslow stated that his marriage to Bertha was the true beginning of his life, they remained happily married until his death.

While studying at the University of Wisconsin, Maslow became the first doctoral student of Harry Harlow, a distinguished experimental psychologist of the time. Maslow's discourse involved dominance among a colony of monkeys. After he received his PhD in 1934, he continued to teach at the University of Wisconsin. For a brief period he enrolled in their medical school, but quickly dropped out. He moved to Columbia University as a Carnegie fellow in 1935. He remained there for approximately 18 months while he worked with the prominent Edward L. Thorndike.

While they worked closely, Thorndike gave Maslow an intelligence test. Much to their surprise, he responded with an IQ of 195. Shortly thereafter, Thorndike gave him permission to begin research on human sexuality. Between 1937 and 1942 Maslow published various articles regarding female sexuality. He discovered that dominant females tended to be extroverted and more willing to be sexually adventurous. The dominant females were attracted to high-dominance males who were aggressive and self-confident. On the other hand, low-dominance females were attracted to men who were friendly and gentle.

Maslow once again relocated in 1937. This time he ventured to Brooklyn College where he remained until 1951. Maslow taught full time and continued his human sexuality studies. In 1947, Maslow was compelled to take a medical leave after he suffered a heart attack. With his wife, Rose, and their two daughters, the Maslow's moved to Pleasanton, California. For the time being, he headed a division of the Maslow Cooperage Corporation. After he recuperated he returned to Brooklyn College in 1949.

In 1951, Maslow migrated again. This time to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts where he served as chairman of the psychology department. During this time, he endured psychoanalysis for his persistent repulsion of his mother. Soon after, Maslow assumed the control of the third force psychology. He published Motivation and Personality in 1954. On July 8, 1966, Maslow was elected president of the American Psychological Association. Because of his failing health, he decided to quit teaching in 1968. The Saga Administrative Corporation then offered him a fellowship. Maslow graciously accepted the opportunity and was very happy and relaxed in his new position. Nevertheless, on June 8, 1970, while slowly jogging, he suffered a fatal heart attack. Abraham Harold Maslow died at the age of 62 in Menlo Park, California.

Maslow's Major Influences

Maslow felt that all of psychology pessimistically portrayed humans because it centered on their negative and animalistic aspects. But Maslow was optimistic that he could formulate an inclusive theory of human motivation. He desired a theory that would include both the positive and negative aspects of human dispositions. Maslow hoped that humanistic psychology would be the answer to this problem. He hypothesized that the holistic-analytic approach to science could be effective. This approach studies the person as completely thinking and feeling. Maslow even went so far as to criticize other scientists of the time, who did not use this approach, claiming that they were afraid to uncover their own nature.

Maslow felt that psychology in the past had neglected to focus on normal, fully functioning human beings. This new approach was later termed as the third force. In 1962, Maslow founded the American Association of Humanistic Psychology with such figures as Gordon Allport, George Kelly, Carl Rogers, and Rollo May. They adhered to the following principles: (Hergenhahn & Olson, 1999)
1. The primary study of psychology should be experiencing the person.
2. Choice, creativity, and self-realization, rather than mechanistic reductionism, are the concern of the humanistic psychologist.
3. Only personally and socially significant problems should be studied- significance, not objectivity, is the watchword.
4. The major concern of psychology should be the dignity and enhancement of people.

Maslow theorized that humans have several inborn needs that are instinctoid. These needs are the basis for his theory of motivation on the hierarchy of needs. Furthermore, he believed that the needs are ranked in terms of a hierarchy. Nonhumans can possess the lower, more basic needs also, but only humans may possess the higher needs.

First, physiological needs are related to survival. These necessities include food, water, elimination, sex, and sleep. If one of these needs is not achieved, it will rule the individual's life. Maslow believed that most humans achieve these needs easily. After one need is met, the individual moves onto the next level. However, Maslow stressed that a person can experience periodic times of hunger or thirst and still move onto higher levels, but the individual's life cannot be dominated by just one need.

Safety needs appear when physiological needs are fulfilled. These are the needs for structure, order, security, and predictability. Reducing uncertainty is the chief objective at this stage. Individuals are free from danger, fear, and chaos when the safety needs are adequately met.
Affiliation is the next level after the physiological and safety needs are attained. This level includes the need for friends, family, identification with a group, and a personally intimate relationship. A person may experience feelings of solitude and emptiness if these needs are not quenched.
The esteem needs will follow only if one has achieved the physiological, safety, and belongingness needs. In this stage, approval must come from earned respect and not from fame or social status. Acceptance and self-esteem originate from engaging in activities that are deemed as being socially constructive. An individual may possess feelings of inferiority if the esteem needs are not reached.

If the previous needs are sufficiently met, a person now has the opportunity to become self-actualized. However, self-actualization is an exceptional feat since it is so rarely occurs. A person who reaches this stage strives for growth and self- improvement.

Maslow was fascinated by self-actualization. Therefore, he searched for people who were fully functioning, but it was difficult for him to find such a characteristic in people. He approximated that only about 1% of the entire population will actually become self-actualized. By gathering and comparing data of people who he perceived to be self-actualized, Maslow concluded that these unique individuals possessed certain characteristics. First, they perceived reality accurately and fairly. They also accepted themselves, others, and nature. Self-actualizers are also spontaneous, simplistic, and natural. They are concerned with problems and not themselves. They have a need for privacy and are able to detach from others and are autonomous. Self-actualizers are also able to experience wonder and awe throughout their lives while they also have periodic peak experiences. Those who become self-actualized are deeply concerned with all cultures throughout the world, but they form deep friendships with only a few select people. They adopt democratic values and do not judge anyone on the basis of race, religion, or culture. Additionally, self-actualizers are ethically strong. They have a well-developed sense of humor that is not aggressive and they are creative. Lastly, they do not conform to the standards of anyone or anything.

Nonetheless, Maslow emphasized that there are truly no perfect human beings, including those who had reached self-actualization. He admitted that self-actualizers also had a number of faults. Including stubbornness, irritability, and the tendency to be boring on occasion. He also stated that temper outbursts are not rare for them. Most disturbing is their ability to be cold and calculating. For example, they are able to quickly recover from a loved one's death while showing virtually no emotion.

According to Maslow, the majority of people advance through the hierarchy of needs from the bottom up, in an orderly fashion. However, he was sure to note that there are exceptions to this order. For instance, a person may not have all of their physiological needs fulfilled. They may lack sex or elimination, but be satisfied if they have enough food and water. Similarly, a person may not get an adequate amount of love and affection in the early stages of his or her development. Consequently, they may lack the desire for love throughout the remainder of their lives. They may also be unable to express love and affection towards others. In addition, Maslow postulated that an individual could work on various needs at the same time. 100 percent of the need does not have to be satisfied before meeting other needs. In fact, most members of the society function quite well although most of their basic needs are not completely attained. Additionally noted is the fact that a person may regress back to lower levels of the hierarchy at any time. If a lesser need is frustrated, the person will return to that level of the hierarchy in order to satisfy the unmet need. Also, to proceed up the hierarchy, an individual must possess the desire to know and understand. This knowledge aids a person in resolving problems and eventually satisfying the basic needs.

Furthermore, a person who is near self-actualization is differs from those still trying to achieve their basic needs. Being values (B-values) start to rule the self-actualizers life. Maslow also identified these needs as metamotives. He labeled this theory as growth motivation since it affects personal inner development. Maslow identified 17 meta-needs. Some examples are goodness, perfection, beauty, truth, and simplicity. According to Maslow, a metapathology results when a meta-need is not satisfied. Some examples are insecurity, disbelief, depression, fatigue, and feelings of incompleteness. In contrast, deficiency motives (D-motives) rule the lives of those who are not actualized. These people are affected by the lack of needs such as love, food, or esteem.

Time Line of Maslow's Life

1908- Born in Brooklyn, New York
1925- Enrolled at the City College of New York Enrolled in evening classes at the Brooklyn Law School
1926- Transferred to Cornell University
1928- Transferred to the University of Wisconsin; marries Bertha Goodman
1930- Received his BA from the University of Wisconsin
1931- Received his MA from the University of Wisconsin
1934- Received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin and continues to teach there
1935- Moved to Columbia University to work with Edward Thorndike; began his Research on human sexuality
1937- Moved to Old Brooklyn College
1947- Suffered a heart attack
1949- Returned to Brooklyn College
1951- Moved to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to serve as chairman of Psychology department
1954- Motivation and Personality is published
1962- Established the American Association of Humanistic Psychology; went to Non- Linear Systems, Inc., as a visiting fellow; Toward a Psychology of Being is published
1964- Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences is published
1965- Eupsychian Management is published
1966- The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance is published
1967- American Humanist Association Humanist of the Year
1968- Toward a Psychology of Being is published; offered a fellowship by the Saga Administration Corporation
1970- Died in Menlo Park, California
1971- The Farther Reaches of Human Nature is published; received the American Psychological Foundation's Gold Medal Award


Hall, M. H. (1968). A conversation with Abraham Maslow. Psychology Today, pp. 35-37, 54-57.
Hergenhahn, B. R., & Olson, M. H. (1999). An Introduction to: Theories of Personality. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (1999). Psychology: An Introduction. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
http://www.ship.edu/~cgboere/maslow.html http://www.galenet.com

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