a theory of personality that has influenced a number of different
fields, including education. This wide influence is due in part to the high level of
practicality of Maslow's theory. This theory accurately describes many realities of personal
experiences. Many people find they can understand what Maslow says. They can recognize some
features of their experience or behavior which is true and identifiable but which they have
never put into words.
Maslow is a humanistic psychologist. Humanists do not believe that human beings are pushed
and pulled by mechanical forces, either of stimuli and reinforcements (behaviorism) or of
unconscious instinctual impulses (psychoanalysis). Humanists focus upon potentials. They
believe that humans strive for an upper level of capabilities. Humans seek the frontiers of
creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. This has been labeled "fully
functioning person", "healthy personality", or as Maslow calls this level, "self-actualizing
Maslow has set up a hierarchic theory of needs. All of his basic needs are instinctoid,
equivalent of instincts in animals. Humans start with a very weak disposition that is then
fashioned fully as the person grows. If the environment is right, people will grow
straight and beautiful, actualizing the potentials they have inherited. If the environment
is not "right" (and mostly it is not) they will not grow tall and straight and beautiful.
Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher
levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation and
purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the
second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the
second has been satisfied, and so on. Maslow's basic needs are as follows:
- Physiological Needs
- These are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen,
food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are
the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs,
the physiological ones would come first in the person's search for
- Safety Needs
- When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer
controlling thoughts and behaviors, the needs for security can become
active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except
in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social
structure (such as widespread rioting). Children often display the
signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.
- Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness
- When the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are
satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness
can emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of
loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving
love, affection and the sense of belonging.
- Needs for Esteem
- When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs
for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both
self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans
have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect,
and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person
feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. When
these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless
- Needs for Self-Actualization
- When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only
then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes
self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the
person was "born to do." "A musician must make music, an artist must
paint, and a poet must write." These needs make themselves felt in
signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking
something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not
loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know
what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a
person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.
The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels
representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for
self-actualization. Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move well
in direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society.
He states that education is one of these hindrances. He recommends ways education can
switch from its usual person-stunting tactics to person-growing approaches. Maslow states
that educators should respond to the potential an individual has for growing into a
self-actualizing person of his/her own kind. Ten points that educators should address are
- We should teach people to be authentic, to be aware of
their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
- We should teach people to transcend their cultural conditioning
and become world citizens.
- We should help people discover their vocation in life,
their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused on finding
the right career and the right mate.
- We should teach people that life is precious, that there
is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the
good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth
- We must accept the person as he or she is and help the
person learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes
and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are
- We must see that the person's basic needs are satisfied.
This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs.
- We should refreshen consciousness, teaching the person
to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in
- We should teach people that controls are good, and
complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of
life in all areas.
- We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and
grapple with the serious problems in life. These include
the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering, and death.
- We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be
given practice in making good choices.