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Abraham Harold Maslow was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY as the oldest child of Russian Jewish immigrants. He had few friends growing up and immersed himself in his studies and graduated from the prestigious Boys High School in Brooklyn, where he excelled in academics and was active in the Latin and Physics clubs. Maslow pursued his higher education at the College of the City of New York. He transferred to Cornell for one semester and eventually ended up at the University of Wisconsin where he stayed until he earned his master’s degree in psychology in 1931. Maslow continued his education at Columbia University, where he was mentored by Alfred Adler.
After leaving Columbia, Maslow returned to Brooklyn and joined the faculty at Brooklyn College. While there, he developed a mentor relationship with Max Wertheimer, a gestalt psychologist, and an anthropologist named Ruth Benedict. These two people were not only Maslow’s friends, but quickly became the subject of his research. He observed and assessed them and this formed the foundation for his theories on human potential and psychological well-being. In the late 1950’s, the humanistic school of psychology developed and Maslow was recognized as its founding father. His ideas on self-actualization, hierarchy of needs, peak experiences, meta-needs, and motivation were at the root of humanistic theories. He was recognized for his contributions to the humanistic approach to psychology when he received the honor of being named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association in 1967. Maslow continued teaching at Brandeis University until 1969, when he moved to California to become a resident fellow at the Laughlin Institute. He remained there until his death in 1970.
Contribution to Psychology
Although Maslow did not change the face of modern psychology, his perspective on and method of studying human behavior led to the formation of a new discipline. Maslow’s humanistic psychology is based on the belief that people are born with the desire to achieve their maximum potential, or reach a point of what Maslow termed “self-actualization.” Maslow chose to focus his research on the experiences of mentally stable people, and he identified their “peak experiences,” moments when they were in complete harmony and unison with the world around them.
Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs to demonstrate the stages of psychological and human. The basic needs for safety and sexual fulfillment represent the bottom of the pyramid and are vital to the well-being of a person. These are innate desires that must be fulfilled in order to function physically. Above those lies the need for love and acceptance which requires that a person first accept themself psychologically, and because he has met his physical needs, is now able to share and interact with other people. The next level on the pyramid is esteem, and is achieved when a person is recognized by others for their achievements, and when a person has reached a level of success in his endeavors. The top tier of the pyramid is the need for self-actualization, and this is met when a person is in unity and harmony with themselves and their world.
Last Update: 05-13-2013