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Summary: Maslow's Motivational Psychology

Maslow responded to Hullian psychology, with its emphasis on biological needs and deficiencies, by emphasizing an entirely different set of motives. These involved seeking fulfillment or enhancing existence.

Maslow had a huge impact on psych­ology. Along with Carl Rogers and other humanistic psychologists, he started the Third Force in psychology by 1962, so-called because its founders saw humanistic psychology as an alternative to Behaviorism and Freudian psychology, the other two options available to psychologists in the 1950s.

Maslow, Rogers, and others in the Third Force decided to study the factors leading to happy, healthy human psychology. They saw this as a topic neglected by both behaviorists (who would not talk about the mind) and Freudians (who talked mostly about pathology or things that go wrong).

Maslow was an inspirational writer who was fond of lists: lists of existential motives, lists of personality traits shared by inspirational people, and lists of projects or research ideas that might illuminate these concerns. However, Maslow himself did no research. His ideas have been criticized as intuitively-derived and difficult to disprove.

In some ways Maslow was ahead of his time. He focused on positive psychology decades before Martin E. P. Seligman became famous for positive psychology. Together with Carl Rogers, Maslow helped stimulate the countercultural changes of the 1960s.

Maslow identified people who seemed to be motivated by higher values, called self-actualizers. Maslow also studied peak experiences that he regarded as "moments of mental health" during which people were highly sensitive to existential values.

Maslow is most famous for his hierarchy of needs. This is a pyramid-shaped diagram showing how people progress from basic biological needs (at the bottom) through a succession of intermediate stages to existential needs (at the top).

In his final theory, dubbed "Theory Z," Maslow revised his self-actualizer concept to include normal, healthy people who were not necessarily exceptionally creative, but devoted themselves to constructive activities.

Theory Z defined a new type called the transcender who resembled the original, rare ("1 in 100") self-actualizer type. The transcender, as described by Maslow in the last book he wrote, was "conspicuously meta-motivated," living life in accordance with existential values.


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