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Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Born April 1, 1908 Abraham Maslow was the son of uneducated Jewish immigrants. Being uneducated themselves, his parents pushed him hard to have success in academics (Boeree). This was hard on a young boy and he became very lonely. Choosing books as his refuge he became interested in higher education. He began this education at the City College of New York studying law (Boeree). After three semesters at CCNY he transferred to Cornell and then eventually back to the City College of New York (Boeree). All of his young life he had done things to please his parents. Soon he would defy them and marry his first cousin Bertha Goodman. Soon after being married he and Bertha moved to Wisconsin where he would start his studies in psychology.

After moving to Wisconsin, he became interested in psychology and would be affected by many great individuals in this field. The first of which was Harry Harlow; Harlow was known for his work with rhesus monkeys studying maternal deprivation (The Adoption History Project). The basis of these experiments was the nature and nurture debate. In Harlow’s experiments he showed that nurture was far more influential than nature. When these rhesus monkeys were born they were taken from their biological mothers (The Adoption History Project). In his Wisconsin laboratory he put these monkeys into situation with false maternal figures, these mothers would provide them with the milk they needed. This surrogate mother provided them with the least amount of care that was necessary. Soon they adopted the surrogate as their real mother. Of course, there were differences in the experimental situations. Some mothers were wrapped with terry cloth and others were simply mesh wire (The Adoption History Project). Naturally, the monkeys preferred the mothers with the terry cloth, but they still drank the same amount of food, and acted differently. When frightened the monkeys with the terry cloth mothers made contact with the surrogate mother. However, the mesh wire monkeys curled themselves into balls and screamed in terror. Harlow firmly believed that these experiments could be related to young human children as well (The Adoption History Project). Maslow himself got direct experience with behavior from working with Harlow and observing these experiments.

Another influence on Maslow was the psychologist E.L. Thorndike. Thorndike just like Harlow conducted animal studies to come up with his theory. The title of Thorndike’s theory is the Law of Effect (Thorndike 2007). This law states that responses that are followed by satisfaction are strengthened. It also states that responses that are followed by discomfort are weakened (Thorndike 2007). Right along with this theory is Thorndike’s psychological connectionism. He believed that through experience connections were formed between perceived stimuli and emitted responses. Maslow observed all of this while working with Thorndike at Columbia in New York (Boeree). Through all of this observation Maslow became interested in human sexuality. This interest would lead into the development of his later theory.

Maslow was influenced in many different ways by many different people. However, this is not why he is now a house hold name. His development of the hierarchy of needs is what made him famous. Within this hierarchy are five different needs that each has their own distinct pull or want to be satisfied. The hierarchy that I am speaking of is usually displayed in a pyramid form. As one progresses through this pyramid the needs become smaller because they are not essential for survival.

The first and most important level of Maslow’s is called Physiological needs (Boeree). These needs are also the easiest to understand, it is simply the need to survive. For instance the main physiological needs are oxygen and water. Of course, the body needs the protein and nutrients in food but you can not survive with out water. However, these are not the only needs in this level. The human body is a very fragile machine that operates at certain levels. As we go through the day our bodies have to maintain a pH level and an exact temperature level (Boeree). A pH balance is simply to avoid becoming to acidic, and we must keep a temperature of 98.6 degrees. If the temperature exceeds 105 degrees then brain cells are lost and you cook internally. On the other side, if the temperature is too low then you risk hypothermia and other effects. Maslow took this even a step farther saying that we crave certain foods that contain the things we lack (Boeree). An example that he used was that when we are deficient in vitamin C our body will crave foods containing vitamin C. This is truly a fascinating concept.

The second step in Maslow’s hierarchy is safety needs (Boeree). Just above physiological needs these have a huge influence of our everyday life. Within the category of “safety” fall quite a few different needs. Possibly the most influential is the need to be in a safe environment. Of course, this is assumed but another is stability and protection. Actually, most of the time the average human being will not even realize that he is meeting this need. It is usually just an instinct, but it can be seen through everyday life. For instance, when buying a house what is the one criterion that we always try to meet? Having a safe neighborhood can make all the difference in the real estate market. Another great example that effects the older generation in our society is the need for a good retirement (Boeree). After all once you have worked for thirty or forty years anyone is looking for a way to retire.

The next level of the hierarchy is one that comes to play a lot is the lives of teenagers and young adults. The love and belonging needs can envelope a multiple of different relationships (Boeree). We all want to have that friend that can go and talk to or a close family member. Of course, as we mature all individuals seek an intimate relationship with another person. Even we pass the age of dating young couples have the desire to have children (Boeree). In my opinion, this is one of the most critical stages that an individual goes through within the hierarchy. Simply, the following steps will be affected negatively if a strong relationship does not exist.

Having said that we can quickly move our attention to the next step in the hierarchy, esteem needs (Boeree). Naturally, the first thing that will pop into the mind is self-esteem. Yes, this is a big part of the step but it is not the only need included. Actually Maslow sited two different versions of the esteem needs. The lower of these two include the need for the respect of others, the need for status, fame and even dominance. The higher from of this separation is made up of self respect and the need for feelings of competence, achievement, and freedom (Boeree).

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