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An American psychologist who studied at the University of Wisconsin. Most notably responsible for Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which details the steps a being will pass through on the journey towards self-actualization.

Maslowian Psychological Movement

The basic theory of the Maslowian philosophy, originated and advocated by psychologist Abraham Maslow, deals with motivation. The theory describes the development of individuals from fundamental needs to much higher needs of self-actualization.
  1. Maslow’s philosophy views man as able to progress through different stages of being and able to reach his greatest potential, self-actualization.
  2. The Maslowian movement’s position on character motivation is that all such motivation and behavior relies on individual processes. Maslow believed that as one gets closer to self-actualization, the outside motivation lessens because one grows into doing things just for the sake of doing them more than to further some purpose. This is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of motives that establish human behavior. The hierarchy starts with physiological needs, followed by safety and survival needs, such as food and oxygen, then feelings of belonging, including companionship and other social needs, then esteem needs, like competence and prestige, and finally, self-actualization.
  3. This psychological movement appears optimistic, which is shown through Maslow’s belief that people can fulfill their highest potential by progressing through the hierarchy of motives.
  4. According to this theory, the past, present, and future are all connected through the hierarchy because a person must, at some time in the past, have reached the levels below the present one, from which one looks to the future levels, including the highest one of self-actualization.
  5. According to Maslow’s theory, the individual has as much control as he/she wants in making changes in his/her life because the level of potential that is reached depends largely on the individual’s own motivation and will.
  6. Maslow believed the studies and theories about the subconscious to be too theoretical and involved with underlying sicknesses of the brain. He did not include anything about subconscious forces being responsible for one’s behavior in his theories; in fact, Maslow basically said personality processes dealing with the whole person, not just any one part such as the subconscious, are responsible for behavior.
  7. Knowledge of the Maslowian psychological movement might be helpful to a literary critic because Maslow’s theory of motivation is apparent in several works of literature, such as Tonio Kroger and Father Sergius, novellas in which the main character starts out concerned with basic things, like feelings of belonging, but moves on to human needs such as love and esteem, and then self-actualization.

Abraham Harold (A.H.) Maslow was born on April 1, 1908 as the oldest of seven children. His parents were Jewish immigrants to Brooklyn, New York from czarist Russia.

Maslow began his education in the public schools of Brooklyn and went on to attend the City College of New York, where he studied law. After three semesters worth of work at CCNY, he transferred to Cornell University. However, he only spent a brief amount of time at Cornell, before transferring back to CCNY and marrying his first cousin, Bertha Goodman.

Tired of dealing with his parents’ disapproval of his early marriage and increasingly uninterested in law, Maslow decided to move west to Wisconsin. There, he attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, from which he attained his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology. While in Madison, Maslow studied the behavior of rhesus monkeys with Harry Harlow. Together they published many findings on how the monkeys reacted to issues of self-esteem, dominance, sexuality, and motivation.

In 1935, a year after receiving his Ph.D., Maslow moved his family, now with two daughters, back to New York to work with E.L. Thorndike at Columbia University. He then took a position as a professor at Brooklyn College. He taught there for nearly five years before taking a job at Brandeis University, where he was later appointed as chairman of psychology department in 1951.

It was at Brandeis that Maslow began his theoretical work and began his studies on self-actualization. After being introduced to Kurt Goldstein, Maslow became convinced by his ideas that all humans will strive to strengthen their strongest abilities in order to be the best that they can be. Maslow soon began revising his 1943 paper on the hierarchy of needs, A Theory of Human Motivation to include Goldstein’s ideas on self-actualization.

He retired from Brandeis and moved west once again, this time to California. He died there on June 8th, 1970 of a heart attack, after years of ill health and heavy drinking.

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