Maslow's Motivational Psychology

Abraham Maslow could be considered a motivation theorist or a personality theorist. He was a bit of both. One of his early books was titled Motivation and Personality (1954). Perhaps more revealing is the title Maslow originally wanted to use for that book: Higher Ceilings for Human Nature (Maslow, 1970, p.ix). Maslow dealt with "higher motives" of human beings, what might be called existential or spiritual motives. They are some of the most powerful and uniquely human motivations.

What type of motives did Maslow explore?

Third Force Psychology

The two dominant theoretical perspectives in psychology when Maslow started his work in the 1940s were behaviorism and Freudianism. Both seemed inadequate for dealing with "ideal aspirations of the human being" (Maslow, 1963). Maslow felt that neither had much to say about what made people happy and psychologically healthy.

What was Maslow's objection to psychoanalysis?

Maslow had several objections to Freud's theory. It offered a dreary view of human nature, he said. Humans were portrayed as preoccupied with sex, violence, and selfishness. Freud and his followers concentrated on psychopathology (abnormal, disordered states). They offered no theory of mental health, no compelling description of the healthy personality or well-adjusted individual. Freud had great insight into some forms of neurotic behavior but little insight into behavior that was not neurotic.


                       Abraham Maslow

What were Maslow's objections to behaviorism?

Maslow also objected to behaviorism. In its 1940s incarnation, behaviorism refused to deal with the complexities of mental life. To Maslow, talk of stimuli and responses was mechanistic, dehumanizing, and avoided the central issues of human existence. Maslow also felt that, like psychoanalysis, behaviorism offered no theory of mental health. It stressed a superficial view of adjustment: happiness was behaving in such a way that you could get your reinforcers.

Maslow proposed an alternative: a Third Force in psychology. This type of psychology would deal with important topics neglected by the other two: topics like human fulfillment, the search for meaning, and what it meant to be psychologically healthy. Maslow teamed with Rogers, Fromm, and other psychologists to form new professional associations and launch new journals devoted to Third Force psychology, also known as humanistic psychology.


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