Maslow

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ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR AND HUMAN PERFORMANCE

15, 212-240 (1976)

Maslow Reconsidered: A Review of Research on the Need Hierarchy Theory MAHMOUD A . WAHBA AND LAWRENCE G. BRIDWELL

Baruch College, The City University of New York
The uncritical acceptance of Maslow's need hierarchy theory despite the lack of empirical evidence is discussed and the need for a review of recent empirical evidence is emphasized. A review of ten factor-analytic and three ranking studies testing Maslow's theory showed only partial support for the concept of need hierarchy. A large number of cross-sectional studies showed no clear evidence for Maslow's deprivation/domination proposition except with regard to self-actualization. Longitudinal studies testing Maslow's gratification/activation proposition showed no support, and the limited support received from cross-sectional studies is questionable due to numerous measurement problems. The difficulties with testing the theory are discussed and the conceptual, methodological, and measurement problems of the studies reviewed are detailed. The implications of the findings and future directions for research are outlined.

I. PURPOSE AND BACKGROUND Maslow's need hierarchy theory (1943, 1954, 1970) presents the student of work motivation with an interesting paradox: The theory is widely accepted, but there is little research evidence to support it. Since Maslow first published his theory 30 years ago, it has become one of the most popular theories of motivation in the management and organizational behavior literature. The theory has influenced the writings of many prominent authors in the field of management and organizational behavior (e.g., Davis, 1946; Viteles, 1953; Leavitt, 1964; McGregor, 1960; Argyris, 1964; Schein, 1965). Furthermore, the theory has provided an a priori conceptual framework to explain diverse research findings (Miner & Dachler, 1973). Such widespread acceptance of the Need Hierarchy Theory is rather surprising in fight of the fact that until the mid-sixties (Blai, 1964; Hall & Nougaim, 1966; Alderfer, Note 1) little empirical evidence existed that would support the predictions of the theory especially in the field of industrial and organizational psychology. It has almost become a tradition for writers to point out the discrepancy between the popularity of the theory and the lack of clear and consistent empirical evidence to support it (Clark, 1960; Cofer & Appley, 1%4; Vroom, 1964; Berkowitz, 1969; Hill, 1%9). However, in spite of this lack of evidence, many writers continued to use parts of the theory or Maslow's need classification in their recent writings, e.g., Clark's (1960) theory of motivation in work group and Lawler's (1971) model of the importance of pay. 212

Copyright © 1976 by Academic Press, Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

MASLOW RECONSIDERED

213

Recently, the interest in Maslow's Need Hierarchy Theory has been revived due to the publication of a number of empirical studies testing some predictions of the theory. As yet, however, no known review of literature compares and integrates the findings of these studies. The purpose of this paper is to review and evaluate the empirical research related to Maslow's Need Hierarchy Theory, thereby assessing the empirical validity of the theory itself. Several constraints were imposed on this review: First, the review will deal only with the test of Maslow's Theory in the work situation. For a review of the empirical evidence in other situations see Corer and Appley (1964). Second, this review will include only studies that used statistical rather than clinical methodology (after Meehl, 1954). Third, this review will deal only with what is considered to be the core or the main elements of Maslow's Theory as it relates to work motivation. II. MASLOW'S NEED HIERARCHY THEORY: A BRIEF DESCRIPTION Part of the appeal of Maslow's Need Hierarchy Theory is that it provides both a theory of human...
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