Motivation

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RUNNING HEAD: HUMAN NEEDS

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation and Hierarchy of Human Needs: A Critical Analysis

Allison Ruby Reid-Cunningham, MSW

School of Social Welfare
University of California – Berkeley

Prepared under the supervision of Dr. William McKinley Runyan School of Social Welfare

PhD Qualifying Examination
December 3, 2008

Table of Contents

Abstract …………………………………………………………………………………. 3

Conceptual Framework and Methods ………………………………………………... 4

Motivation Theory …………………...……………………………………………….... 5 •Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
oPhysiological Needs
oSafety Needs
oLove Needs
oEsteem Needs
oSelf-Actualization Needs

Application of Motivation Theory to Abraham Maslow’s Life…………………….. 24 •Childhood
oPhysiological Needs
oSafety Needs
oLove Needs
oEsteem Needs
oSelf-Actualization Needs
Adult Life
oDeficiency Needs: Physiological, Safety, Love, Esteem
oGrowth Needs: Self-Actualization
Synthesis

Empirical and Theoretical Criticism ...….……...……………………………..…….. 55 oDeprivation: The Chronically Hungry Person
oGratification: The Chronically Satiated Person
oCultural Relativity and Universalism
oThe Utility of the Original Five Categories of Needs
oEcological Model of Human Needs
oDirections for Future Research

Implications for Society and Social Welfare ..………………….…………………… 73

Figures …………………………………………………………………………………. 78

References ……………………………………………………………………………... 79

Abstract
Background: Although the research support for Maslow’s theory is still developing, the concepts have provided a framework for positive psychology and have been utilized to conceptualize policy, practice, and theory in the social sciences for 65 years. Human behavior is motivated by the satisfaction or frustration of needs, which are arranged in a hierarchy of prepotency from physiological, to safety, to social, to esteem, to self-actualization.

Aims: Using a psychobiography orientation, Maslow’s life history is explored in terms of motivation theory in order to 1) present a case study that is particularly well-matched with the model, and 2) understand the development of motivation theory in the context of its inventor’s ecological environment.

Findings: Empirical and theoretical criticism of Maslow’s hierarchy feature discussions of cultural relativity and universalism, the directionality implied by the model of gratification and deprivation, the validity of the original categories of needs, and the lack of operationalization throughout the model. Existing research refutes the existence of the original need categories and questions the directional hierarchy that Maslow proposed, but it supports the concept of self-actualization, the existence of lower and higher needs, and gratification-deprivation as motivators of human behavior.

Implications: Future studies must develop instruments that clearly operationalize the concepts. An ecological model of human needs can complement Maslow’s theory by offering a dynamic, systems-based framework. Motivation theory and self-actualization have profound implications for society because of the positive consequences of meeting basic human needs to allow individuals to become self-actualized.

Conceptual Framework and Methodology
Psychobiography can be defined as systematic investigation of a life history that employs an explicit theory (Runyan, 1982). This analysis seeks to present the life history of Abraham Maslow in the context of his theory of human motivation. Psychobiography is a method of interpretation and analysis that has been the subject of significant controversy among social science researchers, theorists, and scholars. Some espouse psychobiography’s unique contribution to the understanding of phenomenological experiences while others dismiss the study of individuals as not generalizable and thus not worthwhile. This work does not intend to settle this debate; rather it aims...
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