An Overview of Abraham Maslows Contribution to Psychology

Abraham Maslow was a psychology and was mentored by anthropologist Ruth Benedict and Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer.  His research was on mental health and how to become a better person by creating a hierarchy of needs, metaneeds, metamotivation, self-actualization and peak experiences.  He wanted to understand how society looked at the world and created a new field of psychology called humanistic psychology.  He, along with other humanistic psychologists, believed that everyone wants to be the best person they can be. 

First was the hierarchy of needs, a pyramid of needs that everyone must accomplish to become the best person they could be.  The first stage or bottom of the pyramid is the biological and physiological needs.  These needs are air, food, drink, sleep, and so on.  Once those needs are completed, one would then move to its safety needs.  A person needs to feel secure with themselves and know their limits to be comfortable with themselves.  The third level is to feel a sense of belonging and loved.  Of course, once a person can love themselves, then they can allow others to love them and for them to love.  The belongingness could be feeling accepted in a work group, family, any kind of affection and then romantic relationships and friendships.  Once one is accepted, their self-esteem can boost, hence the fourth step of esteem needs.  A person may feel accomplished at work or school, become independent, and gain responsibility.  The last step and the top point of the pyramid is self-actualization needs, that one has realized their full potential and is self-fulfilled.  In the 1970s, the hierarchy of needs was updated to add levels were cognitive needs and aesthetic needs, between the esteem and the self-actualization needs.  These needs would be a need for knowledge and meaning and a need for balance and form.

Maslow’s other theories with self-actualization were peak experiences and metamotivation.  These peak experiences are what Maslow called “moments of extraordinary experiences”.  These moments could be of love, understanding, or happiness which makes a people feel whole.  If a person is at the self-actualization point, they could have many peak experiences.  Those who are self-actualized are driven by  forces beyond their biological or basic needs so that they can reach their full potential, the term metamotivation was used. 

Finally, Maslow created Being-cognition or B-cognition what was a list of values that he thought a person could have to have the peak experiences.  There were wholeness, perfection, completion, justice, aliveness, richness, simplicity, beauty, goodness, uniqueness, effortlessness, playfulness, trust and self-sufficiency.  A person who has B-cognition values is a person who is holistic and accepting.