Human Motivations


The psychologist Abraham Maslow was one of the founders of the Humanistic school of psychology.

Working in the central part of the last century, he was one of the first psychologists to study mentally healthy people, and asked what makes them tick. Prior to this point, much of psychological enquiry had focused only on the mentally ill.

In his research and studies, he was particularly drawn to the wealth of motivations which we humans exhibit.

To assist us in understanding his thoughts and findings, he created a diagram to explore the relationships of our physiological and psychological needs. This diagram, which is now quite famous, is a rather elegant pyramid.


Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

There are several interesting dimensions to this mapping of human motivations. For instance, the pyramidical shape implies the necessity of the lower levels to support the upper ones. This shape also conveys that more resources may be required or demanded at the lower levels.

Another interesting facet is that we can quite easily be active at several levels at the same or at similar times. And it may only be in rare, or very short term time periods, when we are exclusively occupied at a single level.

Indeed Maslow’s work invites multiple interpretations and applications from fields as diverse as marketing, religious studies and psychotherapy.

Abraham Maslow’s own book on this subject is Motivation and Personality, Third Edition, Harper and Row Publishers. And explorations of his work can be found in many general psychology books.

© David R. Durham

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