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Personality Theory of Abraham Maslow Critique Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021

In this paper, I would discuss and evaluate the personality theory of Abraham Maslow. In order to further critical appraisal, I would also cover the ideas of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud Regarding this theory.

Of all the psychologists and their theories, the one I find most interesting and believe the most in is Abraham Maslow. I believe his hierarchy of needs is real and that people do fall in one of the levels of his pyramid. Most of us start at a bottom level in life and strive to reach a higher level of financial and educational stability along with a satisfying career. We all have basic needs in life and once we have these we climb the ladder to higher achievements in life. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who studied the Humanistic aspects of psychology. He became interested in psychology after learning about John Watson and his contributions to the behavioral theory. In 1943, Maslow created a pyramid he called the Hierarchy of Needs. This pyramid was based on a person’s basic lower needs to the higher needs in one’s life.

Maslow disapproved of behaviorism and later on took a similar direction as Freud and his writings. He accepted the existence of the unconscious but, he opposed Freud’s conviction that the greater part of who we are is hidden past our consciousness. Maslow thought that for the most part we are aware of our actions and that without impediments in our life that we all could become psychologically fit people with a greater understanding of whom we are and better able to accept the world we live in. In areas that Freud saw pessimism or negative behavior in a person’s life, Maslow looked for more positives in mankind.

Maslow believed that we are all born with certain needs and without meeting these needs a person was sure to die. The first and bottom level of his hierarchy was physiological needs such as warmth, shelter, and food. Physiological needs were concerned with a biological balance and homeostasis or equilibrium. Without these basic needs a person would not be able to thrive. The second levels of the pyramid were for security needs. These included living in a safe area away from any danger or physical threats. This is most often found in children who need the protection of their parents from any harm. These two bottom levels of the pyramid are also where in the workplace most people start out at. Most people need to find work to create a safe loving home with food and warmth to keep themselves and their children from harm.

The third level deals with social needs such as love, friendship and family needs. Many people spend a lifetime looking for belonging and love in their life. This third level focuses on a desire to be accepted by others and to fit in and feel like we have a place in this world. Many young people struggle through this period of time trying to find them and not really knowing who they can trust and not trust. The fourth level of the pyramid deals with Ego needs and self respect. It focuses on the need for self-esteem and respect from others. A person likes to feel like he or she has made something of them and have achieved success in all they do. We all like to strive for higher careers and increase our knowledge in the world while at the same time seeking autonomy in life.

The fifth level of Maslow’s hierarchy is self-actualization. This level deals with the person and knowing they have used their full potential in life. At this level people become fully functional and act purely on their own volition and at the same time have a healthy personality. The fifth level is the hardest of all levels to achieve. To honestly be self-actualized means to really know who we are, where we belong in society, and to feel like we have accomplished all that we have set out to achieve. Self-actualization means to no longer feel disgrace or remorse, or even hatred, but to believe in the world and see human nature as naturally good. Many people in their lifetime do not reach this final level of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Each level of Maslow’s hierarchy can be attributed to stages in a persons working life. I see employees who are struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads and feed their families. I see other employees who are beyond this level and are striving for a higher education to climb the ladder in their careers. I also see the top leaders of my workplace on the highest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. They know who they are and have all they need in life. Many of the retirees I have seen have reached the self-actualization that Maslow created on his pyramid while others remained at the fourth level of autonomy and self-worth. I have also seen those that have reached a certain level on the pyramid and taken one or two steps backward. I have seen others that have one foot on one level and the other on the next level trying to reach and pull themselves up. Maslow was a great psychologist and I would like to someday see someone further his research.

When looking at Maslow’s theory, it is very obvious that even after reaching each stage in the order, the other needs must continue to be simultaneously fulfilled. A person who achieves self-actualization will only be capable of maintaining it so long as his/her other needs continue to be met; impossible. A person cannot possess the power to continually control all four stages, eventually something in one of the four pre-steps will fail. Consequently skewing the validity of one who proclaims he/she is self-actualized. Although maintaining self-actualization for a prolonged state of time is very difficult to achieve, suffice to say, this is one of his theory’s only flaws. Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs theory fifty years ago and remains valid today for understanding instincts, needs, and development. His theories, seen everyday are becoming more and more profound. He and many others have concluded that this theory, in fact was everyone’s path uphill struggle to achieve self- actualization. Our personality is a tough code to crack because of its beautiful complexity of feelings and behaviors. Many psychologists theorized many understandings of the human personality, such theories are the psychoanalysis perspective and the humanistic perspective.

Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud was a man who believed that by exploring the unconscious minds of disturbed patients, he would get to the root of their personality. Sigmund Freud called his theory and technique for analyzing broken patients the psychoanalysis perspective. The psychodynamic perspective takes in other ideas that were influenced by Freud. They accepted the basic ideas such as the mind was concocted by our ID, which is the trait to seek pleasure, our superego the conscience, and the ego, which balances out the ID and the superego, childhood experiences, and defense mechanisms. Carl Jung emphasized on the unconscious (similar to Freud). He believed that the mind contains more than just repressed thoughts and feelings; his concept of ‘collective unconscious’ explains that we inherit memory from our past.

In contrast to the psychodynamic perspectives, the humanist perspectives studies healthy people thus taking a more positive outlook upon personality. Two important psychologists lead the humanistic point of view, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, these two psychologists emphasized on fulfilling our potential. Abraham Maslow who created the hierarchy of needs believed that humans ultimately seek self-actualization (or our highest potential). Carl Rogers agreed with Maslow, he explains that our deep inner drives are our desires to become perfect and to have positive regards from others. Humanist psychologists believe that the sense of our ‘self’ portrays how our personality will be portrayed.

Psychodynamic and Humanist perspectives are vastly different. However both perspectives believed in unconscious motives, whether it was humanistic theory of our deep inner drives to become perfect, or drive to conquer our childhood anxieties. Both perspectives agree that childhood and growth plays an important role in developing a personality. Most importantly each perspective believed in the changing of the personality through releasing inner tensions or controlling themselves. Putting great effort to understand the complex human mind the psychodynamic and humanist came to many great conclusions that both conscious and unconscious feelings contribute to the growth of our personality.


Freud, A. ( 1966 ). The ego and the mechanisms of defense. New York: International Universities Press.

Jung, C. G. ( 1956 ). On the psychology of the unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, & G. Adler (Eds.), Two essays on analytical psychology (pp. 17-130). Cleveland, OH: World.

Lahey 2003; Introduction to Psychology Eighth Edition; UOPHX text

Maslow, A. H. ( 1968 ). Toward a psychology of being (2nd ed.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Smith, R. (2004). Introduction to personality: Toward an integration (7th ed.). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

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