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Maslow's Contribution to Theories of Human Motivation

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist, best known for his contribution to theories of human motivation (Engler, 2002:300-320). Extremely influential in the development of the school of humanistic psychology, much of Maslow's work remains important reading for contemporary psychologists (Allen, 2002: 187-269). The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the basic facts of Maslow's life, and the essential theoretical concepts he contributed to the field of psychology. His theoretical views are also contrasted and compared to other theories and criticisms of his work are discussed.

Boeree (2004: 1-2) states that Maslow was one of seven sons of uneducated Jewish immigrants who immigrated to America from Russia. Pressured strongly by his parents to study hard and do well, he primarily placed his focus on academe to satisfy them. He studied at both City College of New York and Cornell. It was at Cornell where he met his wife. Sometime afterward, he moved his family to Wisconsin, so that he could study at the University of Wisconsin and it was here that he, for the first time, developed a real interest in psychology. All of his degrees were conferred by the University of Wisconsin.

After getting his degrees, Maslow began to teach full time at Brooklyn College. According to Boeree (2004: 2), it was at Brooklyn College where he met many European intellectuals that had immigrated to the U.S. (e.g., Adler, Fromm, Horney) as well as Gestalt and Freudian psychologists. He was later to express a great gratitude for this time in his life and the people he met, whom he referred to as wonderful people who mentored him. He was to recall this time in his life very fondly.

However, it was not until he served as the chair of psychology at Brandeis that he began to work on the ideas that are the hallmark of his life, the notions of a need hierarch in human motivation and of the highest level in this hierarchy, namely, self-ac...

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