Abraham Maslow biography, quotes and theory

Abraham Maslow - Toolshero

Abraham Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was a famous American clinical psychologist. He was particularly specialized in the area of humanistic psychology and became famous with his ground breaking theory on the Hierarchy of Needs. This model is known as Maslow’s pyramid. Abraham Maslow was a psychology professor at Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New School for Social Research, and Columbia University. He was also the first who coined the term “positive psychology” in his 1954 book “Motivation and Personality.”

Who is Abraham Maslow? His biography

Abraham Maslow was born in Brooklyn, New York in April 1908. He was the oldest of seven children. His parents were both Jewish immigrants from Kiev, at the time part of the Russian empire. His parents were poor and did not have the opportunity to focus on an academic career. But they appreciated and valued education.

It was a rough time for Jewish people in the United States. Maslow and many other young persons struggled to overcome acts of racism and ethnic prejudice. He grew up with few friends, but his cousin Will was close to the young Abraham. As a result, he spent most of his time in libraries. This is where he developed his love for books and reading.

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Abraham Maslow believed that physical strength was one of the most important characteristic of a true male. He excercised often and did a lot of weightlifting. He would not achieve his goal of looking muscular, due to his humble-looking appearance and chaste figure.

Academic career

Maslow began his academic career with a law study at the City College of New York, mostly to satisfy his parents. He later switched, and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1930. At this university, he worked with a lot of interesting people, incuding Harry Harlow. After a lot fuss, he obtained his Master’s degree (MSc.) in psychology in 1931.

Abraham Maslow was not satisfied with his thesis ‘learning, retention, and reproduction of verbal material’ but his supervisor, Professor Carson, was. This lead to two publications. In 1934, Maslow obtained his doctorate (Ph.D.) in the same field of study.

Abraham continued his academic career at the Columbia University. Together with his mentor Alfred Adler, he started working out his psychological ideas.

After the Second World War, Abraham Maslow developed a new scientific discipline, ‘humanistic psychology’, which was based on his own ideas and research. Together with two mentors, namely Ruth Benedict and Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer, he started developing this discipline.

The key areas were mental health and human potential. This provided the basis of the theories: the hierarchy of needs, meta needs, meta motivation, self-development and peak experiences. Abraham Maslow argued that each level in the needs hierarchy must be substantially satisfied before the next becomes dominant.

He was a pioneer in this area and this led to worldwide fame. He was a professor at several universities in the United States. Abraham Maslow died of a fatal heart attack at the age of 62.

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Famous quotes by Abraham Maslow

  1. “To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.”
  2. “It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”
  3. “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”
  4. “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
  5. “Be independent of the good opinion of other people.”
  6. “Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defense) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth). Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.”
  7. “If the essential core of the person is denied or suppressed, he gets sick sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes immediately, sometimes later.”
  8. “The most stable, and therefore, the most healthy self-esteem is based on deserved respect from others rather than on external fame or celebrity and unwarranted adulation.”
  9. “False optimism sooner or later means disillusionment, anger and hopelessness.”
  10. “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”
  11. “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
  12. “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
  13. “What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.”

Books and publications by Abraham Maslow

  • 2013, 1962. Toward a psychology of being. Start Publishing LLC.
  • 2000. The Maslow business reader. John Wiley & Sons.
  • 1998. Maslow on management. John Wiley.
  • 1994, 1964. Religions, values, and peak-experiences. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
  • 1993, 1972. The farther reaches of human nature. Maurice Bassett.
  • 1973. On dominance, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Maurice Bassett.
  • 1970. Motivation and personality. Harper & Row.
  • 1969. The farther reaches of human nature. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1(1), 1.
  • 1968. Music Education and Peak Experience. Journal: Music Educators Journal, vol. 54, no. 6.
  • 1968. Some educational implications of the humanistic psychologies. Harvard Educational Review, 38(4), 685-696.
  • 1967. A Theory of Metamotivation: the Biological Rooting of the Value-Life. Journal: Journal of Humanistic Psychology – J HUM PSYCHOL , vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 93-127.
  • 1966. The psychological aspect desacralization. Journal: The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 148-157.
  • 1966. The Psychology of Science a Reconnaissance.
  • 1965. Art judgment and the judgment of others: A preliminary study. Journal: Journal of Clinical Psychology – J CLIN PSYCHOL, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 389-391.
  • 1965. Humanistic Science and Transcendent Experiences. Journal of Humanistic Psychology – J HUM PSYCHOL, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 219-227.
  • 1965. Self-actualization and beyond.
  • 1964. The superior person. Journal: Society, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 10-13.
  • 1963. Fusions of facts and values. Journal: The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 117-131.
  • 1962. Lessons from the Peak-Experiences 1. Journal of humanistic psychology, 2(1), 9-18.
  • 1962. Some basic propositions of a growth and self-actualization psychology. Perceiving, behaving, becoming: A new focus for education, 34-49.
  • 1961. Peak experiences as acute identity experiences. Journal: The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 254-262.
  • 1959. New knowledge in human values.
  • 1959. Cognition of being in the peak experiences. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 94(1), 43-66.
  • 1958. A Dynamic Theory of Human Motivation.
  • 1956. Effects of esthetic surroundings: I. Initial effects of three esthetic conditions upon perceiving “energy” and “well-being” in faces. The Journal of Psychology, 41(2), 247-254.
  • 1950. Self-actualizing people: a study of psychological health. Personality.
  • 1943. A theory of human motivation [Kindle Edition].
  • 1943. Conflict, frustration, and the theory of threat. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 81-86.
  • 1943. Preface to motivation theory. Psychosomatic medicine, 5(1), 85-92.
  • 1942. Self-esteem (dominance-feeling) and sexuality in women. The Journal of Social Psychology, 16(2), 259-294.
  • 1941. Principles of Abnormal Psychology, the Dynamics of Psychic Illness. Harper & Bros.
  • 1937. Dominance-feeling, behavior, and status. Journal: Psychological Review – PSYCHOL REV , vol. 44, no. 5, pp. 404-429.

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Published on: 01/19/2013 | Last update: 12/06/2023

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Vincent van Vliet
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Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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