Week 4: Understanding Self and Others

Course Guide

The Maslow link for this week has links to other pages.  Follow them if you wish. What I am interested in is that you understand some of the reasons that humanistic psychology was and is so influential as a theory of living (a world view) in the late 20th Century (and still is).  Reflect on Maslow's theory (use Google as a search engine and find some descriptions of Maslow's theory).  Summarize the steps of the theory. Understand how you have been influenced by your family, peers, teachers, and culture.



Student Reading Response


Jackie Eppler-Clark

Maslow popularized psychological humanism, the belief that human behavior is directed by both physiological needs (air, food, water) and psychological wants (living up to one’s fullest individual potential). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs expresses the theory that some motives are more instinct driven, more compelling and basic, than others and only if these basic needs for air, food, and water are met are we able to move up the pyramid to meet our need for safety, belongingness and love, and esteem needs, to the highest level, self-actualization needs.

To learn what was necessary for positive mental health, Maslow approached the issue from a different angle than earlier psychologists in that he chose to study healthy, creative people rather than those with "broken brains." Subjects of his research included Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt. Both had positive characteristics, such as high values, a sense of purpose (self-actualization), and weren’t fearful of others’ opinions.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs follows a logical progression of a human lifecycle. An individual is born with the basic, immediate need to satisfy air, food, and water. As the infant begins to develop, the first basic need is still there, however, the need to feel that the world is organized and predictable comes into play, as well as the need to feel safe, secure, and stable. When the need for safety has been satisfied, the need to love and be loved, to belong and be accepted, and to avoid loneliness and alienation are the driving needs. Only when these three fundamental needs are satisfied can an individual move on to the next level of the need for self-esteem, achievement, competence, independence, and the need for recognition and respect. Living up to one’s fullest and individual potential meet the highest level on Maslow’s pyramid, self-actualization needs.

Although all mankind have these primary needs, cultures approach the esteem and self-actualization needs from different viewpoints, thus influencing their world view. I’ve become aware of the societal difference in the importance of self through my international student hosting involvement and it has given me much pause for reflection in on or about the different self-esteem values various cultures nurture. The Canadian and European students exhibit contentment with their esteem needs by focusing on their personal goals, attributes, and achievements. On the other hand, Chinese and Japanese students are raised in a more collective society that places high value on the goals, attributes, and achievements of the group rather than the individual.

Each of these differences influences a culture’s self-esteem and I can see benefits to both sides. Students coming from an individualistic culture place value on personal independence, their identity, and their personal achievements. The students from a collective society gain their identity from belonging to a group, the group’s goals/solidarity, and their ‘’we" approach to social responsibility. Even with the differing values that cultures place on what comprises self-esteem, these needs must be met for a positive self-concept, happiness, and success.