A COGNITIVE-SYSTEMIC RECONSTRUCTION OFMASLOW'S THEORY OF SELF-ACTUALIZATIONby Francis Heylighen1PESP, Free University of Brussels, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, BelgiumMaslow's need hierarchy and model of the self-actualizing per-sonality are reviewed and criticized. The definition of self-actualiza-tion is found to be confusing, and the gratification of all needs is con-cluded to be insufficient to explain self-actualization. Therefore thetheory is reconstructed on the basis of a second-order, cognitive-sys-temic framework. A hierarchy of basic needs is derived from the ur-gency of perturbations which an autonomous system must compensatein order to maintain its identity. It comprises the needs for homeosta-sis, safety, protection, feedback and exploration. Self-actualization isredefined as the perceived competence to satisfy these basic needs indue time. This competence has three components: material, cognitiveand subjective. Material and/or cognitive incompetence during child-hood create subjective incompetence, which in turn inhibits the furtherdevelopment of cognitive competence, and thus of self-actualization.KEY WORDS: humanistic psychology, self-actualization, competence, cognition, autonomous systems, humanmotivation, problem-solving.TYPE OF ARTICLE: nonquantitative theoryDIMENSIONS AND UNITS: none~INTRODUCTIONenced by behaviorism, which tends to re-duce human behavior to statistical correla-tions between different kinds of stimuli,responses and personality traits. Instead ofmerely modelling normal behavior or ofcuring clear dysfunctions, a humanisticpsychologist tries to help people to developin a better way, thus making them morecompetent, more aware, more happy, in thehope of reaching some state of “optimal”mental health .ONE OF THE MAIN VALUESdriving sys-tems research is to provide con-cepts and methods for stimulatinglearning, growth and development,as well in individual persons as in society,thus enhancing well-being and the overallquality of life. The same positive aim char-acterizes so-called humanisticpsychology, which defines itself as a "third force",in contrast with clinical psychology, influ-enced by Freudian psycho-analysis, whichstudies mental illness, i.e. the negative sideof human behavior, and traditional aca-demic, experimental psychology, influ-Probably the best known proponent ofthis approach is Abraham Maslow. Whatdistinguishes his work from that of other"humanists", such as Carl Rogers or ErichFromm , is that he proposes a model ofhow a happy, healthy, well-functioning39Behavioral Science, Volume 37, 1992
has intentionally blurred sections.
Sign up to view the full version.