Self-actualization is a term that has been used in
various psychology theories of Goldstein, Maslow and Rogers. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory, people
have lower order needs that in general must be fulfilled before high order needs can be
satisfied. As a person moves up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, eventually they will reach
the summit, self-actualization.
Self-actualization theory was originally introduced by
the organismic theorist Kurt Goldstein for the motive to realize one's full potential.
According to Kurt Goldstein, self-actualization is the master motive indeed, the only real
motive a person has, all others being merely manifestations of it.
Self-actualization theory was brought to prominence in
Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory as the final level of psychological development
that can be achieved when all basic and mental needs are fulfilled and the
"actualisation" of the full personal potential takes place.
According to Maslow self-actualised person
"possesses an unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake, the dishonest in
personality, and in general to judge the people correctly and efficiently"
Self-actualization is "the tendency to actualize, as
much as possible, individual capacities" in the world. The tendency to
self-actualization is "the only drive by which the life of an organism is
determined." - Kurt Goldstein's book The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology
Derived from Pathological Data in Man.
Kurt Goldstein defined self-actualization as a driving
life force that will ultimately lead to maximizing one's abilities and determine the path
of one's life; compare will to power.
Maslow explicitly defines self-actualization to be
"the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him, the individual, to
become actualized in what he is potentially. - Abraham Maslow in his article, A Theory of
The term self-actualization was used by Maslow to describe a desire, not a driving force,
that could lead to realizing one's capabilities. Maslow did not feel that
self-actualization determined one's life; rather, he felt that it gave the individual a
desire, or motivation to achieve budding ambitions.
Goldstein defined self-actualization as a driving force, Maslow used the term to describe
personal growth that takes place once lower order needs have been met.
Self-actualization is at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and is considered a part
of the humanistic approach to personality and the humanistic approach is one of several
methods used in psychology for studying, understanding, and evaluating personality.
Maslow's Self-actualization is predicated on the
individual having their lower deficiency needs met. Once a person has moved through
feeling and believing that they are deficient, they naturally seek to grow into who they
are, that is self-actualize.
The Failure of Self-Actualization Theory - A Critique of Carl Rogers and
Leonard Geller, Journal of Humanistic Psychology January 1, 2008 48: 116-135
Abstract: This inquiry critically examines the self-actualization theories of Carl Rogers
and Abraham Maslow. Neither theory, it is argued, is correct. The fundamental claims of
each, especially about the self and the human condition, are shown to be radically
mistaken. Rogers's theory is unacceptable insofar as his conception of the touchstone or
standard of self-actualization is false, incoherent, and unworkable in practice. Beyond
critiquing Rogers and Maslow, I attempt to establish the general presumption that
self-actualization theory as such has very little to offer toward understanding and
improving the human condition within late-twentieth-century Western society.
The Myth of Self-Actualization - Michael Daniels
Section of Psychology, Liverpool Polytechnic, Journal of Humanistic Psychology January 1,
Abstract: I argue that the primary function of a theory of self-actualization is to
establish a myth of human development that provides conceptual support for people seeking
fulfillment and offers clear normative guidance. An examination of Maslow's theory reveals
inadequacies as a mythical interpretation of personal development. There are ambiguities
and contradictions in the self-actualization theory, and several conceptual elements may
inhibit or corrupt the process of selfactualization.
Self-Actualization in the Corporate Hierarchy
North American Journal of Psychology, 2006 by John M. Mahoney, Hester L. Dorer
Summary: It has been argued that the level of individual actualizing contributes to not
only the success of the individual, but also to the success of the organization. The
present study used a profile analysis to examine the relationship between corporate
organizational levels and reported degree of self-actualizing as measured by the Personal
Orientation Inventory for 149 managers and employees spanning four corporate hierarchical
levels. It was found that the individuals in the different hierarchical levels did exhibit
parallel POI profile patterns but did not exhibit different levels of actualizing.
Individuals at the higher organizational levels rated their job as more important than did
those at lower levels. The level of self-actualizing was correlated to job satisfaction
regardless of the hierarchical level, and level of actualizing was correlated to type of
Compatibility of self-actualization and anxiety
- Orin Dodez, Paul F. Zelhart, Robert P. Markley
Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 38, Issue 4, pages 696702, October 1982
Abstract: Dabrowski's (1972) theory of positive disintegration argues that anxiety appears
to be the dynamic of self-actualization. A study to assess this hypothesis (Wilkins,
Hjelle, & Thompson, 1977) reported that self-actualization was incompatible with
chronic, debilitating or neurotic anxiety. The current study further examined the
empirical and conceptual relation between anxiety and self-actualization. A measure of
self-actualization (the POI) and two measures of anxiety were taken from Ss (N = 126).
Thirty-three items from the POI were found to be measures of anxiety and were scored
negatively for self-actualization. Removal of anxiety items and rescoring of the POI
yielded self-actualization measures that were related positively to anxiety test scores.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF SELF-ACTUALIZATION TO SOCIAL SUPPORT, LIFE STRESS, AND
ADJUSTMENT - Ford, Gary G.; Procidano, Mary E.
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, Volume 18, Number 1, 1990.
Abstract: The previously unexplored relationship of self-actualization to life stress and
perceived social support from family and from friends was investigated. Measures of all
variables were administered to 54 female and 52 male adult undergraduate students (age
range of 18-81 years). The relationship of each variable to psychological adjustment
(depression) also was assessed. As predicted, correlational results revealed
self-actualization to be related positively to perceived social support and inversely to
depression and life stress. Social support was inversely related to depression, and life
stress was related positively to depression. Significant sex differences discovered in the
relationship of self-actualization to perceived social support are discussed in terms of
possible sex differences in the developmental process of self-actualization.
A cognitive-systemic reconstruction of maslow's theory of self-actualization,
Francis Heylighen, Behavioral Science, Volume 37, Issue 1, pages 3958, January 1992
Abstract: Maslow's need hierarchy and model of the self-actualizing personality are
reviewed and criticized. The definition of self-actualization is found to be confusing,
and the gratification of all needs is concluded to be insufficient to explain
self-actualization. Therefore the theory is reconstructed on the basis of a second-order,
cognitive-systemic framework. A hierarchy of basic needs is derived from the urgency of
perturbations which an autonomous system must compensate in order to maintain its
identity. It comprises the needs for homeostasis, safety, protection, feedback and
exploration. Self-actualization is redefined as the perceived competence to satisfy these
basic needs in due time. This competence has three components: material, cognitive and
subjective. Material and/or cognitive incompetence during childhood create subjective
incompetence, which in turn inhibits the further development of cognitive competence, and
thus of self-actualization.
Effects of defensiveness and self-actualization on a Herzberg replication
John Paul Szura1 and Mary E. Vermillion, Illinois Institute of Technology, USA
Journal of Vocational Behavior, Volume 7, Issue 2, October 1975, Pages 181-187
Abstract: Two hundred workers were tested for self-actualization, internal vs external
locus-of-control, repression vs sensitization, need for approval, and the tendency to
attribute job satisfaction and dissatisfaction to motivators and hygienes. Results
indicated that self-actualization is related to the attribution of satisfaction to both
motivators and hygienes and that external locus of control, sensitization, and low need
for approval are related to the attribution of dissatisfaction to both motivators and