This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 09 table of contents.

Criticisms of Maslow's Theory

Maslow can be criticized from many angles. He was not very scientific in his investigations, as he readily admitted. He liked lists. Read Maslow and you find lists of B-values, lists of characteristics of self-actualizers, lists of objectives for future humanistic psychologists, even lists of possible research projects...but never actual research.

What are some criticisms of Maslow?

Maslow said he "studied" and "discovered" characteristics of self-actualizers, and he objected to complaints that he had merely invented the self-actualizer syndrome. But the complaint seems valid. Maslow never presented data to prove that his lists of characteristics of self-actualizers were accurate. He just said it was obvious, or that every healthy person he knew acted this way, or that "my research showed me" how self-actualizers acted. This does not mean Maslow was wrong, but it does mean that his opinions were not validated in the normal scientific way, by finding independent sources of evidence.

How was humanistic psychology a "forerunner of the 1960s cultural changes"?

The 1960s were peak years for Maslow and for humanistic psychology. In 1961, Tony Sutich founded the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. In 1962, Maslow published an influential book, Toward a Psychology of Being. Maslow was president of the American Psychological Association in 1967. In many ways humanistic psychology, with its emphasis on personal freedom, self-exploration, and consciousness expansion, was a forerunner of the 1960s cultural changes in the United States. Maslow died in 1970.

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