Maslow's theory of motivation was a radical departure from the views of behavior that dominated psychology in the early twentieth century. He rejected the behaviorist notion that human behavior could be understood by studying animal behavior, and he also turned away from the psychoanalytic idea that normal behavior could be inferred from studies of abnormal behavior. He hesitated to publish some of his ideas at first because he knew they were very different from the mainstream views of his time.
Despite these concerns, Maslow actually found a receptive audience for his ideas. His 1943 paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation," met with relatively little interest at first, but over the next decade or so his work became increasingly influential, and "A Theory of Human Motivation" is now considered to be one of the classic works in psychology. Although experimental psychologists questioned whether Maslow's ideas could be proven by research, his theory had a lot of appeal for contemporaries who worked in clinical settings. His developing ideas on self-actualization were particularly useful in this regard, and his work in this area was hailed as an important contribution to the growing field of counseling psychology. Carl Rogers, a founder of counseling psychology, praised Maslow's positive view of motivation and human growth. He thought this view was more appropriate for counseling healthy people than the prevailing psychoanalytic view, with its emphasis on neurosis and maladjustment.
After Maslow published Motivation and Personality in 1954, he was hailed as a leading thinker in the field of motivation. He was asked to present papers at important conferences, and he was able to publish a number of articles on his theory in leading professional journals. His ideas on motivation had implications for applied fields such as business management and education, and his work had an important influence in these areas. Maslow's theory of motivation was one of the key influences on Douglas McGregor, whose 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise, became a classic work on enlightened management practices. McGregor thought that managers needed to understand the motivations of workers in order to create a healthy and productive workplace, and he used Maslow's hierarchy of needs as the starting point for understanding workers' behavior and needs.
Despite continuing enthusiasm for Maslow's theory, a number of researchers were raising questions about the validity of his motivation hierarchy. It was difficult to validate many aspects of the theory with research. In particular, the middle levels of Maslow's hierarchy seemed to overlap, and the order he specified for emergence of different needs did not seem to hold true for all people. In 1969, Clayton Alderfer published an article in which he suggested a number of modifications to Maslow's theory. He proposed that Maslow's five levels of motivation could be reduced to three levels: Existence (referring to basic material needs such as food); Relatedness (referring to needs for relationships with others); and Growth (referring to needs for self-actualization and esteem). His theory is usually referred to as ERG theory, to signify the initials of the three needs he proposed. Alderfer's ERG theory suggested that more than one need could influence the person at the same time and also pointed out that different people could experience the needs in different order. Alderfer's modifications of Maslow's theory had some influence, particularly in the business management field; however, ERG theory never achieved the widespread popularity of Maslow's theory.
By the 1960s, Maslow's ideas had found their way into popular culture, where the concept of
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