Abraham Maslowmaslowpsychologyheirarchypersonalitymotivationsdevelopment

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Although we are motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically, our desire to thrive is probably best summed up by Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Maslow's theory was that "self-actualizing tendencies are built on more basic needs for physiological equilibrium, safety and security, belonging and love, and self-esteem. Highly self-actualized individuals espouse humanistic virtues and have a greater number of peak experiences in life"(McAdam, 2006, p.268). In the situation of an odd couple, the needs which are not met internally, can be fostered and nurtured by the partner.

Personality Development

Personality is developed through a blend of genetic influence, environment, and social experiences we encounter as we grow toward adulthood. We are also affected by our culture, religion, and place of birth. A Japanese person is part of a collectivist society, and so the trait of extraversion is less profound than someone from Western society. Individualists are not necessarily more open to new experience, but are more likely to publicly display pride for their achievements, rather than take a humble approach and give recognition to a group they are a part of (McAdams, 2006, p.97). Modernity also has also played a significant role in the changing ways of Eastern and Western cultures and personalities; political and economic issues arising from the industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries have seen changes taking place, particularly in the way that Asian cultures are becoming more individualistic.

Cultural modernity tends to promote individualism. The value systems that promote and are promoted by science, democracy, and free trade tend to celebrate the virtues of self-initiative, self-expression, and independence. But modernity and individualism are not the same concepts. For example, modern societies vary considerably with respect to their emphasis on individualism, with some modern societies, such as Japan and South Korea, tending toward collectivism rather than individualism. Still, it is probably fair to say that as traditionally collectivist societies become more modern they move somewhat in the direction of cultural individualism. (McAdams, 2006, p.101).

What Influences Personality?

As we grow older and become more independent, the influence of genetics tends to fade, and is replaced by our reactions to life's experiences in our new, more mature world. It is during this period that most of us meet our spouses, and our traits, reactions to certain situations and our outlook on our future can change, according to our long term goals. Perhaps it is the person we choose to spend our lives with ultimately has the most profound influence on our personality development? Looking closely at several couples, it is apparent that although they have many common interests, their personalities are vastly different; a simple explanation of why some unlikely unions are so successful. The personality differences of the parties are complimentary and with some work at maintaining communication, and the fact that they are collectively striving for the same future of together, they are able to settle on compromise and make the odd coupling of personalities work together as we', rather than I'.

What Motivates us?

Our personalities are complex and unique, and evolve over time. Our traits can change, and motives for certain behaviors and personality changes can all be affected by our relationships and our subjective interpretations of life's experiences. Genetics play a core role in our personality development, but our future is entirely dependent on the continual evolution of the personality, and the subsequent behaviors which develop as a result. Oftentimes, we can learn more about ourselves by fully understanding someone close to us. By gaining an understanding of Maslow's heirarchy of needs, it is possible to assess one's personality based on the needs which have been satisfactorily met, and those which are yet to be addressed.


McAdams, D. (2006). The person: A new introduction to personality psychology. (4th ed.).
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

More about this author: K. L. Hosking

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