Maslow’s Self-Actualisation Theory

For the Psychology inclined, dig this:


The fulfillment of one’s potential, or self-actualisation is regarded to be critical to psychological well-being and optimal mental health (Rogers, 1959).  Maslow proposed that self-actualisation is achieveable only when basic needs (physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs) are fulfilled.  According to Maslow, self-actualisation includes being reality-focused, problem-focused, opened to experiences, receptive of self and others and autonomous (ruled by own values).  Self-actualised people may show negative attributes including stubbornness and detachment (Maslow, 1943).

In a study that investigated personality characteristics which correlate with self-actualisation.   Self-actualisation correlated negatively neuroticism but positively with extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.  All correlations were significant.  Self-actualisation is an important concept within humanistic personality theories.  These theories believe that everyone has the capacity to develop their full potential and achieve self-actualisation (which is important to psychological health).  Hence, the focus is on helping people become more competent and achieve optimal mental health (Rogers, 1959).  In this light, further understanding of self-actualisation will be useful in counseling settings as psychologists help clients advance towards optimal mental health.


Further Reading



Chan, R., & Joseph, S.  (2000).  Dimensions of personality, domains of aspiration, and

subjective well-being.  Personality and Individual Differences, 28(2), 347-354.

Costa, P.T., & McCrae, R.R. (1980). Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective

well-being: Happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social

Psychology, 38, 668–678.

Costa, P.T., & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEOPI-R) and

NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI).Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment


Costa, P.T., McCrae, R.R., & Dye, D.A.  (1991).  Facet scales for agreeableness and

conscientiousness: A revision of the NEO Personality Inventory.  Personality and

Individual Differences, 12(9), 887-898.

Dahl, R.J., Wakefield, J.A., Kimlicka, T.M., & Wiedersteik, M.   (1983).  How the

personality dimensions of neuroticism, extraversion and psychoticism relate to self-

actualisation.  Personality and Individual Differences, 4(6), 683-685.

DeNeve, K., & Cooper, H. (1998). The happy personality: A meta-analysis of 137 personality

traits and subjective wellbeing.  Psychological Bulletin, 124, 197–229.

Draguns, J.G., Krylova, A.V., Oryol, V.E., Rukavishnikov, A.A., & Martin, T.A.  (2000). 

Personality characteristics of the Nentsy in the Russian arctic: A comparison with

ethnic Russians by means of NEO-PI-R and POI.  American Behavioral Scientist,

44(1), 126-140.

Hayes, N., & Joseph, S.  (2003).  Big 5 correlates of three measures of subjective well-being.

Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 723–727.

Heylighen, F.  (1992).  A cognitive-systemic reconstruction of Maslow’s theory of self-

actualisation.  Behavioral Science, 37, 39-57.

Jensen-Campbell, L.A., & Graziano, W.G. (2001). Agreeableness as a moderator of

interpersonal conflict.  Journal of Personality, 69, 323- 361.

Jones, A., & Crandall, R.  (1986). Validation of a short index of self-actualization.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 63-73.

Knapp, R.R.  (1965).  Relationship of a measure of self-actualisation to neuroticism and

extraversion. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 29, 168-172.

Lolla, D. (1974). An operationalization and validation of the Maslow need hierarchy.

Educational and Psychological Measurement, 34, 639-651.

Luyckx, K., Soenens, B., & Goossens, L.  (2006).  The personality-identity interplay in

emerging adult women: Convergent findings from complementary analyses.

European Journal of Personality, 20, 195-215.

Maslow, A.H. (1943).  A theory of human motivation.  Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Maslow, A.H.  (1954).  Motivation and Personality.  NY: Harper.

Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being (2nd ed.).  NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Maslow, A. (1971). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. NY: Penguin.

McCrae, R.R., & Costa, P.T. (1983). Joint factors in self-reports and ratings: Neuroticism,

extraversion and openness to experience. Personality and Individual Differences,

4(3), 245-255.

Pettit, J., & Vaught, B.C.  (1984).  Self-actualisation and interpersonal capability in

organizations.  Journal of Business Communication, 21(3), 33-40.

Rogers, C.R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships, as

developed in the client-centered framework. In S. Koch (Ed.), Psychology: A study of

a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the person and the social context (pp. 185-256).

NY: McGraw-Hill.


Shostrom, E.L. (1964). An inventory for the measurement of self-actualisation. Educational

and Psychological Measurement, 24, 207-218.

Spielberger, C.D. (1972). Anxiety: Current trends in theory and research: I. NY: Academic


Stöber, J.  (2003).  Self-pity: Exploring the links to personality, control beliefs, and anger.

Journal of Personality, 71(2), 183-220.

Sumerlin, J.R. (1995). Adaptation to homelessness: Self-actualisation, loneliness, and

depression in street homeless men. Psychological Reports, 77, 295-314.

Sumerlin, J.R., & Bundrick, C.M.  (1996).   Brief index of self-actualisation: A measure of

Maslow’s model.  Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 11(2), 253-271.

Sumerlin, J. R., & Bundrick, C. M. (1998). Revision of the brief index of self-actualisation.

Perceptual and Motor Skills, 87, 115-125.

Wilkins, W.E., Hjelle, L.A., & Thompson, M.  (1977).  Anxiety and actualisation: A

reconceptualization.  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 33(4), 1001-1005.



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