Why do people work if they are not paid? When Eastern Europe was under the control of communism, everyone had a job. Although the pay was not good by Western standards, at least most people had their basic needs met; they could buy food and clothing, live in an apartment or house, and have some level of financial, social, and personal security. When communism fell apart across Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of the state-supported factories could no longer pay their workers, at least not on a regular basis. Oddly enough, however, many of these workers continued to regularly come to work in their factories. Why did they continue to work even if they were not paid for a long time?
This question was addressed in a case study of a textile factory in Eastern Europe conducted by organizational psychologist Irina Zinovieva (2001). She interviewed almost 200 employees and found that they continued to put a good deal of effort into work even during periods when they were not being paid. She argued that the work itself provided the opportunity to satisfy Maslow-type needs for earning esteem from others, and hence self-esteem. While most psychologists focus on the incentive for work being monetary pay, Zinovieva's research highlights another incentive: that work can provide an arena for self-development, need satisfaction, and movement toward self-actualization. Sometimes, this second incentive can act as a substitute for monetary incentives, at least for a while (most state factories in Eastern Europe have been privatized and now operate on capitalistic, i.e., for-profit, principles).
Maslow developed his theory based on his ideas and thoughts about motivation, not on empirical research. He never , for example, developed a measure of self-actualization, though others did (Flett & Blankstein, 1991; Jones & Crandall, 1986). How has his theory fared in the hands of researchers? Although not all the studies support Maslow's theory (e.g., Wahba & Bridwell, 1973), some recent studies support its main tenets (e.g., Hagerty, 1999). One group of researchers tested the idea that lower -level needs in the hierarchy are stronger than the higher -level needs when deprived (Wicker et al., 1993). These researchers presented subjects with a variety of goals that mapped onto Maslow's theory: having enough to eat and drink, feeling safe and unafraid, being part of a special group, being recognized by others as an outstanding student, and being mentally healthy and making full use of one' s capabilities. They then asked subjects several questions about each goal, including "How good would you feel if you attained it?" and "How bad would you feel if you did not attain it?" What the researchers found is that the negative reactions were strongest when subjects thought about not attaining the lower goals. Subjects were more upset when they contemplated their safety needs not being met than they were when they thought about not meeting their self-actualization needs. Just the opposite pattern was found for the positive reaction ratings. When subjects were asked about attaining goals, they reported more positive emotions in response to contemplating the attainment of goals higher in the hierarchy. For example, acquiring esteem from others makes one feel better about oneself than having enough to eat and drink. This study supports Maslow' s hierarchical arrangement of motives, while highlighting dif ferences in how people react to the attainment or frustration in the various need levels. Maslow's idea that the lower needs are "prepotent"—imperative for sheer survival—and therefore stronger than the higher needs when unfulfilled was supported. In addition, his belief that people value grati fying the higher needs more than they do the lower needs was also supported by the finding that people rated the attainment of higher goals as more satisfying than th attainment of lower goals.
One study compared groups defined in terms of where they stood on Maslow s need hierarchy in terms of overall happiness (Diener , Horowitz, & Emmons, 1985). All the subjects were asked "What is it that most makes you happy?" The researchers assumed that the answer to this question would reveal each subject' s level of need in Maslow's hierarchy. For example, one subject said, "A good meal, and the ability to digest it," which was scored as being at the physiological level. The results showed no relationship between level of need and overall happiness (which was gauged in this study by a questionnaire measure). For happiness, it does not appear to matter what level of need a person is working on. People working on self-actualization needs are not any more likely to be happier than people working on other needs. Maslow also notes in his book that happiness does not necessarily come with working on the self-actualizing need.
Given these findings, we might ask, "What are the characteristics that distinguish self-actualized persons from others?" Let's turn to a discussion of Maslow' s research on the particular traits that best describe self-actualizing persons.
Most people are not self-actualizers. Instead, most are working on satisfying the lower-level needs, trying perhaps to acquire esteem from others to bolster our status, prestige, and egos or trying to satisfy belongingness needs through our relationships with family members or people in other primary groups. Some are preoccupied with safety needs.
In order to learn more about self-actualization, Maslow conducted case studies of a number of people who he thought were self-actualizers. Maslow estimated about 1 percent of the population are growth motivated and are working on becoming all that they can become. Maslow's list of self-actualizing people whom he investigated included several living persons whom he kept anonymous. He also studied several historical figures through their writings and other biographical information, includin Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. Maslow then looked for common characteristics that could be identified in this group. From this stud , he produced a list of 15 characteristics that he suggested are commonly found among self-actualizers (see T able 11.3). Most of the people Maslow studied were famous, and many had made great contributions to science, politics, or the humanities. When reading over the list of characteristics in T able 11.3, bear in mind that the theory does not say "you must make great contributions" to become self-actualized. Students of personality often make this misinterpretation because of the special nature of the people studied by Maslow . It is possible for ordinary as well as extraordinary people to achieve self-actualization.
A notion related to self-actualization is the concept of flo , proposed by psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi (e.g., 2005). Flow is defined as a subjective stat that people report when they are completely involved in something to the point of forgetting time, fatigue, and everything else but the activity itself. In states of flo , a person is functioning at his or her fullest capacity . While flow experiences ar
Table 11.3 Characteristics of Self-Actualizers from Maslow's Case Studies
1. Efficient perception of reality. They do not let their own wishes and desires color their perceptions. Consequently, they are able to detect the deceitful and the fake.
2. Acceptance of themselves, others, and nature or fate. They realize that people, including themselves, make mistakes and have frailties, and they accept this fact. They accept natural events, even disasters, as part of life.
3. Spontaneity. Their behavior is marked by simplicity and honest naturalness. They do not put on airs or strain to create an effect. They trust their impulses.
4. Problem-focus. They have an interest in the larger philosophical and ethical problems of their times. Petty issues hold little interest for them.
5. Affinity for solitude. They are comfortable with being alone.
6. Indepedence from culture and environment. They do not go in for fads. They prefer to follow their self-determined interests.
7. Continued freshness of appreciation. They have a "beginner's mind," for which every event, no matter how common, is experienced as if for the first time. They appreciate the ordinary and find pleasure and awe in the mundane.
8. More frequent peak experiences. A peak experience is a momentary feeling of extreme wonder, awe, and vision, sometimes called the "oceanic feeling." They are special experiences that appear to be very meaningful to the person who has one.
9. Genuine desire to help the human race. All self-actualizers tend to have a deep and sincere caring for their fellow humans.
10. Deep ties with relatively few people. Although they care deeply about others, they have relatively few very good friends. They tend to prefer privacy and allow only a few people to really know them.
11. Democratic values. They respect and value all people and are not prejudiced in terms of holding stereotypes about people based on superficial characteristics, such as race, religion, sex, and age. They treat others as individuals, not as members of groups.
12. Ability to discriminate between means and ends. They enjoy doing something for its own sake, rather than simply doing something for the goals the activity can fulfill.
13. Philosophical sense of humor. Most humor is an attempt to make fun of a perceived inferiority of a person or group of people. Self-actualizers do not think such jokes are funny. Instead, what they find funny are examples of human foolishness in general.
14. Creativity. Creativity can be thought of as the ability to see connections between things—connections that no one has seen before. They are more likely to be creative because of their fresh perception of even ordinary things.
15. Resistance to enculturation. Cultures tell us how to behave, how to dress, and even how to interact with each other. Self-actualizers remain detached from culture-bound rules. They often appear different from and act differently from the crowd.
Source: Adapted from Maslow, A. H. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row (original work published 1954).
somewhat rare, they occur under specific conditions; there is a balance between th person's skills and the challenges of the situation, there is a clear goal, and there is immediate feedback on how one is doing. The experience of flow itself can be a pow erful motivating force and can be an indication that, at least for the moment, one is experiencing self-actualization.
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