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Maslow’s and Freud’s Psychological Theories


Abraham Maslow, a Psychologist Scholar carried out a research on the hierarchy of needs and presented his findings on humans’ innate curiosity. His research was based order of needs on the healthiest one percent people in the society [mostly fished from higher learning institutions]. The chose n individuals were to be those with exemplary performance in various fields of study.

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Sigmund Freud, a Jewish Physician best known for theories of repression/defense mechanism and unconscious mind, based his theories on the field of neurology as a study of human behavior. Freud’s theories demonstrated how the human mind is organized to operate internally and how ones childhood experiences can affect his/her personality and behavior. This research paper will highlight the major points in the two theories before finally comparing and contrasting them (Ashley D. Orenstein, p. 312).

Maslow’s Theories

The pyramid of needs by Maslow is described by their order of importance. It is a hierarchy consisting of five levels arranged in the order of priority. At the bottom is the class associated with Psychological (Human Basic Needs for example Air, Food, Sex, Homeostasis, Home, and so on) Needs which must be satisfied first, this is followed by the need for Safety (Employment, Family safety, Health, and so on), then Love/Belonging (Friendship, Sexual Intimacy, Family ), then Esteem (Confidence, Self esteem, Respect by others, Achievements, e.t.c ) and finally Self Actualization (Problem solving, Spontaneity, Morality, e.t.c) at the extreme tip of the pyramid(A.H. Maslow, p. 377).

Freud’s Theories

Freud proposed that the psyche can be divided into three categories: id, ego and super-ego. He described Id as the impulsive portion of the child’s psyche that works on the principle of “pleasure”. It only takes into account what it wants and rejects all the other consequences. The super-ego is the psyche’s moral competent that considers no special situation:- It states that whatever is considered morally right in one place might be taken as an immoral act in another place. Then finally is Ego which tries to find a compromise between the two extremes of the Id and Super-ego: it is mainly reflected by the way a person reacts to a certain situation for instance developing defense mechanism, denial or repression among others.

As described by the Structural model of Freud, the Id, Ego and Super-ego operate as a function of the mind, and not the brain. Id is that unconscious part of the mind that contains basic drives and operates on personality with its main foundation on the inherited traits, particularly instincts. It is wholly non-rational and works according to “the pleasure pain principle” that seeks to be fulfilled immediately [can never take “NO” for an answer]. The ego exerts conscious awareness of the organized part of the personality structure: it defines ones self-esteem or self worth. It is the mediator between the Id and Super-ego that tries to ensure that both varied needs are satisfied. The Super-ego is a symbolic internalization that acts to maintain the human sense of morality. It usually takes an opposing stand due to their existing objectives towards the ego (Sigmund Freud, pp. 145-167).


The basic similarity of both theories is the foundation that they build on the three main branches of psychology that is psychodynamics (unconscious decision and the lasting influence of childhood experiences), humanistic (open to reality on what one believes in, in the present life) and cognitive (social experiences and perception that influences personality) theories Lim et al, p.16).


The Maslow theory though was seen as a great improvement, its destructor’s (Wahba and Bridgewell) argued that “the hierarchy of needs is nothing more than a fools day dream…societal needs can neither be classified nor ranked”. To them Freud’s theory is more realistic and practical since it opens up to analysis before conformity takes root. While Freud’s theories are said to be a little realistic and practical, Maslow has been criticized for his excess optimism about nature. His critics say that he pays no attention to the pain and struggle that comes with self actualization and negative experiences (Wahba, A; Bridgewell, 115-17).

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The two theories tend to agree under the following umbrella traits of emotional stability, social adaptability, self confidence, conformity, negativity, openness to experience, cautiousness and dependability. Both are applicable in the society and none seems to stand alone in the absence of the other when defining such circumstances that shape human behavior.

Works Cited

  1. A.H. Maslow, “A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review”: 50(4) (1943):370-96
  2. Ashley D. Orenstein DM (2005). “Sociological theory: Classical statements (6th ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Pearson Education. Pg 312.
  3. Lim, Cwisfa; Khrushchev, Vesh (2002). Maslow’s Pyramid – a necessity?”. Pg. 15–17.
  4. Pigman, G.W. (1995). “Freud and the history of empathy”. The International journal of psycho-analysis 76 (Pt 2): 237–56.
  5. Sigmund Freud: “New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis” (1933) , Pgs. 143-231.
  6. Wahba, A; Bridgewell, L (1976). “Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory: Organizational Behavior and Human Performance” (15): 212–240.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 22). Maslow’s and Freud’s Psychological Theories.

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"Maslow’s and Freud’s Psychological Theories." StudyCorgi, 22 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Maslow’s and Freud’s Psychological Theories." October 22, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Maslow’s and Freud’s Psychological Theories." October 22, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Maslow’s and Freud’s Psychological Theories." October 22, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Maslow’s and Freud’s Psychological Theories'. 22 October.

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