Scientific American: Who created Maslow’s iconic pyramid?

23 Apr 2019
A new paper investigates the real origins of Maslow's pyramid.

Originally found at Scientific American by Scott Barry Kaufman


Abraham Maslow’s iconic pyramid of needs is one of the most famous images in the history of management studies. At the base of the pyramid are physiological needs, and at the top is self-actualization, the full realization of one’s unique potential. Along the way are the needs for safety, belonging, love, and esteem.

However, many people may not realize that during the last few years of his life Maslow believed self-transcendence, not self-actualization, was the pinnacle of human needs. What’s more, it’s difficult to find any evidence that he ever actually represented his theory as a pyramid. On the contrary, it’s clear from his writings that he did not view his hierarchy of needs like a video game– as though you reach one level and then unlock the next level, never again returning to the “lower” levels. He made it quite clear that we are always going back and forth in the hierarchy, and we can target multiple needs at the same time.

If Maslow never built his iconic pyramid, who did? In a recent paper, Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings, and John Ballard trace the true origins of the pyramid in management textbooks, and lay out the implications for the amplification of Maslow’s theory, and for management studies in general. In the following Q & A, I chat with the authors of that paper about their detective work.

Continue reading original article at Scientific American.

Read the original research in Academy of Management Learning and Education

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