Abraham Maslow's contributions to the study of psychology include exploring the concepts of self-actualization and the hierarchy of needs. Maslow is considered one of the founders of humanistic psychology.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was developed to help understand what motivates people. The first and most commonly used heirarchy included five stages: biological and physiological needs, safety needs, love and belongingness needs, esteem needs and self-actualization. The idea functions under the concept that one must satisfy lower-level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher-level growth needs.
Biological and physiological needs such as air, food, sex and shelter must be satisfied before moving on to safety needs such as security, order, law and freedom. Once the second level has been achieved, individuals are free to pursue love and belongingness needs. The process completes with self-actualization.
Self-actualization is the idea that humans are capable of realizing their full potential. Maslow looked at individuals such as Albert Einstein and Henry David Thoreau as examples of self-actualization. Though many people strive for self-actualization, Maslow believed only 2 percent of people ultimately reach the full state.
Maslow's theories laid a foundation for humanistic psychology by focusing on a more positive account of human behavior as opposed to identifying what goes wrong with people and abnormal psychology.