Compare and contrast Sigmud Freud's and Abraham Maslow's theories.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abraham Maslow proposes the theory of the Hierarchy of needs, which is a comprehensive and holistic view of human necessity accompanied by the emotional, physiological, physical, spiritual and social support systems that should be provided in order for the individual to become a better fit citizen. Contrary to Freud, Maslow created a "third choice" which went against Bandura's Social Learning, and Freud's psychoanalysis. He insisted that there had to be something in between the two schools of thought, and that society very well may feel the gaps that show up in the life of a person.

He was quoted as saying:

 “It is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half.” (Toward a psychology of being, 1968)

Freud, in turn, is more scientific, and is the father of Psychoanalysis, that is, the uniquely cognitive study of human nature. Far from Maslow, Freud did not consider nurture as part of nature. To him, all that inhabits the brain will manifest unconsciously in the individual physiologically. Among Freud's ideas of overturning this issue, he proposed, hypnosis, the famously known psychotherapy, regression, dream work, and self analysis. Very little is given in his theory to the role of nature, support systems and society in the life of an individual.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Freud's view, humans were motivated largely by primitive impulses and needs, such as sex and aggression. These needs were mediated through the three parts of the mind--the superego (the part of the mind that tries to live up to ideal standards imparted by others in society); the id (the part of the mind that wants to follow primitive impulses); and the ego (the part of the mind that mediates between the other two parts). 

Maslow, on the other hand, believed humans were capable of being motivated by higher goals and placed these goals into a hierarchy. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic needs, such as food, sex, and warmth. Once these needs are met, one tries to meet higher needs. The next rung on the pyramid is safety, followed by love/ belonging, esteem, and, at the top, self-actualization. Once one's basic needs for survival are met, one can achieve one's higher potential (self-actualization) and unite with others (though self-ascendance). Maslow, unlike Freud, believed that people have both basic and more abstract needs that lead to emotional and spiritual fulfillment and happiness.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both theories attempt to explain human behavior through the unconscious mind.

Both theories have five stages through which humans progressively develop their behavior. For Freud, these are the oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital stages. In Maslow’s theory, the stages are physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs.

According to Freud, there are tasks that need to be learned in each stage before proceeding to the next. In the case of failure, an individual will manifest certain negative behaviors in adulthood. Similarly, Maslow states that the lower needs should be satisfied first before progressing to higher needs in the pyramid. Otherwise, the individual will experience anxiety and tension.

Freud's theory is classified as a psychoanalytic theory whose basic premise is that sexual desire is the basic motivator of human behavior. On the other hand, Maslow’s theory is classified as a humanistic theory, and it asserts that human behavior is motivated by different needs at a particular time based on the hierarchy of needs.