Maslow's need hierarchy and model of the self-actualizing personality are reviewed and criticized. The definition of self-actualization is found to be confusing, and the gratification of all needs is concluded to be insufficient to explain self-actualization. Therefore the theory is reconstructed on the basis of a second-order, cognitive-systemic framework. A hierarchy of basic needs is derived from the urgency of perturbations which an autonomous system must compensate in order to maintain its identity. It comprises the needs for homeostasis, safety, protection, feedback and exploration. Self-actualization is redefined as the perceived competence to satisfy these basic needs in due time. This competence has three components: material, cognitive and subjective. Material and/or cognitive incompetence during childhood create subjective incompetence, which in turn inhibits the further development of cognitive competence, and thus of self-actualization.
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