Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

pp 1471-1474

Humanistic Theory of Learning: Maslow

  • Susan R. MadsenAffiliated withWoodbury School of Business, Utah Valley University Email author 
  • , Ian K. WilsonAffiliated withWoodbury School of Business, Utah Valley University


Hierarchy of needs; Humanism; Humanistic psychology


Two definitions are central to this entry: humanism and learning. Humanism focuses on human beings being free to act and control their own destinies. It centers on human values, interests, capacities, needs, worth, and dignity. It is a belief that people have an unlimited potential for growth and development and that they are inherently good. Individuals have the ability to determine for themselves truth and falsehood through rational and empirical thought. Learning refers to the acquisition of new knowledge, behaviors, skills, and values through a process of study, practice, and/or experience. It is a “process by which behavior is changed, shaped, or controlled” (Knowles et al. 1998, p. 13).

Theoretical Background

Abraham H. Maslow, who is considered the father of humanistic psychology, has had a significant impact on the development of learning theory. He was arguably one of the ...

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